Bridges to the New Millennium (Threatening local businesses with secondary boycotts)

11-22-99 My Response
The recent school board election has demonstrated the division which has come to exist within our community. I am certain that members are very much aware that the Chamber of Commerce played an active role in supporting one slate of candidates while the D.F.T. and other unions backed another slate. It is unfortunate that there was no overlapping support. 1. It is also unfortunate that it appears that the Chamber was willing to back anyone not supported by the unions.

While it is only natural that the D.F.T. and the Chamber would have differences of opinion on many of the issues, 2. it is sad that these differences led to the Chamber PACT sending out a fund-raising letter which contained information which was less than factual. It often appeared that much of their campaign was anti-union rather than pro-education. 3.That the Edison issue became a political football only compounded the problem and added to the resulting hard feelings and mistrust. This should not be the case.

The nearly one thousand teachers and their families are a part of this community. We live here. We pay taxes. We do business with the very people who seem so opposed to us and the work we do. For example, one of the people whose name was on the Chamber mailing is the same individual who represented the Duluth Teachers Retirement Fund in negotiating the lease with Education Minnesota and the D.F.T. He also showed the D.F.T. commercial properties when we were considering buying a building. Perhaps our money is fine, but he just doesn't like us, I am sure that if members perused the list, they would find at least one or two people whose names would stand out. 4. Do those who attack us believe that we should still want to do business with them? In many cases we could go elsewhere.

One of the members of the Executive Board has actually compiled a list of those people signing the Chamber letter and the business which they represent. We could distribute this list to our members and members of other unions. We could exercise some economic clout.

I don't believe that this is our best option 5.at this time. Yes, we could take on the Chamber of Commerce, but would this be in our best interest? I think not.

It may well be that many of the Chamber's perceptions of the D.F.T. and teachers are based on a lack of understanding. It may well be that if they were more knowledgeable of our goals and efforts they might see us in a different light. To this end I have had several lengthy conversations with David Ross, President & CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and Glenn Slotness, Director of Public Affairs. They have come to our office for -meetings. We have discussed the student test results, our position on ineffective teachers, the effect of Edison, our position on Edison, research on education and many other matters. They have invited me to speak to Chamber members in December and plan to actually have one of their meetings in our office. We are getting to know each other. This could lead to increased understanding and increased trust.

I believe that improving our relationship with the Chamber is better than fighting with them. If it does not work, we can always reconsider.

In the same vein, we are working to achieve a better relationship with the Duluth News Tribune. By the time you receive this I will have met with Pia Lopez, Editorial Page Editor. We will have discussed many of the same things which were shared with Chamber representatives.

6.We are all a part of the same community. Hopefully all parties can come to understand this.

Frank Wanner





1.Its also unfortunate that the DFT didn't back anyone the Chamber supported.


2. The Chamber PAC did not send out the offending letter. Everything in the letter was absolutely factual.


3. Who made it a political football?










4. Making good on this threat would constitute a secondary boycott which is illegal. This threat helps explain why businesses in Duluth have been politically timid. Being on the School Board has cost Dr. George Balach lots of business in his dental practice. George is too combative to back down in the face of intimidation. Its no wonder that teachers felt George was unsympathetic.


5.Oh! Its not an idle threat. Watch out Chamber of Commerce. The teacher's union was willing to violate the law by making illegal contributions. What's another law?

















6.I'm glad Frank recongnizes this. I just hope he doesn't bring an "Its my way or the highway" attitude to these meetings.