Union movement still strong

Alan Netland

News Trib Column 11-24-99 My Response

I’ve just been elected to serve two more years as primary spokesperson for 'the union movement in the Duluth area (God willing), so I thought it would be appropriate to gauge where we are and to look ahead.

We've welcomed an additional 400 new members to our Duluth Central Labor Body and now represent over 11,500 union members. We expect to add an additional 1,000 new members when first contracts are finalized in the next few months. With affiliations, ongoing outreach and organizing we should top 15,000 members within the next two years.

1. We as a union movement will not go away as some in our community would like. Instead we'll concentrate our collective efforts on building a strong base for all of our union members, now and in the future. We will do this by encouraging and coordinating organizing efforts of our affiliates. We will coordinate solidarity efforts for those affiliates that are drawn into disputes with their employers.  And we will continue to engage in outreach efforts throughout the community to broaden the understanding and acceptance of who 3. we are as neighbors, coaches, church members, volunteers and as union members.

We're pleased to see some segments of the community taking positive action to promote a broader dialogue about economic issues. We now have a religion labor network meeting to work on finding common areas of interest.

4. Churches United in Ministries continues to engage its member congregations and the wider community into discussions about economic justice.

The Duluth Women's Commission, in collaboration with other women's groups, has decided to focus their efforts on economic justice issues as the primary concern facing women in our community. And there are many other efforts of this nature. We know that these discussions can only help to create a better understanding of 5.why unions exist. We will actively participate in community discussions that help to promote this improved understanding. 6. We will also be active in countering those who seek to marginalize, berate or even try to destroy us as a union movement.

This last election cycle certainly confirmed many suspicions about the intentions of some in the business community toward labor. The antiunion tone and 7 the willingness to distribute false information about our unions was disappointing. A broader concern about questions of character also arose.

8. There was a letter submitted by the Chamber of Commerce and published by this paper that had my name on it along with the chamber president and CEO, David Ross, but did not have my approval. I complained to the editorial page staff since I had never been contacted to get my OK. I'm glad I did because two weeks before the general election another letter was submitted with my name on it, along with the chamber president. This time I got a call to check on my approval. I did not approve and it was not published.

Then I find out I'm not alone. A recent Chamber president, 9.Bob Heimbach, distributed an inaccurate and anti-union fund-raising letter for the Mary Mary Mars Committee favoring School Board candidates which had a who's who of current chamber leaders listed on it. 10. Many of those listed on the letter had not been contacted and did not approve of their name being used.

It was heartening to hear from the chairman of the Chamber's Political Action Committee, Nick Patronas, that he resigned as a result of this letter. Not all in the business community want to operate in this fashion. But is this any way to represent business?

We in the labor community will be open to discussion with anyone about the betterment of our community, provided we are treated with respect, not as second-class citizens. We will continue our work at representing our members as best we can in the community. There is always too much to do. But there is no lack of will to do what we can.

Netland is president of the AFL-CIO Central Labor Body.






1. Al has taken  the fear that the unions would take over the School Board and transformed it into a crusade to destroy the unions. After reading Al's prediction that he will soon have 15,000 local union members its hard to take him seriously when he adopts the tone of a victim.



3. And the people on the other side of the bargaining table can make the same claim.



4. Does this mean that church people must agree with every union goal and tactic?




5. Unions exist to let workers organize and bargain collectively as their employers equals. Businesses can be public spirited too but their work is still their work.
6. More hyperbole - see my comments in #1.


7. I wish Al would mention a single falsehood from the Mary Mary Mars letter.


8. I suspect that there is another version if the aborted attempt at cooperation than Al's. Still, if no one confirmed that Alan had actually agreed to sign a "joint" letter he has a right to be unhappy about it.


9. Bob Heimbach is an honorable man. I would like Al to list a single inaccuracy in the letter Marry Marry Mars sent out.

10. There were over 50 names on the letter. It is true that not everyone knew what was in the letter. Since I asked at least 35 of these individuals to add their name to the letter, I can attest that they were given a good idea of the letters content and/or an opportunity to review it prior to attaching their names. Its too bad that some people signed on without fully realizing the letter's import. None of them should feel bad about the letters contents. Everything contained in the letter was accurate with the possible exception one item which I supplied to Bob Heimbach based on something Mr. Netland told me.