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This week in labor
What does Minnesota’s unique union growth say about the labor movement here? Also, what do you think about the DOI nixing Twin Metals’ mining leases in Northern Minnesota?
📈 Ope, Minnesota’s union workforce is growing!
Michael Moore from St. Paul’s Union Advocate (@unionadvocate) on Minnesota’s union trends:
Union members made up 16% of Minnesota’s workforce in 2021, up from 15.8% in 2020. It was the second consecutive year in which Minnesota’s union density rose.
Nationally, union membership declined by 241,000 last year, to a total of about 14 million workers. Union density fell to 10.3% of the workforce.
How exciting! Read more here.
🛶 ❌ Twin Metals is canceled, again
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the cancellation of two hardrock mineral leases nearby the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota. The leases are owned by Twin Metals, which is owned by Chilean mining company Antofagasta, which has proposed copper-nickel mining operations. The cancellation was due to legal deficiencies in the renewal of the leases in 2019.
When Obama was in office, he didn’t renew the leases when they expired. Then, Trump renewed them. Now, the Biden administration is canceling them. Additionally, Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum has introduced a bill that seeks to protect the BWCA from toxic mining pollution, which has had a long history in Minnesota.
In a statement, the Laborers’ International Union of North America Minnesota & North Dakota called this “a major step backward” for Minnesota’s economy, saying it would delay a clean energy transition.
Many people have become aware of the corporate greed driving economic policy during the pandemic, and it’s the same with the climate crisis. In Minnesota, it’s clear we have strength in both labor and environmental activism. As governments and communities seek to address the climate crisis, green jobs in renewable energy are becoming a more important part of a discussion in which labor and conservation are placed on opposing sides. But the narrative of jobs vs. environment is weak. Both mining and conservation wouldn’t exist without working Minnesotans seeking economic security and freedom. How do we as individuals and communities hold corporations accountable to a higher standard of protecting the land and its people? How do we explore economic and environmental potentials in a way that benefits everyone, not just those at the top?
We live in a country that can’t seem to agree that something should be done about a pandemic. Minor glitches in global supply chains seem capable of unraveling the whole economy. We’ve had a rough couple of years. Our resource-rich American lifestyle has proven deceptively fragile. We can all feel it. And it is terrifying.
…One-hundred million people in our country alone may seek new homes, jobs, and a fresh start on a smaller continent. Will we really want to tie up even more of northern Minnesota’s land in holding ponds, pits, and dumps, in the pursuit of lower-and-lower grade ores? All for just a few hundred jobs? Or will we want to be ready to benefit from the influx by maintaining independent, self-determined communities? I’d take the latter, even though that’s hardly a majority position in my neighborhood.
This isn’t about stopping mining. I’m talking about mining smart, as though the ore’s value belonged to all of us.
This is especially interesting in light of another proposed nickel mine project in Minnesota by Talon Metals, a British Virgin Islands-based company and Tesla. What do you think? Do we need more mining in MN? How do we make our economy more democratic? What is missing from the media narratives surrounding a just transition to green energy?
😬 Something to note: PolyMet Mining Corp. also has proposals for mines in northern Minnesota. PolyMet is owned by Swiss mining company Glencore, which owns operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo that have been accused of using child labor to mine cobalt for Big Tech, including Apple and Tesla.
📚✊ Bookstore Workers Organize: Not Just Something to Read About
This Sunday, January 30 from 1-2:30pm, the East Side Freedom Library and UFCW Locals 1189 and 663 invite you to join a panel conversation to learn from workers and union activists from Half Price Books and other bookstores across the country.
Thank you for reading. We are each other’s harvest.