Why I gave Tommy Rukavina the finger
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Forest Service hosted a public meeting Tuesday, January 28th at the RiverCenter In St Paul on an environmental review of what's proposed to be the first copper-nickel mine in the state.
I along with with over 2000 other people attended. Of those 2000 people about half were opposed to the Polymet Mine being proposed in northern Minnesota. The other half were either dressed up in "working class" mining attire replenished with hard hats along with a variety of "suits." More on that later.
During the public discussion another "hard hat' gave up the microphone to another suit. This man spoke disparagingly to those of us opposed. He held up a paper bag and told us that "collect your cell phones, computers and car keys." The simple arrogance of this statement got to me. I stood up in the crowd and gave him the finger. I had no idea who he was.
Turns out it was Tommy Rukavina. Rukavina's been a milkman, a garbageman and miner. But he's also spent almost a quarter century in the state House of Representatives. He is currently a staffer for the Rick Nolan for Congress campaign. According to Rukavina "I've been around labor unions all my life and I have labor beliefs,"I've been around relatives that have been involved in their union and never had a problem with speaking up in defense of their fellow workers, so that's why I speak up for the underdog."
So initially my reaction was that I publicly apologize for giving Tommy Rukavina by giving him the finger. I had not known it was him speaking. If I had have known I would have given him both barrels. Both hands extending the one finger salute. However having talked to Trade Union people that I admire and trust I changed my mind. Instead let's have an honest discussion on the Trade Unions in this country.
From where I sit people like Tommy Rukavina go to the heart and soul of what is wrong with the Trade Union movement in this country, in my own humble but honest opinion. Trade Union "leadership" do not protect the interests of all working people. They do not stand up and fight the corporate interests raving our nation. No instead they "cooperate" with the corporate owners. I call that collaborating with the enemy which is treason.
Earlier I had mentioned a "hard hat guy" giving up the microphone for a "suit" speaking for the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber Of Commerce have always worked against the interests of ordinary working people. Yet this "Union guy" gave up the microphone to them. Now if you do not believe that he did so under the direct orders of his "Union" "leadership' then I have a bridge for sale, going cheap in Brooklyn. No real Trade Unionist would ever give up the microphone to a representative of the Chamber Of Commerce.
Tommy Rukavina represents that collaborationist mentality that has infected Trade Unions in the United States. So Tommy, here you go. I take back my both barrels of the one finger salute. However my perspective that this collaborationist mentality is what is destroying the Trade Union movement in this country I most certainly do not take back.
Polymet is not going to help the people of northern Minnesota. This Canadian conglomerate will come in, ravage the area, contaminate the ground water for 500 years and then leave. There has never been a sulfide mining process that has done otherwise. Never. The facts speak for themselves.
Instead the people of northern Minnesota will suffer and this mine will probably give some of the children of the region a variety of cancers and other ailments. For the promise of some jobs. None of which are even guaranteed to be union jobs. The health of the children will be put at risk and these corporate powers have never show willingness to protect them. instead they have a history of turning and running leaving their mess behind. Including PolyMet. It is also evident that this mine will indeed contaminate the Boundary Waters which is a Minnesota jewel.
Those of us opposed to this understand that northern Minnesota needs jobs. We just see this mine as a disaster waiting to happen and that it will negatively affect the people of Minnesota as a whole and northern Minnesota in particular. Real sustainable jobs are possible.
Just not with PolyMet or other internationalist corporate powers like them.
As the old trade Union song goes Tommy Rukavina and others like you. What side are you on boys, what side are you on? Take a look at your own Minnesota history with the Farmer Labor Association. These heroes of the past can guide you back to where you belong.
I generally agree with Tom Rukavina... 99.999% of the time. On this issue of sulfide-mining I, too, along with Michael Cavlan, am in complete disagreement.
These so-called "hearings" are a fiasco--- window dressing for allowing the mining companies to do as they please in the name of "jobs, jobs, jobs" when the real issue is "profits, profits, profits."
I don't understand why anyone with labor's interest in mind would support permitting any other mining projects--- especially when nothing has been done to halt the decades of these mining companies swindling Iron Rangers out of their pensions while leaving behind polluted pits and massive poverty after they abscond with the profits.
United States Steel's huge MinnTac operation, the largest of its kind in the world has provided us with the "jewel" they call the "Clearwater Reservoir"--- what they call their gigantic tailing pond stretching for three miles and two miles wide--- leeching billions of gallons of the most dangerous contaminants and pollution into the Dark River and St. Louis River watersheds reaching into the depths of Lake Superior and even as far north as Hudson's Bay!
"Jobs, jobs, jobs"--- from 80,000 jobs in mining on the Iron Range to 12,000 jobs today.
Machines and technology have been allowed to replace workers.
While workers in the mining industry have been laid off; many of the remaining workers are forced to work ten and twelve hour days--- five, six and even seven days a week.
Want job creation in the mining industry?
Try a shorter work week with forty hours pay. Longer vacations. Earlier retirements with pension funds protected. Polymet will maybe create a few hundred jobs--- in the existing taconite industry, these kinds of reforms combined would create thousands of new union jobs.
Will Polymet be a union operation? Since the USW maintains a sweatheart agreement with Cleveland Cliffs to enable a gigantic non-union taconite operation at Silver Bay, judging from its current relationship of the way they are supporting this hideous Polymet project, it is doubtful the USW will ever try to organize Polymet. Jobs where workers unprotected without union contract have no rights; just what we need more of in Minnesota; like 44,000 casino workers employed in loud, noisy, smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages and without any protections under state or federal labor laws isn't bad enough.
I was glad to see and hear where rank-and-file union members of the United Steelworkers Union have organized a rank-and-file caucus, the Hard Rock Miners--- demanding that their pension funds be honored.
I would expect the entire Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party's Iron Range contingent to stand up in opposing any further mining permits--- at least until all of the pension funds of present and former miners have been honored. This is the very least these DFL politicians and party hacks can do.
These "public hearings" are meant to foment anger and sow confusion and discord among the very people who should be united in making sure more mining companies are not allowed to shit on working people, the communities workers have to live in and the healthy ecosystems required for survival.
If not for the out of control Military-Industrial Complex requiring these non-ferrous minerals and metals, this mining would not even be under consideration. Why else would Congressman Rick Nolan have co-sponsored this legislation with Republicans protecting this mining Polymet as a "national security" project?
There are hundreds of projects that the government could undertake to provide Iron Rangers with jobs--- good jobs paying decent wages. Anyone can come up with a list of what needs to be done to improve the lives and livelihoods of people living in Appalachia North.
There are tens of thousands of existing jobs on the Iron Range that could be turned into good, decent, living wage jobs if only the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party with its super-majority would wield its power and pass Minimum Wage legislation making the Minimum Wage a real living wage based on cost-of-living, indexed to real inflation with regularly scheduled raises to improve the standard-of-living of working people--- of course, one has to ask why the unions affiliated with Change To Win and the Minnesota AFL-CIO have made nothing but half-hearted attempts to organize all of these workers? Isn't a good union contract better than any government anti-poverty program?
We should be telling the Minnesota DNR to take these hearings and shove them straight up their ass; what we need is a series of roundtable discussions bringing workers together to talk about all of this in a civil way; do we have a democracy that will tolerate this?
Many years ago, both socialist Farmer-Labor governors, Floyd Olson and Elmer Benson proposed that if mining was going to continue with our communities and jobs protected and the profits from mining going to make life better for people, mining was going to have to be brought under public ownership.
Were their concerns legitimate?
Apparently so given what the situation is today on the Iron Range--- yet, why isn't this idea of public ownership of the mining industry being brought forward and discussed here and now?
Wouldn't it make more sense to put all proposed mining projects on hold until public ownership has been discussed rather than allowing these mining companies to come in--- exploit workers, swindle them out of their pensions as they rape the land leaving nothing behind but massive poverty and a dirty mess for tax-payers to clean up?