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11/09/09 UPDATE: Harmon Park is safe. According to members of the Save Harmon Park group the Pipestone city council met in closed session again tonight (11/09/09) and when they came out they announced that they had taken a vote and had declined Coborn’s offer for Harmon Park.

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

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If you happen to be a Facebook user then you will know that you often get all kinds of unsolicited invitations to become a fan of someone or something or to join a cause. It is easy to do with a couple of clicks and you can then beat your chest and say, “I support the ____ CAUSE.”  Recently I received a suggestion from a FB friend that I have known for a long time. She suggested that I join the Save Harmon Park cause. My curiosity got to me so I signed up and discovered that the city of Pipestone was considering selling part of their premier city park so that it could be developed  into a Coborn’s Superstore which would include a car wash and a gas station/convenience store. Coborn’s, Inc. is a Minnesota grown corporation founded in 1921 based in St Cloud with locations in the midwest, primarily Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa.

The Pipestone County Star carried the first story, Coborn’s Superstore on the drawing board, about this development on October 7, 2009 and it was soon after that the opposition formed their group.

The Save Harmon Park group has been busy. They now have 276 members in the FB group and are using this social media tool for discussion, communication and organizing. They have contacted news organizations to get their story out, organized a petition drive which garnered 400 signatures to present to the city council, generated numerous letters to the editor and had over 100 people at a recent city council meeting to speak against the sale.

The city of Pipestione has had a rough year. Bayliner shut down its operations and Suzlon announced significant layoffs. The stagnant economy and unallotment by the Governor have also contributed to the tough situations faced by the city council. While the influx of cash from the sale of the park and future property tax collections may seem attractive now the Save Harmon Park group believes that it is short-sighted and I sympathise with them. I think it is a bit arrogant for Coborn’s to believe that the citizens of Pipestone would give up their park without question. I wonder what they were thinking when they were picking their ideal spot for a new store.

Did the conversation go like this?

 “Here is a great location” !

 “But wait, isn’t there a city park there”?

 “So what, our green will trump their green”.

For me, another reason to dislike this idea is Coborn’s political stance on health care reform and the Employee Free Choice Act. They have opposed both and urged their employees to do the same in an internal memo. In a Minnesota Public Radio report, Coborn’s director of communications, Steve Gottwalt says, ” the company frequently shares information with its employees about factors affecting its business”. Steve Gottwalt also happens to have another job as a  Minnesota state representative in district 15A and  is a member of the Republican caucus.

Visit the Pipestone County Star website to keep abreast of the situation and to read the letters to the editor. Here is just one example. If you are on Facebook search Save Harmon Park.

I can’t help but think of this song.

Peace & solidarity,

 

CHC

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If you want to do a compare and contrast about card check and the secret ballot method of organizing a union in the workplace, Workday Minnesota’s recent post, Videos about the Employee Free Choice Act, offers two informative videos produced by the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service.

 

The first one shows a successful voluntary card check while the second is a grim reminder of how poorly the present system works.

 

 

 

 

 

There has been much hysteria about the Employee Free Choice Act and many in the main stream media have been too lazy to find out what works and what doesn’t work. Or, maybe they just don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.

 

Corporate America has amassed a huge war chest to campaign against the Employee Free Choice Act. In an effort to get the truth out about this critical legislation the AFL-CIO has established the Turn Around America Fund. Please consider a contribution today. Help bring prosperity to all of America.

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Peace & solidarity,

CHC 

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Sign the petition here

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

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Sunday I wrote about Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and the unrest in her office. I also offered a message to the AG. Today I am not surprised but certainly distressed that the AG has put assistant attorney general Amy Lawler on administrative leave. Once again, Eric Black at MinnPost.com has the story. MPR’s Tim Pugmire also reported on the Lawler administrative leave. The audio is here. Pugmire reports:

Swanson sent a packet of information to DFL Legislative leaders this week insisting that state law prevents attorneys in her office from unionizing. She also claimed union organizers have been using a common tactic to stir the pot as their campaign falters.”

Sounds like she has been reading the union busters handbook instead of the text of the Employee Free Choice Act. If the Minnesota law needs to be changed then she should be advocating for that change to allow her staff to freely make their own choice and should not be standing in the way.

While many people are probably not following these events real close or don’t really care, I must confess that I have a certain fondness for the Office of the Attorney General and what they have done in the past to make my life safer. If you have read some of my earlier posts you would know that I work in the meat packing industry. In the mid 90’s MNOSHA came to Worthington to do a wall to wall inspection at the Swift & Co. plant where I work. After a thorough inspection the company was cited for numerous safety violations, many of them serious. Of course the company challenged these citations and was prepared to fight it in court. I won’t bore you with many details but the Attorney General’s office was able to reach a settlement agreement with Swift & Co. (now JBS Swift). The settlement agreement allowed MNOSHA and the AG’s office to monitor abatement progress over a three year time period. As the head of the union safety committee at the time I had the privilege to work with a number of assistant AG’s. They were persistent. They were efficient. They were professional. They were not intimidated by the highly paid and arrogant corporate lawyers who would try anything to get out of compliance with the law. My workplace was made much safer and the corporate attitude on safety turned around because of the efforts of the Attorney General’s office and MNOSHA. The unions efforts alone could not have accomplished that and thousands of workers have benefited.

I am grateful.

 

Peace & solidarity,

CHC

 

 

 

 

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