Effort underway to organize Itasca County unionists into a central labor body
By Larry Sillanpa, Editor, Labor World Newspaper
According to AFL-CIO numbers there 3,038 active union members in Itasca County, and over 700 retired union members. The county hasn’t had a strong union tradition in spite of those numbers but efforts are underway to change that.
Itasca County is one of the seven counties that make up the North East Area Labor Council and the NEALC is starting a campaign to get labor organized there. There has been no labor assembly in the region for as long as anyone can remember and working families have been paying the price for that.
An Itasca County Central Labor Body General Assembly meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, May 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the Blandin Foundation Theatre Room, 100 N. Pokegama Avenue, Grand Rapids. The prospects for the meeting should be good.
“We held a right to work training session in Grand Rapids on April 11th and we had 67 people turn out,” said NEALC organizer Jason Metsa. “That was an awesome turnout. Now we going to gather to discuss forming a local labor body to give unions and their members a voice in their communities and region.”
Metsa said everyone is welcome to attend and their ideas are welcome and will be appreciated as well.
“Besides the 3,747 members in Itasca County there are an additional 3,677 family members in their households, bringing the working families total to 7,424,” said Metsa.
This issue of the Labor World will land in 524 mailboxes in Itasca County.
Dick Sackett, a Grand Rapids native and resident, is assistant business manager of IBEW Local 31. He worked at Minnesota Power’s Boswell Energy Center in Cohasset prior to going to work for the union. He’s excited about the organizing effort.
“The labor assembly will be a place that working people can gather and exchange ideas,” Sackett said. “Forming a group that meets regularly will help with networking, educational opportunities and overall improved communication between unions and community groups. It is exciting to see the commitment from leadership in community groups and unions. I’m looking forward to the future. A real grassroots effort is what we all need in our community in order to have a common and concerted voice on issues that we all face.”
The 2010 state elections were an eye opener to labor when Republican Carolyn McElfatrick defeated DFL Rep. Loren Solberg who had represented the area since 1982. In 2008 Solberg had beaten her 58% to 42%. Both are from Grand Rapids.
The 2010 U.S. Census and redistricting has changed the legislative district for this year’s elections. The former House District 3B will now be House District 5B. Republican McElfatrick and DFL Rep. Tom Anzelc, a labor stalwart from Balsam Township and District 3A, have been pitted against each other as incumbents. Labor wants to win its seat back and establish a presence in the county, which has a population of just over 45,000. It is the third largest county in Minnesota. It has 16 cities and 42 organized townships.
“I am encouraged to see workers in Itasca County getting themselves more organized to fight for their interests,” said NEALC president Alan Netland. “This effort will help all of us in northeast Minnesota.”
For more info contact Jason Metsa at 218-290-1527 or Leann Stoll at 218-259-1761.