3rd annual Duluth May Day labor rally April 30

David Clanaugh

Duluth’s working class West End neighborhood and craft district (Lincoln Park) will host the region’s third annual May Day Worker Solidarity Rally, 12:30-3 pm on Sunday, April 30, at the Harrison Community Center.

Music, socializing and a picnic lunch start at 12:30 pm; the formal program is slated from 1-3 pm. With a theme of “Organizing for Power: Rank and File Democracy,” Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bernie Burnham returns home to headline a group of union organizers speaking on this topic. Burnham will share about recent organizing initiatives by the state’s leading labor coalition.

The rally will also feature round-table discussions and tabling by organizations. A cross-section of labor groups is sponsoring the event: Minnesota Nurses Association, Duluth Central Labor Body, AFSCME Council 5 (including the NE Minnesota Retirees Subchapter), Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE, including Locals 1402 and 1701), Workers Aid Committee of Steelworkers Local 9460, Carpenters Local 361, Northwoods Socialist Collective, HOTDISH Militia, and Minnesota DFL SD8 Committee.

The Twin Ports Democratic Socialists Labor Solidarity Working Group is facilitating the planning process. This support has doubled since the event began in 2021.

Angela Halseth, MAPE statewide vice president, noted her organization is lending major support this year to the Twin Ports labor event as a way to connect with members and support the broader labor community beyond the Twin Cities. "Geography can often pose a challenge to union organizing," Halseth said. "As much as digital resources can help connect people, there is nothing like folks coming together face-to-face to share their experiences and visions, learn from each other, and develop supportive relationships that reinforce and expand organizing power and democratic processes."

Planners have also invited additional unions to provide speakers and support, including the United Food and Commercial Workers, International Brotherhood of Electricians, Teamsters, Liuna!, and the Duluth Federation of Teachers.

State Senator Jen McEwen, who chairs the Senate Labor Committee, plans to issue a statement of support for the Twin Port’s May Day rally. Political public servant colleagues of McEwen have also been invited to attend, hear union perspectives and deepen support for organizing.

“Workers are society’s primary producers,” stated planner and MAPE Local 1701 President David Clanaugh. “An intense, well-orchestrated, and decades-long campaign has drummed anti-union messages into the population, with a parallel assault on democracy. Nonetheless, this campaign has failed to stamp out the innate impulse workers have to organize. We produce the value sustaining our society. Organizing is the tool to distribute value in an increasingly equitable and democratic manner. It snowballs wealth production, places wealth and associated power in as many hands as possible, and enables more people to build dignified, sustainable lives.”

Laverne Capan, an AFSCME retiree and long-time labor supporter, added this misinformation campaign has weakend society by marginalizing working class citizens, minority groups, and the middle class. Capan, whose grandfather was an organizers of USW 1938 on the Mesabi Range, said wedge issues have pitted unions against one another, yet the Duluth event will provide a welcoming and inclusive antidote to division, connecting workers and unions around core issues without expecting lockstep agreement.

Capan and Clanaugh noted that unions may have been under assault, yet workers are persevering and fighting back. They pointed to encouraging signs the past year with recent victories by nurses, road maintenance workers and railroad workers. They said anyone is welcome to attend and tap into the energy and power that comes through organizing.

“If you believe you are not a worker and won’t be welcome at the rally, the very act of using a cellphone, tablet, or computer invites you to a front-row seat,” Clanaugh concluded. “When engaging these technologies, your labor as a user-producer is channeled and exploited by a small slice of society. These technologies are marketed as ‘free,’ yet designed and managed with limited regard for the common good and broad human needs. Anyone curious about the union movement is welcome to this rally. It will provide a great opportunity to share, listen, learn, and build solidarity and the power that comes through solidarity and understanding.”

For additional information, you can visit the Facebook event page.