Monday I honked and waved at the NWA Mechanics, Krie and Ken barked and wagged in support, on my frantic run to the Airport Post Office to serve a Reply to Cedar Falls Utilities Motion to Strike (strike an exhibit, no, not picket!)

NWA airplane.jpg

Labor unions are a powerful force — no wonder the likes of Katherine Kersten are afraid — unions brought us some of the basic concepts that we take for granted, like earning a living wage, benefits including health care coverage, and unions contribute to the community not only by improving the lives of their members and families, but through direct contributions of volunteer labor on important community projects.

Check the STrib and Northfield News today. In the STrib, Northfield’s Rick Keiser got a well-earned reply to Katherin Kersten’s recent “Teachers should leave Wal-Mart alone,” a blast of the teacher union Wal-Mart boycott of conscience:

The real Wal-Mart

Blinded by her dislike of unions, Katherine Kersten has forgotten that one of the things that this country has long stood for is equality and justice for all.

The reason why people boycott Wal-Mart every day, without any prodding from organized labor, is that they exacerbate inequalities abroad and at home. Wal-Mart demands very low prices from its suppliers, and this forces those suppliers to cut labor costs.

A Honduran clothing factory whose main customer is Wal-Mart pays workers who sew sleeves onto 1,200 shirts per day only $35 a week. Wal-Mart has repeatedly been fined for violations of child labor laws, including working through meal breaks and operating dangerous equipment.

Many small businesses cannot provide affordable health care benefits to employees, but Wal-Mart has 600,000 employees and is the nation’s largest private employer. The company is in many states at the top of the list of employers whose workers rely on Medicaid. It has a terrible record of gender inequality and pays women almost 40 cents an hour less than men.

Is the company broke? No. It earned $10.3 billion in profits last year and paid its CEO, Lee Scott, $23 million in total compensation.

The individuals that Kersten interviewed may not know these facts, but Kersten does. Low prices are something we all can appreciate. But low prices at any cost? Do the ends justify any means?

I can think of no better message with which to send our children back to school than to take a stand for equality and justice for all.

Richard A. Keiser, Northfield, Minn.


What are unions about? Here’s a local example from IBEW Local 110 from the Northfield News:


Local electricians give time, talent to Habitat

8/30/2005 11:26:00 PM

Managing Editor

NERSTRAND — More than a dozen electricians on Saturday morning buzzed around the Habitat for Humanity home going up in Nerstrand.

Some were wiring light switches and fixtures upstairs. Others were working in the basement, doing much the same thing. And still others were toting material and rolling up wire, trying to clean up behind the others as fast as they were making progress.

If everything went as planned, the crew was to wrap up the basic wiring of the entire house by noon. They started at 7 a.m.

“The best thing about these guys is you don’t have to tell them what to do. They just go and do it,” said Bill Sartor, project manager for the Habitat for Humanity. “Pretty soon they’re flying, stringing wires … in half a day they’re done.”

The electricians were members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 110, a union that stretches a large geographic territory from south of Faribault all the way north to Cambridge. On Saturday, guys came from all over to help — Lonsdale, Northfield, Nerstrand, Dennison, Cannon Falls, Faribault and even from the Twin Cities.

Bob Delisha, the president of Faribault’s IBEW chapter, said that when they can the union members like to give back to the community.

“We want to show the community that we’re there to help out,” he said. “I think sometimes unions get a bad (reputation). We want to let people know we care about them.”

The Nerstrand home is the fourth Habitat for Humanity home that the IBEW has help wire in recent years. Sartor said they’ve done two houses in Northfield, one in Faribault and now the one in Nerstrand.

“It’s a big benefit to us,” he said.

Sartor said the relationship between Habitat for Humanity of Rice County and the IBEW began in earnest a few years ago. And since, when asked, the union has been there ready to help.

Sartor added that the electricians’ flexibility is wonderful. Electricity was just run to the house on Tuesday and the call went out for volunteers to help string the house on Saturday. That morning about 15 electricians showed up.

“These guys on a short notice make things happen,” he said.

Slinger Electric of Faribault is the electricity contractor for the house, Sartor said, and in addition to Slinger, other local electrical contractors have donated material and assistance to make the Nerstrand house happen.

Overall, Sartor said the house is on schedule to be completed in November. The home’s heating system is installed, most of the plumbing is in, much of the exterior siding is on, and thanks to the guys on Saturday, the wiring should be completed except for the finishing touches that have to wait.

At this pace, Sartor said that Khara Huffstutter, and her children, Erick and Laura, should be able to move in during November, just as planned.

Huffstutter was chosen to receive the home by going through Habitat for Humanity’s annual applicant process. During the building process she also has had to put “sweat equity” into the home, meaning she had to physically work on building the home with the Habitat for Humanity volunteers.

Huffstutter had been living with her parents in Faribault because she could not afford to buy a home on her income.

Habitat for Humanity will sell the new home to Huffstutter for about $75,000.

Sartor said that when the home is completed, about 110 volunteers will have worked on the house.

The lot for the home in Nerstrand was donated by Opal Wolf.

— Devlyn Brooks can be reached at or 645-1116

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