Unions vs Right-to-work

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I’m pretty proud of my grown up kids.  (I’m a mom, they will always be kids to me.) I know their generation will face many more challenges than we did.  We were pretty blessed. My husband, Gary and I both worked and earned enough money to buy a home, raise a family and set aside a nest egg for retirement.

But I worry about many in today’s workforce.  They are the ones burdened with heavy student debt and stagnant wages. Some are working two jobs just to pay the rent and other basic human needs.  Making matters worse our nation’s inability to provide affordable healthcare for all has placed them in the a position where they  are just one medical crisis away from financial disaster.

I can’t help but draw similarities between the generation of my kids and those of my grandparents who struggled during the Great Depression.  Both believed an honest day’s work deserved fair compensation,  every worker deserved a safe work environment and the promise of providing their children with more opportunities and a chance at better lives.

These beliefs were behind the creation of America’s Union Movement which gave us a 40 hour week, the weekend and an end to child labor in this country.  Yet in recent years union membership has fallen in favor of the right-to-work movement.  There are now right-to-work laws in 28 states.

This is how the AFL-CIO explains Right-to-Work:

“Right to work” is the name for a policy designed to take away rights from working people. Backers of right to work laws claim that these laws protect workers against being forced to join a union. The reality is that federal law already makes it illegal to force someone to join a union.

The real purpose of right to work laws is to tilt the balance toward big corporations and further rig the system at the expense of working families. These laws make it harder for working people to form unions and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

 

Right-to-work states tend to lean Republican.  I am thankful that Minnesota is not among them and that my kids are proud union members. Fred is a member of the  United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1189.  He and his co-workers recently ratified their first union contract.  My daughter-in-law Anna is a member of the Minnesota Nurses Association.

There is power in numbers.  Numbers are built through organizing.  Look no further than the teachers strikes of 2018 and the gains being made on behalf of workers we trust to educate our next generation of workers.

 

2018 Farm Bill

Today’s headlines indicate the  2018 Farm Bill could head to the House floor mid May.  Any bill that moves forward must address the the dramatic changes underway in farm country.

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Ear tagging at the ranch

According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Association “nearly 100 million acres of farmland  is set to change hands over the next five years. To keep our agricultural economy strong, the next farm bill needs to facilitate the transfer of skills, knowledge, and land between current and future generations of family farmers.”

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity act (H.R. 4216) and the Next Generation in Agriculture Act (S 2762H) seek to address the looming shortage of farmers and ranchers.

Legislation must also address the  farm to table movement.  Consumers must have more opportunities to buy locally grown food.  But that will only happen by supporting our region’s farmers.    To learn more about the farm bill and its impact on consumers and producers follow this link.

Citizens United and a country divided

“Judd Apatow is not available to accept your phone call, ”  and so it goes for a first time candidate dialing for dollars to represent her district in the US Congress.

pexels-photo-607812.jpegI don’t know Mr. Apatow but his last name starts with an “A” and that means he was at the top of the list I received from the national fundraising consultant hired to help me find enough money to convince would be supporters that I can mount a “First Tier” campaign.

My name is Michelle Lee.  I am a wife and a mom. I’ve been a nurses aid, a factory worker and a journalist.  For more than 30 years, people in Minnesota’s Arrowhead region called me the T.V. news lady.

From the field and my chair at the anchor desk I brought them the news focusing on how the decisions made in Washington impacted our friends and neighbors in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District. My work was guided by the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.

I did it without personal comment or opinion Monday through Friday on the 5, 6 and 10 o’clock local news.

 A Democrat at birth, I cast ballots in every primary and general election since I was old enough to enter a voting booth, but not one viewer knew whether I was a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent.  I have never been a political insider. I never worked on behalf of a political party nor did I openly supported or oppose a candidate during my career.

That was then. This is now. On the night Donald Trump was elected president I was on the anchor desk. A political analyst  leaned in during a commercial break and whispered to me, “these numbers tell me Trump is going to win.”

I felt as if I had been punched in the gut.

55 days later I left my career behind. A few weeks later I  was on a bus out of Duluth, Minnesota headed for Washington D.C. to participate in the Women’s March.  It was my first act of political and social activism.

I went on to attend Wellstone Camp, the Vote, Run, Lead Camp and Take Action Minnesota focusing on their candidate tracks determined to one day serve my community.

When our Democratic Congressman Rick Nolan announced he was retiring following our party caucuses friends urged me to jump into the race.

“You have name awareness… people trust you,”  they said.

Other friends who worked in politics tried to talk me out of it telling me there wasn’t enough time to mount a campaign.  They also described how Washington was broken. They also warned money talked—that good candidates often had to walk away.

And that brings me back to dialing for dollars.

I’ve already picked the low hanging fruit. That’s how the experts describe family and friends who believe in me and who are willing to donate a few hard earned dollars to send me to Washington. Those are hard calls to make.  I know the value of a dollar in their lives. Most have given to my campaign. Unfortunately, it is not yet enough for me to qualify for the all important “tier one” status, meaning enough money raised to cause big donors to pay attention to my campaign.

Rather than traveling my 27, 538  square mile district listening to the people I hope to represent, I’m told it is more important to sit in a room with an assistant and spend 30 plus hours a week calling a list of strangers.

Judd Apatow doesn’t know me. I doubt he’ll ever meet any of the candidates like me who are calling him. But that’s the world we live in. Because our politics are now filled with consultants and money bundlers.

As a result critical campaign time is focused on convincing people like him that I and other candidates like me are the only line of defense between mean spirited legislation designed to make the rich richer and build walls around the working poor.

Are you as troubled as I am about this money game?

The truth is,  it will take good people to get involved in the process by volunteering for the candidate of their choice, holding house parties and yes, raising money to send them to Washington.

Even though Mr. Apatow is not available to take my call don’t be surprised if you get a “cold call” from me, Michelle Lee a former T.V. news lady from Minnesota asking for your ideas to steer our nation in the right direction and for a donation to send  the first ever congresswoman to represent MN-8 in Washington.

My  Campaign Facebook page

My website

To donate to my campaign, here is the link to ActBlue

We must stop being played

 

 

This week’s  presidential tweet aimed at Senator Gillibrand makes me yearn for “Once upon a time” when Donald Trump was a television celebrity and wasn’t our Tweeter-in-Chief.

Frankly I find his latest effort of presidential shame tweeting involving powerful women sad.

Once upon a time in towns and cities across America  little girls were told to be nice, don’t fight, or get angry.  They were told heaven forbid don’t make waves–or question a male authority figure– because honey it’s a man’s world.

Back in the not too distant past girls were taught early on that boys grow up to rule the world. Girls grow up to help make their future husband a success.

Women have made inroads since I first read story books to my child that began with the phrase, Once Upon a Time.  We have become CEO’s, ranking officers in the military and successes in dozens of other professions once thought to be man’s work.

We are slowly seeing women move up the ranks to fill seats in local, county and national government. We are also joining forces and building coalitions to raise and resolve serious issues impacting our families, friends and neighbors.

Many of us have married men who believe we are their equal.  They are men who also believe their wives and daughters have every right to take a seat at the table of power.  Yet every day I am reminded there are still  men in power who  draw and redraw the line that women must not cross.

Scrolling through Twitter since Donald Trump won the presidency— it’s hard to miss his  attacks against the news media, our sports figures and our women lawmakers.  If fear mongering were a talent, the President would win bigly on America’s got talent.  We must stop being played.

 

 

 

 

Finding my voice

On Friday morning I will get on the bus for a long trip to Washington D.C. to participate in the Women’s March.  I look forward to finding my voice after a long career as a journalist.

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For 40 years I have refrained from voicing my opinions  on the stories I  covered as a journalist. I lived by a simple rule shared by thousands of journalists; find the truth and tell the truth –in a fair and unbiased fashion.

I left my position as a television news anchor and reporter in Duluth, Minnesota at the end of 2016.  I am  now eager to find my voice, develop my skills as a community activist and learn how to support the issues that I feel are essential to maintain our hard fought rights and freedoms.

On election night 2016 I reported in a fair and un-biased fashion the results of the presidential race while holding  back my personal feelings. Now for the first time in decades I am free to share with your that my heart was broken that night.  When I woke up the next morning I was praying that the outcome of the election was just a bad dream.  But the reality remains that Mr. Trump will be sworn in as our 45th President on the same day I will find myself on a bus with dozens of women traveling to our nation’s capitol.

A Trump presidency scares me, the current majority in congress scares me.  As a woman and a mom my fear is not for myself.  My fear is reserved for our future generations and my friends and family who are being threatened with the loss of health care.  I fear the loss of the right to  marry those we love and for our fragile environment  balancing on a razor’s edge.

Fear is a great motivator.  I will use it to find my voice.

 

 

 

A new chapter.

My last day in the anchor chair at KBJR 6 news in Duluth, Minnesota will be December 27, 2016.

I have had a front row seat, observing and reporting the news in the Northland. For that I will always be grateful.

I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of wonderful folks who work, livemichelle-lee and play in this place we call home and share their stories with our viewers.

So many of my neighbors and friends have and continue to make a difference.  I have made it a goal to share their efforts with our viewers and I hope I haven’t let you down.

During my 33 years in the newsroom we have worked to understand our boom and bust economy, war and peace and the multiple changes in leadership in our local, state and federal governments.

It hasn’t been easy, we ruffled feathers and drew criticism along the way—that comes with the job.  But I can’t thing of a better one to occupy most of my adult life.

It has been an honor to work with dozens of bright and dedicated journalists who embrace the journalism code of ethics.  As WPR’s John Munson recently told me, and I am paraphrasing here; Our jobs are simple…we seek the truth and tell the truth.

I agree.

Our tools have has changed dramatically over the years.

From typewriters and teletypes to laptops and and the internet—from coffee fueled and cigarette smoke filled newsrooms to virtual newsrooms in the front seat of the news vans or an all night fast food joint—one thing remains constant; the story.

As I prepare to write the next chapter in my life, I am confident the next generation of storytellers will surpass our efforts.

The only certainty in life…is change. I look forward to writing the next chapter in my life.

Journalists never, ever retire—we just stop asking questions.

I didn’t get his name

He and his friend were parked at the curb. There was something about him, something familiar.   As I walked by them our  eyes met, I nodded and said hello.    I stopped and he rolled down the window.  How are you, I asked?  Not good, came his reply.

He told me about his dialysis at a local hospital, how all their earthly belongings are now carried in his car which they keep running to stay warm.  He pointed to the woman riding shotgun and told me how she was going to apply for unemployment and how they were checking Craig’s List for a place to live.

I asked whether the hospital’s social worker could help and he explained they offered assisted living, but she couldn’t be with him.  After 30 years or more they were not willing to separate.

They were both Native American. I asked about their affiliations with a tribe or band.  To far away he said…but they have friends locally who do what they can to help.  In this case, friends who didn’t turn them in for parking near the business.

Love or comfort?  He chose love.

Ours was a brief encounter on a lovely late summer afternoon in Northern Minnesota.  I was in a hurry to get to work. As I left them I promised to  send up a prayer for them.

Today, I am ashamed I didn’t do more than listen and pray. Ashamed that I didn’t get his name.

Noozelady