Minnesota mayor backed by labor crosses picket line for lunch

The AP

The mayor of Duluth, Minnesota, faces a lifetime ban from a union hall after the union says he crossed a picket line to eat lunch at a restaurant.

Two-term Democrat Don Ness is backed by labor. But President Dan O’Neill of the Duluth AFL-CIO Central Labor Body said Ness crossed a picket line to enter the Radisson Hotel Duluth.

The Painters and Allied Trades Local 106 ran the picket line at the hotel because union members believe the hotel hired nonunion workers to renovate some of its hotel rooms, O’Neill said. He said Ness approached the picket line, shared a few words with the picketers and then went into the building.

“We were really surprised that the mayor went in,” O’Neill said.

Last month, union members attending a Duluth Central Labor Body meeting voted to ban Ness from the Labor Temple’s Wellstone Hall.

Ness, whose wife worked for the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone’s Duluth office, told his supporters on Facebook that he’s confused and upset by the ban. He wrote that he had been invited to lunch at the hotel and spoke to the picketers on his way in.

“This is still an incredibly hurtful situation,” he wrote on Facebook, adding that it will tarnish his final months in office. Ness announced last year that he doesn’t plan to run for a third term.

Ness said unionized restaurant employees crossed the same picket line, and that it was his understanding that others were allowed to cross without problems.

“If this was a strike, I absolutely would NOT have crossed the line,” he added.

O’Neill and Ness both told the Star Tribune that they thought the ban might be rescinded.