Why I gave Tommy Rukavina the finger

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Forest Service  hosted a public meeting Tuesday, January 28th at the RiverCenter In St Paul on an environmental review of what's proposed to be the first copper-nickel mine in the state.

I along with with over 2000 other people attended. Of those 2000 people about half were opposed to the Polymet Mine being proposed in northern Minnesota. The other half were either dressed up in "working class" mining attire replenished with hard hats along with a variety of "suits." More on that later.

During the public testimony there was an impassioned discussion and debate. Those of us opposed to it gave our testimony when allowed. Some of us noticed something peculiar develop with those "hard hat" "working class guys" when they were chosen to speak. Almost to man they gave up their microphone time to a "suit." In fact I watched in horror as some of these "hard hat guys" gave up the microphone to representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and management of the Polymet Mining interests.

At this point I feel compelled to give you my own personal and family Trade Union history. I have been a proud member of the ITGWU (Irish Transport and General Workers) the irish version of the Teamsters, IVG&ATA (Irish Vintners Grocers & Allied Trades Association (Irish version of the UFCW) the MNA (Both Michigan and Minnesota Nurses Association. My father was a shop stewart for the Teamsters in California and my uncle Brian was shop stewart for the ITGWU. I was born into Trade Union politics. In Ireland the Trade Unions stand up and fight for working people, all working people. It appears that here in the United states they seem to stand only for themselves, their own narrow interests and for corporation interests. To use the Occupy Wall Street vernacular, the 1% instead of the 99%.

During the public discussion another "hard hat' gave up the microphone to another suit. This man spoke disparagingly to those of us opposed. He held up a paper bag and told us that "collect your cell phones, computers and car keys." The simple arrogance of this statement got to me. I stood up in the crowd and gave him the finger. I had no idea who he was.

Turns out it was Tommy Rukavina. Rukavina's been a milkman, a garbageman and miner. But he's also spent almost a quarter century in the state House of Representatives. He is currently a staffer for the Rick Nolan for Congress campaign. According to Rukavina  "I've been around labor unions all my life and I have labor beliefs,"I've been around relatives that have been involved in their union and never had a problem with speaking up in defense of their fellow workers, so that's why I speak up for the underdog."

So initially my reaction was that I publicly apologize for giving Tommy Rukavina by giving him the finger. I had not known it was him speaking. If I had have known I would have given him both barrels. Both hands extending the one finger salute. However having talked to Trade Union people that I admire and trust I changed my mind. Instead let's have an honest discussion on the Trade Unions in this country.

From where I sit people like Tommy Rukavina go to the heart and soul of what is wrong with the Trade Union movement in this country, in my own humble but honest opinion. Trade Union "leadership" do not protect the interests of all working people. They do not stand up and fight the corporate interests raving our nation. No instead they "cooperate" with the corporate owners. I call that collaborating with the enemy which is treason.

Earlier I had mentioned a "hard hat guy" giving up the microphone for a "suit" speaking for the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber Of Commerce have always worked against the interests of ordinary working people. Yet this "Union guy" gave up the microphone to them. Now if you do not believe that he did so under the direct orders of his "Union" "leadership' then I have a bridge for sale, going cheap in Brooklyn. No real Trade Unionist would ever give up the microphone to a representative of the Chamber Of Commerce.

Tommy Rukavina represents that collaborationist mentality that has infected Trade Unions in the United States. So Tommy, here you go. I take back my both barrels of the one finger salute. However my perspective that this collaborationist mentality is what is destroying the Trade Union movement in this country I most certainly do not take back.

Polymet is not going to help the people of northern Minnesota. This Canadian conglomerate will come in, ravage the area, contaminate the ground water for 500 years and then leave. There has never been a sulfide mining process that has done otherwise. Never. The facts speak for themselves.

Instead the people of northern Minnesota will suffer and this mine will probably give some of the children of the region a variety of cancers and other ailments. For the promise of some jobs. None of which are even guaranteed to be union jobs. The health of the children will be put at risk and these corporate powers have never show willingness to protect them. instead they have a history of turning and running leaving their mess behind. Including PolyMet. It is also evident that this mine will indeed contaminate the Boundary Waters which is a Minnesota jewel.

Those of us opposed to this understand that northern Minnesota needs jobs. We just see this mine as a disaster waiting to happen and that it will negatively affect the people of Minnesota as a whole and northern Minnesota in particular. Real sustainable jobs are possible.

Just not with PolyMet or other internationalist corporate powers like them.

As the old trade Union song goes Tommy Rukavina and others like you. What side are you on boys, what side are you on? Take a look at your own Minnesota history with the Farmer Labor Association. These heroes of the past can guide you back to where you belong.

Not PolyMet.

POINT(114.177987 22.321702)
  • Thank you Michael for writing this explanation of what happened at this meeting. I agree that unions should have concern for all working people and should not act just for the benefit of a few. Clearly this mine will poison the land and those working it and or living nearby. Your invitation for a real dialogue on what unions stand for is positive. At one time at Republic or perhaps it was Northwest all the unions contracts were up at the same time so negotiations were done with all the unions together. I was so pleased to see this only to be dismayed shortly later when the Pilots decided they should negotiate alone as they did not care about anyone but themselves. United we stand divided we fall. One planet, one humanity, Mankind's biggest challenge is to learn to live with other cultures peacefully, and with enough respect for other species to allow sustainability within the thin ecosphere where Mother Nature has given us a complex mosaic of interdependent life. Allowing international corporations to rape the land and poison the people for temporary profits is immoral and counter productive. This mine should not be approved. Green jobs can help the people, the society and the ecology without negative contamination. peace and hugs one planet, one Mother Earth, one humanity - by Robert Palmer on Wed, 03/05/2014 - 3:42pm
  • Copper, huh? They have banned copper based bottom paint for boats as it is horribly toxic. Dropping a copper mine guarantees poisoned land and sick residents. Because surely you don't think they'd go the extra mile to put security in place when they can just buy off poor people whose kids died of copper poisoning... - by Xenubarb Goromasu on Wed, 03/05/2014 - 11:47am
  • The reason they gave up their time to a "suit" was because that was the anti-mining crowd's M.O. at the first Duluth meeting, they had everyone apply to speak even if they didn't want to, then give their time to someone with a prepared speech. So it was decided tit for tat. Thought maybe you'd want a little truth here rather than lies such as people getting cancers and ailments. Oh, and the PolyMet mine will NOT contaminate the BWCA because it is NOT in the BWCA watershed, it's in the Lake Superior watershed and water doesn't run up hill, just more lies by the anti mining side. It wasn't 50/50 for and against either, it was 60% and 40% anti's. The other two meetings were even more lopsided towards those for mining and jobs. - by Pete Zebich on Wed, 03/12/2014 - 6:42am
  • Michael Cavlan here. i am now banned from making any comments, anywhere on Facebook. No warning was issues. FYI. This is my wives account - by Nancy K Coons on Wed, 03/05/2014 - 11:03pm
  • Who wants to bet that Workday Minnesota or any other "progressive" establishment media like it would NEVER publish this? - by Michael J Cavlan on Wed, 03/05/2014 - 1:05pm
  • OK anti-miners. Do you want the United States to use less copper? Do you want to obviate the need for this mine? Easy. The United States must first start to bury the electric lines accross the country...just like Europe. This would reduce the wear and tear on them from the weather and reduce the material use needed to maintain them. No problem. The US must just collectively pay a lot more taxes to tear up the road system and bury them. The power companies can then charge more for the new lines for a while. This should take a generation or so. Copper prices will increase for that time, but we can buy it all from other countries that are already mining it. You've got to take the long term perspective though. Eventually, the new, more efficent infrastructure should reduce the US need for copper in the long run...and the World copper consumption. Second, the US is going to have to "de-suburbanize", Smaller houses, less distance between them means less copper. People are going to have to live in appartments, which will increase density in urban areas, but reduce the overall need for copper. This too will require large tax increases to 1) give the people with houses an incentive to move into the urban areas, and 2) to change the infrastructure needed to support those denser populations. Third. The world is going to have to reduce its use of electronic equipment and exectricity in general. I also believe that copper piping is in many houses. That should all be replaced with PVC, which is made from hydrocarbons from oil, coal and gas. That is not nearly as destructructive to the environment. We can just buy it from foreign countries or increase the fracking activity in States. I am all for higher taxes and higher energy surcharges to pay for these changes in the American infrastructure and forcing Americans to accept the accompanying lifestyle changes.The people who want to live in houses and in suburbia should cover these costs. - by Craig Walker on Fri, 03/28/2014 - 11:36am
  • glad we could keep the conversation civil, mature and to the point. What are you 12? - by on Thu, 03/06/2014 - 2:42pm

Our primary commenting system uses Facebook logins. If you wish to comment without having a Facebook account, please create an account on this site and log in first. If you are already a registered user, just scroll up to the log in box in the right hand column and log in.

MichaelCavlan's picture
MichaelCavlan