Unions set to strike retailers on Black Friday

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Isn’t this the cue for someone to rant about “jack-booted union thugs”? Adam Belz of the Strib reports, “Unions in the Twin Cities and their allies are planning to kick off a series of strikes and protests on Black Friday, billed as the busiest shopping day of the year. Janitors who work for companies that clean Home Depot, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Target and Sears will strike unless their employers agree to negotiate with the Service Employees International Union. Other workers plan to march on University Avenue in St. Paul to protest poverty wages on Friday, while fast-food worker protests and a demonstration by airport workers are scheduled for Dec. 4 and Dec. 5.”

Two days after being accused by Minnesota’s AG of unethical business practices, the home office of Savers thrift stores has responded. Angel Gonzalez of the Seattle Times says, “The parent company of Value Village thrift stores said Tuesday that a critical report on its business practices by Minnesota’s attorney general was based on ‘incorrect assumptions and a misunderstanding of our working relationships with our nonprofit partners.’ … The Minnesota report, which a spokesman said came after citizen complaints and has been forwarded to other state attorneys general, called into question the business model Savers has used to build a 330-store international chain.”

And you thought the Costco parking lot was dangerous. Says Maya Rao in the Strib, “Thanksgiving holds a more dubious honor than being the best day to gather ’round for a turkey dinner. As people rush across the state to family feasts, careless drivers, slippery roads and speeding cars make Thanksgiving weekend the most likely holiday period to have a wreck on Minnesota’s roads. Distracted driving was the most common factor in 564 crashes involving 1,436 cars between Nov. 27 and Dec. 1 last year, state records show — ahead of failure to yield to other motorists, speeding, and driving while on drugs or alcohol.”

The guru of the “Maidens Group” is now a Most Wanted Fugitive. The AP says, “The U.S. Marshals Service has added a self-professed minister accused of sexually abusing young girls in rural Minnesota to its 15 Most Wanted Fugitives list. Fifty-three-year-old Victor Barnard is charged with 59 counts of criminal sexual conduct involving two members of a ‘Maidens Group’ within a church he led called the River Road Fellowship.”

There’s no bragging about voter turn-out this year. Talking with outgoing Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Tim Pugmire of MPR says, “The five-member State Canvassing Board met today to certify results that show 1,992,566 Minnesotans cast a ballot. That put Minnesota’s turnout for the midterm election at 50.51 percent of eligible voters. The turnout in 2010, the previous midterm, was 55.83 percent. Outgoing DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said 2014 was the smoothest election during his eight years in office, but the turnout was disappointing. Ritchie said Minnesota followed a national trend. ‘We’ve known in the past that if at the top of the ticket it looks like a blowout or if at the top of the ticket it doesn’t look like a really competitive race, there are plenty of people who will say ‘not much I can do in that top ticket race. I’m not going to vote,’ Ritchie said.”

Since it’s going to be a minimum of four and half months before the frozen slush goes away we might as well start drinking the good stuff. Martha Lueders for MPR writes, “Though snow has fallen, we still can enjoy autumn food and drink. Minnesotans should be ecstatic with the beer selection that their state has to offer. We asked Certified Cicerones, qualified beer connoisseurs that have a deep understanding about beer styles, from across the state what their favorite Minnesotan brews were this season. The results are in. The recommendations have been ranked by which beers received the most hype from our experts. 1. The brewery that got the most praise from our experts was Steel Toe Brewing for their Douglas Cascadian Dark Ale. ‘Released several times in the past, although sporadically, this beer seems to have found its home in the fall,’ Michael Wagner, one of the Certified Cicerones at the Four Firkins, says.”

Forbes magazine is out with its annual list of pro sports franchise valuations. At No. 17 in the NHL: the Minnesota Wild. “Current Value: $370 mil. Revenue 2013-2014: $111 mil. Operating Income 2013-2014: -$5.4 mil. ‘The Xcel Energy Center, home of the Wild, is undergoing a big overhaul, including high-definition scoreboards, two new escalators, wider concourses and improvements to the entrances of the 13-year-old downtown St. Paul sports arena.’”

And at No. 26 in the NBA, your Minnesota Timberwolves. “Current value: $430 million. Revenue: $116 million. Operating loss: $2.7 million The Minneapolis City Council approved financing in November for a $97 million renovation of the Target Center, which is one of the NBA’s oldest venues. The city is putting up $48.5 million, while the team ($43 million) and building manager AEG ($5.5 million) pay the balance. The agreement extends the Wolves lease to 2032 with construction set to begin in the summer of 2014.”

Another golden parachute for a captain of, uh, financial manipulation. Matthew Goldstein of the New York Times writes, “Philip Falcone, the hedge fund manager who made billions betting against the housing market and then lost a bundle trying to build a wireless network, is once again trying to reinvent himself. In a surprising move, Falcone is stepping down as the chief executive and chairman of the Harbinger Group, a publicly traded company that owns stakes in the maker of the George Foreman grills and a life insurance company. … In leaving the Harbinger Group, Falcone will receive a lump-sum payment of $20.5 million. He will also get $19.8 million in bonus money that the Harbinger Group said he had earned for his service to the company. Falcone agreed in 2013 to be barred from working in the securities industry for at least five years as part of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that stemmed from violations at his hedge fund.” He is of course an Iron Ranger, from Chisholm.

Just so you know why it’s better to leave cash. Susan Du at City Pages says, “If you eat at Bonfire, your tips aren’t making it into that smiling server’s pocket at the end of the day without a grab-and-dash toll tax to the restaurant. Derek Johnson, a server at Bonfire in St. Paul, has been slinging dishes at the popular wood-fire pizzeria since mid-summer. He says a month after he started, he served a large party that tipped him about $80, but at the end of the shift Bonfire withheld 2 percent. When Johnson asked where the rest was, his manager explained that the restaurant had a legal right to take a percentage of servers’ tips to cover credit card fees. Though Bonfire is actually correct in that according to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, Johnson’s [bleeped] because no one bothered to tell him they were taking his money.”                           

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Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 11/26/2014 - 07:31 am.


    Granted, the credit card processors rip off restaurants something fierce, but 2% of your tips isn’t a very big deal. Unless, of course, Bonfire’s the kind of restaurant where servers don’t kick back to the kitchen staff who, when you include tips, usually get paid less than the servers.

    The entire hospitality industry is blighted by low wages, unhealthy food and horrible chains but 2%? Really? This is newsworthy? Every day temp workers get ripped off worse. Not a payday goes by when countless millions of Americans aren’t cheated out of overtime pay, and every April 15 owners get to write off vacation seminars in Hawaii while working Americans try to figure out why their lunches are never deductible.

    Two percent? This makes a mockery out of the dire plight of American workers whose wages have been stagnant for decades while profits grow ever higher and executive compensation reaches ever more obscene levels.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/26/2014 - 09:59 am.


      No, it’s not a lot. In the bigger scheme of things it does seem like little enough to fuss about.

      Consider, though, that this is a deduction for your employer’s benefit from the money you are receiving as justification for said employer not paying you a better wage.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/26/2014 - 08:56 am.

    With the swipe of his pen, Obama creates a pool of 5 million unskilled, undereducated workers ready for action. This is a great time to test the power of a janitorial resume!

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 11/26/2014 - 09:17 am.

      Not literally, not even rhetorically…

      First things first, those 5 million people were already there. And an estimated 65 percent of these undocumented immigrants already work… which is a higher labor participation rate than the general population.


    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/26/2014 - 09:57 am.

      Not to mention

      that black unemployment, twice that of white unemployment, just got harder to fix. One could say that Obama’s actions hurt black people more than they helped Latinos.

      • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 11/26/2014 - 10:38 am.

        “One could say that Obama’s actions hurt black people more than they helped Latinos.”

        One could say that (it makes no sense, in part because of the reason I provided above, and so far, it’s just you saying this), but this isn’t about pitting one minority against another.

        And to talk about ‘black unemployment’ without addressing or even acknowledging persistent structural and judicial racial bias in America is wildly simplistic.

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 11/26/2014 - 11:57 am.


          the primary cause of black unemployment is not related to “structural and judical racial bias,” it’s related to the crappy public education they get that’s supposed to prepare them for employment. Instead, when applying for work they’re on the same plane as uneducated, illiterate illegal immigrants. How sad is that?

          But hey, 98% of them already vote democrat so there’s no need to help them, right?

          • Submitted by jason myron on 11/26/2014 - 01:43 pm.

            Not as sad

            as you constantly being concerned that those same ” uneducated, illiterate illegal immigrants.” are going to steal your job.

          • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 11/26/2014 - 02:06 pm.

            Tornado of nonsense

            I would say that your previous response was a rather angry tornado of nonsense. Not that there is a single primary factor for the malaise that african-americans face specifically in this country, but ‘crappy public education’ is NOT the primary cause, and even if it were, your ‘side’ is the side that’s been cutting ed funding and trying to keep blacks from voting.

            The following is part historical narrative and part response to Mr. Tester’s claims.

            – Hundreds of years after being brought to North America as slaves (forcibly and illegally immigrated?), African Americans are murdered in droves across the south in campaigns of terror. Black people are not afforded equal protection under the law.
            – Jim Crow laws force segregation along racial lines, providing whites with the majority of benefits and access to public institutions
            – Cities across america bulldoze black neighborhoods to build freeways.
            – Using freeways, whites move away from urban core neighborhoods, taking tax dollars with them, and building new schools in the suburbs, removing vital tax dollars from urban schools and programs.
            – Legal structures are aligned against african-american population, through racially prejudiced drug sentencing, three-strike laws, and mandatory minimums.
            – Blacks incarcerated at 6 times the rate of whites.
            – Blacks make up 45% of US prison population
            – Black people get out of prison to return to civilian life- cannot get job because of criminal record, often cannot VOTE because of criminal record (example: Alabama prohibits all felons from voting for life- currently 30% of black population in Alabama permanently disenfranchised)
            – Cannot earn living, cannot support family or self… recidivism
            – New generations of children born into homes with single parents or incarcerated parents, grow up under thumb of and witness to systemic oppression
            – Republicans gut early childhood education and development programs- programs that actually help educate america’s youth and prepare them for a life of learning
            – Hurricane Katrina illustrates US compassion for primarily african-american communities
            – Barack Obama elected President; Republicans declare racism to be dead
            – Henry Gates, Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice
            – A black male child born in 2014 will face a 33% likelihood that he will spend time in jail or in prison. Cycle of poverty and inequality of opportunity repeats itself.

            I don’t care what percentage of “them” vote for any candidate. “They” do not have equally applied protection under the law, plain and simple.

            Black lives do matter… indeed, all lives matter. Our responsibility is to their future and our legacy. Make of it what you will.

          • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 11/26/2014 - 02:08 pm.

            Not as sad as believing that the only group black people can compete against for jobs are the illiterate and uneducated. You put them on that same plane.

            • Submitted by jody rooney on 11/26/2014 - 02:22 pm.

              Quite right in your comment Mr. Ecklund

              after all he could have sited American Indians since Mt. Tester says he is a card carrying member of the Sioux Nation. I believe the have a worse graduation rate than African Americans and for a number of reasons not just under performing schools. Odd that he didn’t mention that.

  3. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 11/26/2014 - 10:47 am.

    Carefully worded PR tripe

    ‘incorrect assumptions and a misunderstanding of our working relationships with our nonprofit partners.’

    Notice how this does not directly address the AG’s charges.

  4. Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/26/2014 - 12:43 pm.

    Is there a list of restaurants

    that pass credit card charges on to employees? I’d like to let them know I’ll be avoiding them until their policy changes.

  5. Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/26/2014 - 12:52 pm.

    Is there a list of restaurants: redux

    It occurs to me that if restaurants are deducting two percent on credit card tips only, it’s a legitimate practice. It’s certainly good labor relations to absorb the cost, but I can easily see how the overall cost can become significant.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/26/2014 - 01:25 pm.

      Absorbing the cost

      I would appreciate knowing if the restaurant is in fact doing this, so I can adjust my tip accordingly. Or I can just leave cash.

    • Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 11/26/2014 - 01:33 pm.

      Just avoid all chains

      Never eat at a restaurant that has stockholders. But for the rest, owners are typically in the same boat as employees. Everyone squeezes small businesses now, especially the financial institutions that rake in billions from credit card transactions.

      We need pirate banking. When you use your credit card, you’re letting Wall Street steal from a local business. In effect, you’re paying vinyl prices for a digital transaction while getting the risk of digital without the quality (and security) of vinyl.

      We lost an enormous opportunity when, instead of taking over failing banks, Bush and Obama agreed to bail them out. There should be thousands of Bank of the United States of America locations across the country right now, offering very cheap debit card services and actual interest on savings. Instead we have the Banks of America, ripping off everyone they do business with.

  6. Submitted by Brandt Hardin on 11/26/2014 - 03:25 pm.

    Turkey’s Revenge

    Black Friday is the sport of the American Lunatic and wages war on Thanksgiving. How absolutely insane is it that people would fight and injure one another for the sake of saving a dollar. Every year, there are casualties as folks are literally trampled to death over electronics and jewelry in this dystopian game. Big Business has created a manic hysteria out of shopping which is immoral and irresponsible. Santa is now the mascot for Corporate Greed and he’s suffering the consequences at the hands of a very disgruntled Thanksgiving Turkey at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-war-on-thanksgiving-one-turkeys.html

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