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Minnesota company gets ‘Hobby Lobby’ exemption from birth control mandate

I just invented a religion that requires me to drive a steady 90 mph up I-35. The Strib’s Jeremy Olson says, “A St. Joseph, Minn., employer has received a religious exemption to the federal mandate requiring birth control coverage in workplace health insurance, a case that stems from the Hobby Lobby ruling that weakened a key plank of Obamacare. American Manufacturing Co. won an exemption based on the fact that its owner, Gregory Hall, is an ordained Catholic deacon in Texas who fundamentally opposes the types of birth control and sterilization specified in the Affordable Care Act of 2010.”

Speaking of I-35, the protest that shut down the northbound lanes yesterday were a bit of a two-fer. Brandt Williams of MPR reports, “The Minnesota Department of Transportation closed I-35W northbound at Exit 14, near Lake Street, in Minneapolis for roughly an hour as more than 100 protesters staged a sit-in on the highway. … Many of them were part of a group that gathered inside a nearby Burger King restaurant to voice support for an increase in the minimum wage for fast food workers. But as they closed traffic along both streets, they turned their attention to the long list of people, mostly African-Americans, killed by law enforcement officers, or shot by vigilantes as Trayvon Martin was in Florida.”

And on the subject of low-pay by big companies, a PiPress story says, “A longtime Delta Air Lines employee and Twin Cities labor activist, Kip Hedges, was fired this week from his job as a baggage handler after championing a $15 minimum wage for airline workers. According to multiple postings on social media, Hedges gave an on-camera interview to Workday Minnesota, where he said, ‘A lot of the Delta workers make under $15 an hour. As a matter of fact, I would say probably close to half make under $15 an hour.’ Delta officials told Hedges he was being fired for ‘disparaging remarks,’ according to an account on Workday Minnesota. It’s unclear how many Delta baggage-claim workers make less than $15 an hour, but some do, while others earn significantly more.” But as I read this, the Beloved Sort-of-Hometown Airline isn’t saying what he said was untrue.

The flu season has claimed its first victim. A Strib story says, “The victim was a child but was not identified Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Health. The department said 18 new patients were hospitalized with flu symptoms last week, about average for this stage of the season, and eight school districts reported new flu outbreaks. Influenza’s severity varies widely from one year to another, with a national death toll ranging from 3,300 to 49,000 annually.”

A half-settlement between Mayo and Quest Diagnostics. Elizabeth Baier of MPR reports, “Mayo Clinic and Quest Diagnostics have reached an agreement in Mayo’s suit against one of its former top executives. In a lawsuit filed in October, Mayo alleged Dr. Franklin Cockerill III was secretly hired by Quest Diagnostics but continued to work as the president and CEO of Mayo Medical Labs so he could steal Mayo trade secrets. Mayo also alleged Cockerill attended confidential meetings before telling the clinic he was leaving. … the clinic continues to pursue remaining claims against Cockerill to protect confidential trade secrets against improper disclosure.”

The Como Lakeside Pavilion is getting a serious upgrade. For the PiPress, Frederick Melo and Joe Lindberg write, “The operators of the Amsterdam Bar in St. Paul and the 331 Club in Minneapolis would renovate and manage the Como Lakeside Pavilion next year, according to a tentative agreement with the city of St. Paul. Visitors to the Como Park landmark would notice fewer weddings, more musical acts, expanded hours, bicycle surrey rentals, a possible farmers’ market and a fuller food menu under the proposed year-round contract. The deal is expected to net the city of St. Paul $1 million over the next five years.

The GleanThey could just as well have played hockey at TCF Bank Stadium last Sunday. At, Catharine Silverman writes, “NHL fans usually have pretty strong opinions when it comes to Gary Bettman, but one thing is certain — he knows how to grow the league. In the past two and a half decades, Bettman has seen league expansion and financial success many couldn’t dream of. … More than anything, the Stadium Series have been the uncontested big-ticket events in recent years. The series, which includes the highly-coveted Winter Classic game, seems like a perfect fit for the ‘hockey state’ — yet Minnesota has yet to be awarded one of the league’s outdoor games.”

The British TV ads are back at the Walker. MPR’s Euan Kerr says, “Between this week and Jan. 4, the Walker will screen the compilation of ads 88 times. Last year, almost 27,000 people saw the show. The Walker expects about the same number this year — although there’s room for a few more. Other U.S. cities host the show, but only for a few nights. What makes the show such a big hit in Minneapolis is a bit of a mystery. The Minnesotan passion for the British Arrows is simply unmatched, and hard to explain. … One answer to the popularity mystery may be interest generated by the large creative industry in the Twin Cities. Also many families have just made the British ad festival part of their holiday routine.” We suffer/enjoy severe Anglophilia around here.

How to avoid a “negative” rating. In the Strib, Christopher Snowbeck says, “Credit rating agency A.M. Best has revised its outlook for Golden Valley-based PreferredOne due in part to the health insurer’s troubled business through the MNsure exchange. A.M. Best affirmed the financial strength rating of B++ (Good) and the issuer credit ratings of “bbb” for PreferredOne Insurance Co., and an affiliated HMO. But the agency revised the outlook to negative from stable. A.M. Best said it subsequently withdrew the ratings in response to PreferredOne’s request to no longer participate in the ratings process.” See! Not so bad after all.

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Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 12/05/2014 - 06:44 am.

    $15 at Burger King?

    The Strib said the wage protest yesterday was an effort to advocate for a $15 per hour wage at fast food restaurants. Speaking as an old fogie, when I was in high school in the 60s most kids had their first jobs at places like Burger King and MacDonalds. I started at a dollar an hour. It was a place to learn the basic elements of being employed: work hard, be on time, obey the boss, etc. Those places have never been about providing a living wage for an adult and his family. Logic says to me that if fast food workers get 15, then 15 becomes the threshold wage for any job anywhere. How are young people or others new to employment ever going to enter the work force? While I support more income distribution through progressive taxation, programs to help the poor and disadvantaged get into the workforce, tipping fairly, a good but practical minimum wage and other things, I don’t see how this path makes any practical sense. Fast food should be your first job, not your last. It is a stepping stone or should be. I wish I had been at the other protest though.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 12/05/2014 - 09:34 am.

      That was then…

      With today’s employment (or lack of it) environment, half of fast food workers are supporting families.
      You may have your own opinions about what a fast food job -should- be, but that is not today’s reality.

      Today’s economic problems are largely due to a lack in demand. Production (and high level employment) won’t ramp up until people start buying more. And the best way to get them to buy more is to put money in their hands. That’s what increasing the minimum wage will due: put money in the hands of the people who are most likely to spend it.

      • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 12/05/2014 - 10:46 am.

        I stand by my objection

        that unskilled entry level positions are not worth 15 dollars an hour by today’s standards. Anyone making the decision to make fast food a career and not a stepping stone to something better is making a mistake. And I’d say that in general production is fine. The unfortunate part is that much of it is overseas. There are so many things today that people pay for and think are essential that didn’t exist 20 years ago: cell phones, cable, home computers, giant tvs, things that people at all economic levels think are mandatory.

        My company regularly hires manufacturing people but I doubt the inexperienced new hires start at 15. But they built up their resumes enough to get a shot to get in here where there is a potential to grow and advance.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/05/2014 - 12:12 pm.

          Making fast food a career

          I doubt very much that the people who support themselves by working in fast-food outlets consciously chose to make it their careers. For most of them, it was the only way they could find to support themselves

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/05/2014 - 08:22 am.

    Hobby Lobby

    Rather than complain about the effects of the Hobby Lobby ruling, we should recognize that the real problem stems from the federal government attempting to create one-size-fits-all health insurance policies and mandating coverage for things that it deems necessary, even when the mandatory coverage is controversial.

    When the republicans have enough political power to finally overturn Obamacare, the first step should be to eliminate the mandated coverages, which will not only eliminate controversies such as Hobby Lobby, but it’ll reduce the cost of the policies by removing coverage that people don’t want or need.

    Let the market decide what coverage people want to buy. That’s always been the solution.

    • Submitted by Don L. Watson on 12/07/2014 - 12:28 pm.

      Hobby Lobby

      By your reckoning, the government should butt out of the health care marketplace and let the insurance companies have free reign. There have been too many people in the past who have literally died due to lacking coverage because of insurance companies dropping them due to preexisting conditions; social Darwinism of sorts…
      Though I would personally like to see single payer (Medicare for all), we have the ACA, as imperfect as it is. Just like with Social Security at its inception, the ACA needs to be legislatively adjusted and like Social Security it will increase in popularity as it brings more Americans into greater health security.

  3. Submitted by Steve Sundberg on 12/05/2014 - 08:43 am.

    Times change, Dennis

    Most of the employees you see these days at a McD, Wendys, etc. are NOT high schoolers; they are adults, very often raising families.

    Almost 14 years ago, the NYT did an article re: teens not wanting to work anymore at fast food restaurants:

    “Given the views of most teenagers, especially those from middle-class backgrounds, the jobs at McDonald’s and Burger King often fall to poor immigrants and older workers. And when teenagers see a restaurant staffed mostly by immigrants, the status of these jobs descends yet another notch in their eyes.”

  4. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 12/05/2014 - 09:07 am.

    For whom the Cockerell crows…

    The name intrigues me and I predict the the first buzz word or name for the a company drone performing similar, allegedly, I-spy tactics,
    to be activated by a Minnesota corporation might be called a cockerel?

    Trivia: but once upon a time not too long ago the hover craft was invented by a British engineer of the same name.

    Consider also the ‘drone’ is an overused word to cover so many uses and sizes of disguises… yes sir, that’s one devious product, the drone, and the right of privacy; that’s the next step in corporate crime?

    …then again, in the courts, who would pay for , allegedly spying…the drone in question, the owner of said drone or the manufacturer? This new corporate toy would be a massive playground for the lawyer crowd?

    Add a few more “allegedly” adverbs here for whom ever the cock crows…

  5. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 12/05/2014 - 09:35 am.

    The 35W

    sit down was not only stupid but it was dangerous. What gives seemingly disgruntled people the right to demonstrate on a freeway and disrupt travel? People in general would have a lot more sympathy for their cause if their lives were not interrupted by this widespread civil disobedience. Every interstate is posted for motor vehicles only.

    Why the police didn’t bust up this demonstration is beyond me.

    • Submitted by Tom Clark on 12/05/2014 - 10:32 am.

      Thankfully 35W

      is not the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Times have changed.

      I’m thankful the Minnesota Highway Patrol and MNDoT were there to ensure the safety of both drivers and demonstrators alike.

    • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 12/05/2014 - 10:35 am.

      not stupid

      What gives them the right is their willingness to accept the consequences of their actions. That is the essence of civil disobedience. As for it being widespread, I’d say it was confined to a pretty narrow area.

      Had they not disrupted travel, no one would have noticed. The whole point was to have their issues noticed. Perhaps if the police had applied a few choke holds, tased and shot a few protesters the demonstration wouldn’t have been such an inconvenience. As the police in New York have demonstrated any level of force is ok on a law breaker. And if the St Paul police can tase someone for merely refusing to give their names then maybe a swat team would have been appropriate to deal with this demonstrators.

      And I don’t see the connection between my feelings for the demonstrators and my feelings about the cause they are demonstrating for. I support what I think is right, not necessarily who I like best.

      • Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 12/05/2014 - 12:35 pm.


        these demonstrators have no inherent right to disrupt your life or mine. The problem is that there are no consequences for them. They don’t have to worry about being late for work, missing appointments made months in advance, family gatherings, etc.

        • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 12/05/2014 - 12:46 pm.

          As Mr. Schletzer had already pointed out, “What gives them the right is their willingness to accept the consequences of their actions. That is the essence of civil disobedience.”
          “Had they not disrupted travel, no one would have noticed. The whole point was to have their issues noticed.”

          Then, you wrote:
          “They don’t have to worry about being late for work, missing appointments made months in advance, family gatherings, etc.”

          So, I must ask, is what you are saying is that because they’re primarily black they don’t have families, jobs, or appointments to keep?

          • Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 12/05/2014 - 03:14 pm.


            is it that some have to make everything about race? I’m sure plenty of African Americans, Asian Americans and other minorities of sort had their daily activities disrupted by this demonstration as well.

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/05/2014 - 12:52 pm.

          The irony is

          these people support the politicians in office who control what they’re compaining about.

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