Minneapolis Public Works employees vote to authorize strike
Minneapolis Public Works employees represented by Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 363 voted on Wednesday evening to authorize a strike.
In a video posted to social media, a union member said LIUNA Local 363 represents over 400 city of Minneapolis employees.
The union also said 98.6% of the city employees voted to authorize a strike.
In a news release Wednesday night, LIUNA Local 363 said that members are “exhausted from staffing emergencies, demoralized by persistent turnover, and affected by staffing shortages…” In recent years, staff members have also been tasked with encampment clean up, where the union said they are exposed to biohazards, infectious agents, needles, human waste and more.
LIUNA 363 said it is bargaining to address staffing issues and the city’s failure to keep up with local area wages.
“Our members’ work ensures clean water, safe streets, well-kept public spaces, and accessible parks,” said AJ Lange, Business Manager of LIUNA Local 363. “We don’t just do our jobs – we keep the city functioning. Yet, despite our critical role, workers feel undervalued and overlooked.”
In a Facebook post from Monday, the union encouraged members to cast their votes.
“After over six months since your negotiating team began bargaining, City of Minneapolis negotiators still refuse to engage in meaningful discussions about worker health and safety protections, sustainable staffing levels and work schedules, and increasing wages to rates competitive with surrounding metro area cities. They continue to stall, deny information requests, and demand concessions. #RespectUsPayUS,” the post reads, in part.
LIUNA Local 363 said it will return to mediation on Thursday. There must be a 10-day notice before a strike.
The union said its current contract expired on Dec. 31.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has reached out to the city of Minneapolis and will update this article if a response is received.
Monterey Regional Airport to welcome flights from Minneapolis-St. Paul
MONTEREY – Another nonstop flight will make its debut this summer expanding on the Monterey airport’s ability to directly reach a metropolitan area, this one in the Midwest.
Sun Country Airlines will begin offering seasonal service between Monterey Regional Airport – MRY – and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – MSP – from Aug. 8 through Nov. 3 with flights on Thursday and Sunday. MSP is the base for hometown carrier Sun Country Airlines and is Delta Air Lines’ second largest hub.
Sun Country’s MSP-MRY route stands to expand leisure and business travel to the Central Coast and the Midwest with flights between the two points twice a week providing access to both for extended stays.
Monterey Regional Airport Executive Director Mike La Pier said discussions with Sun Country have been ongoing for about three years. He said that the Monterey airport talks to a lot of airlines regularly at gatherings where multiple airlines and airport leaders meet.
“This is an opportunity to open up the Midwest and a good move for us,” said La Pier. “Minnesota generates more golf rounds than any other state in the union on a per capita basis.”
La Pier described Sun Country as “a good mix of a quality carrier and low air fares.”
But another reason to take note of this new route is the fact that MPS serves a region that includes headquarters for corporations such as Target, Best Buy and Kohl’s which could benefit Monterey County’s conference and business group travel.
“Connecting Minneapolis/St. Paul and Monterey County is a tremendous opportunity for both leisure and business travelers,” said Rob O’Keefe, president & CEO of See Monterey, in a press release. “The connection creates an easy getaway for travelers who want to explore places like Big Sur, Pebble Beach and Salinas Valley. Plus there are a significant number of Fortune 500 corporate hubs such as Best Buy and Target which can benefit from incredibly inspiring meetings and conferences in our destination.”
On the flip side, the state and specifically the twin cities of Minnesota – Minneapolis and St. Paul – offer many outdoor activities and a bustling metropolitan area. The state is also known as the “Land of Ten Thousand Lakes.”
“If you’ve never been to Minnesota and sat quietly in a canoe on a lake, it is one of the most relaxing experiences … the outdoor opportunities are phenomenal,” said La Pier.
The beginning of the direct link between MRY and MPS will be seasonal, with flights twice a week from August to November. Just as travelers from Minnesota are seeing their weather turn colder, Monterey County is experiencing what is arguably its best weather of the year. Midwesterners can experience Monterey County’s temperate climate and scenic beauty while people from the Central Coast can enjoy Minnesota’s late summer offerings, fall colors and crisp temperatures.
“Minnesotans will be eager to visit Monterey for the scenic California coastline and access to picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea, the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, and golfers’ course bucket list Pebble Beach,” said Grant Whitney, Sun Country Senior Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer in the release. “Sun Country and our Minneapolis-St. Paul community will warmly welcome visitors from Monterey to Minnesota, where you’ll experience great fall weather, scenic lakes throughout the city, outdoor activity, pro sports and a terrific entertainment and restaurant scene.”
The seasonal route will be a sort of trial run for what has the potential to become an expanded service allowing for a proving ground for the market to see if it can be supported, said La Pier.
“Every carrier goes through a ‘prove it or lose it’ period to see if the service does well financially,” he said. He added that he is confident that Sun Country will do well in this market.
Last October, the Monterey Regional Airport announced it had been awarded a $750,000 grant to help it develop its focus on Chicago, which would provide access to another gateway to the Midwest, East Coast and international destinations, while improving access to Monterey County.
“Chicago is going to be a marathon, not a sprint,” said La Pier.
In conversations with American Airlines and United Air Lines, La Pier said the Monterey Regional Airport is on those carrier’s radar as Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is a hub for both American Airlines and United Airlines – two of the four major domestic airlines that serve more than 400,000 passengers a year at the Monterey airport. The other two are Alaska Airlines and Alegiant, and starting this summer, the number of domestic airlines servicing Monterey airport will increase to five to include Sun Country.
La Pier said he is confident service to Chicago will happen but he cannot say exactly when that will be.
The $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation under the Small Community Air Service Development Program will support Monterey airport’s goal of non-stop service to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
La Pier said the grant is good for five years and he is confident that within that timeframe the Monterey Regional Airport will have service to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
What’s holding Minnesota kids’ attention these days? Surprise, it’s chess.
The volunteers tried to shush the students huddled over chess boards recently in a Minneapolis middle school gym. But the enthusiastic chatter of more than 200 young chess players plotting their moves won out — and that was just fine.
“It’s so fun to see them get into it,” said Janae Krantz-Odendahl, a student engagement program coordinator for Minneapolis Public Schools, which put on the free tournament that has seen participation surge. “The interest has just exploded.”
School chess clubs are popping up and growing across Minnesota at all levels, from elementary through college. Students and their club advisers see the boom as one of the more positive and lasting effects of the pandemic, when kids and teenagers turned to online chess games as a way to pass the time. Around the same period, chess content creators like GothamChess grew popular on YouTube and Twitch by finding funny and engaging ways to teach the game’s strategy. The television show “The Queen’s Gambit,” as well as a 2022 headline-making cheating scandal among chess grandmasters, also helped bring renewed attention to chess.
Another boost could soon be coming: three American grandmasters — including a popular chess YouTuber — are set to compete in April for the top spot to play against the reigning world champion from China. If one of them goes on to win, they will be the first American to take the title since Bobby Fischer claimed it in 1972. Young chess players across Minnesota say they’ll be watching.
“There used to be this stigma that chess was just this nerdy thing,” said Dojin Wells, a seventh grader at Anthony Middle School who played at the recent Minneapolis Public Schools tournament. “I wouldn’t necessarily say chess is cool yet, but it’s definitely gotten cooler.”
The Minnesota State Chess Association has seen the number of players at its events double since 2021, and nearly half of its members are scholastic players, meaning they are K-12 students. Association tournaments that typically drew 150 players are now seeing more than 200, said Scott Carpenter, board member for the association.
Bob Dettmer, the chess team adviser at Eastview High School in Apple Valley, hopes those numbers can continue to rise as more young people see how easy and affordable playing chess can be. It doesn’t require expensive coaching, lessons or equipment like so many other activities.
“Honest to goodness, it is accessible to everyone, and you can’t say that about many things,” he said, adding that the game attracts a diverse group of students.
Lured in by strategy
Simon Vergara, a senior biochemistry major at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, agrees and sees the game as a way to bring people together.
As the founder of a new student club called Chill Chess & Coffee Club, Vergara hopes the trend of playing chess can have staying power. So far, the club has drawn a couple dozen students each week to play casually, and a recent event drew in nearly 30 interested students. Many of them, like him, started playing during the pandemic.
“Before college in 2020, I saw chess as a nerdy, boring game for older people,” he said, adding that he doesn’t remember any of his childhood friends playing chess. “I can now say that I love chess and I don’t feel that stereotype anymore. It’s been a quick change.”
A separate club at the U, called the University of Minnesota Chess Club, has also seen an uptick in interest and said most of the players started playing online in the last couple of years. That club’s president, Samrug Narayanan, said once students realize the game is fun and strategic, it’s a pretty easy sell.
That’s what hooked Seward Montessori fifth-grader Jasper Benson Loesch, who said he enjoys the mental challenge of planning his next move.
“He loves it and it’s done a lot for his concentration,” said his mom, Abby Loesch, while watching him play in the Check it Out tournament. “It’s a really special thing.”
Dettmer, who has coached the Eastview chess team for more than 20 years, calls chess “the antithesis to the iPhone” — though sometimes teachers at the school catch students playing chess on their phones during class. That’s because it forces students to concentrate, to plan ahead and think critically.
“With their phones and TikTok, you see these young people’s attention span being drained away, but you can watch chess build it back up,” he said. “Maybe chess is a fad now but I sure hope it’s a continuing trend.”
Paul Sackaroff, the coach for Osseo Senior High School’s chess club, thinks the game’s popularity will continue to grow.
“I think that the enthusiasm and staying power of chess has already stood the test of time,” he said.
After all, the game is more than 1,500 years old.
And if schools continue to encourage it and make it accessible, he said, “the sky’s the limit.”
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