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DFL, union officials blast Pence's visit to Duluth

On the heels of the Republican National Convention, local, state and national leaders criticized the administration's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis.

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Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin speaks at a virtual news conference shortly before Vice President Mike Pence's stop in Duluth on Friday.

The "vast majority" of speakers at this week's Republican National Convention wouldn't even acknowledge that the coronavirus continues to kill more than 1,000 Americans every day while the economy is in shreds, Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin said Friday.

Meanwhile, the man tasked with leading the national response โ€” Vice President Mike Pence โ€” chose Duluth as the location of his first public appearance since the convention wrapped some 14 hours earlier on a crowded White House lawn that featured few masks and no social distancing.

"There are no amount of visits from Donald Trump or Mike Pence into Minnesota which will change the fact that Minnesotans are suffering because of the disastrous policies of the Trump administration," Martin said in a news conference Friday ahead of the visit.

"Every day that we wait for this administration to show leadership is another day that Minnesotans will continue to die from this virus, another day where our economy remains shuttered and another day where our children cannot go back to school," he said.

DFL and union officials blasted the vice president's campaign stop at the Clure Public Marine Terminal, focusing heavily on the Trump-Pence administration's response to the pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 Americans in six months.

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Joseph Sellers, general president of the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, touted the Biden-Harris ticket.

"This administration's cavalier attitude has collapsed our economy," said Joseph Sellers, general president of the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association. "This administration is disconnected from the pain and suffering of workers."

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said she supported the right for Trump-Pence supporters and protesters alike to assemble and exercise free speech in the city. But she criticized the "vision and values of the administration" that she said are negatively impacting cities everywhere.

Larson bemoaned frequent "roadblocks" in the city's relationship with Washington, also criticizing administration policies that "specifically target women (and) people of color."

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Duluth Mayor Emily Larson criticized Trump-Pence policies and the regular "chaos" that is incited by the administration.

"It was like a light switch when President Trump was inaugurated," the mayor said. "The threats toward cities, the threat to remove funding, the threat to over-enforce policies that are overreaching and do not reflect the values of communities and cities and states and this country."

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Alan Netland, president of the North East Area Labor Council, said the president and vice president are "putting their head in the sand." He pointed to the closing of Duluth's Verso paper mill as an economic consequence brought on by a failure to get the pandemic under control.

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North East Area Labor Council President Alan Netland compared the nation's COVID-19 response to that of New Zealand, saying President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are ignoring the crisis.

"We don't get the circumstances that we might always want, but we deal with what's in front of us," he said. "The president is ignoring the needs of the people by ignoring this crisis."

Chris Rubesch, a cardiac nurse at Essentia Health and board member of the Minnesota Nurses Association, said public health "is at an absolute crisis point." He cited recent cuts to the Postal Service, jeopardizing the delivery of medications, as well as a lack of standards for personal protective equipment.

"We need a president who, more than anything, understands that the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much a real presence and reality for our friend and our neighbors," he said.

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Chris Rubresch, an Essentia nurse and union official, said a Biden-Harris administration would "be made up of experts who they are willing to talk to and listen to take advice from" on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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