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Leaders, Groups, and Unions Upset with Comments About Miners in Magazine Article

October 13, 2017 10:55 PM

Union leaders, DFL officials, and environmental groups are upset after two well-known advocates were quoted with some disdainful comments about miners in a piece to be published in Sunday's New York Times Magazine.

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Becky Rom and Reid Carron are leaders in the Save the Boundary Waters Campaign. They are quoted by many news media about the issue of potential precious metals mining in the region.

In the latest article, written by Reid Forgrave for the New York Times Magazine, they comment on the mining community. Rom said, "Danny Forsman drives to the mine in his truck, comes home and watches TV, and doesn't know this world exists."

Carron said, "They just want somebody to just give them a job so they can all drink beer with their buddies and go four-wheeling and snowmobiling with their buddies, not having to think about anything except punching a clock."

Those comments were met with disgust by the political director of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, Minnesota's largest construction union.  Jason George wrote, "There is a war on American workers in this country. Enough is enough. The disdain for Minnesota workers, and the belittlement of highly skilled work exhibited by environmental activists and low wage conservatives alike must be rejected by a majority of us." 

The couple has since apologized for the comments. In a statement made to Eyewitness News, Reid Carron and Becky Rom of Ely said: The New York Times Magazine article about the conflict over proposed copper mines near the Boundary Waters quotes a statement by Reid regarding the mindset of what he called the “pro-mining crowd.” The statement was disrespectful and untrue."

Dave Lislegard, a third generation Iron Ranger, former steelworker, and now an Aurora City Councilor, sat down with Eyewitness News and shared his perspective on the comments.

"These comments and statements are extremely disheartening for people on the Iron Range. They are uncalled for and unwarranted. We can agree to disagree. But attacking our way of life, for the Range, it's very disappointing."

He added that it makes it more difficult to have conversations about the topic. "I'm sure Becky and Reid are sorry. But it seems to be kind of a pattern of comments."

Other groups are now weighing in as well, including the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters . Their statement said, "We can be strong and passionate advocates for protecting this place that we love without denigrating other people who may disagree with us. In comments made....certain campaign leaders fell far short of that standard. And for that we truly apologize."

The Minnesota DFL also sent a statement from their chairman, Ken Martin. "These judgmental comments wrongfully disparage thousands of hardworking Minnesotans. There's no question that the issue of mining in Northern Minnesota is a contentious one. But there's no room in the debate for sharp-tongued attacks on Minnesotans who work hard every day to provide for their families and support our state's economy."

8th Congressional District DFL Chair Justin Perpich said, "These statements were cruel, excessive, and do not reflect the community values we hold dear on the Iron Range. Iron Rangers are among the hardest working men and women in this country. Our resilience and work ethic is unparalleled. We are miners and mill workers, hunters and hikers, mothers and fathers. Our community does not need the petty name-calling that plagued this story."

The Iron Mining Association President Kelsey Johnson added, "These folks work long hours regardless of weather conditions in order for Americans, even those who go out of their way to disparage them and their jobs, to have vehicles, infrastructure, appliances, and so many other things we use every day." 

The article was posted to the New York Times website Thursday ahead of its publication on page 32 of Sunday's New York Times Magazine. It was the first article that that Forgrave, a Minneapolis-based writer, has written for the magazine.


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