Tom Steward covers government waste, spending and policy issues in his home state of Minnesota. Also a documentary filmmaker and in-depth broadcast journalist, Tom's work has appeared on NPR, Animal Planet, WCCO-TV, WGBH-TV, PBS, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, KSTP-TV, CBC, among other outlets. Highlights include the fall of the Berlin Wall, a Peabody Award, the first footage in the wild of the endangered Sumatran tiger and rhino and countless individuals who shared their stories, big and small. Steward served as a communications strategist in the U.S. Senate before returning to reporting on issues and people often overlooked by other media.

Double whammy! Home-care workers sue to stop labor union election

By   /  July 30, 2014  /  First Amendment, Free Speech, Legislature, Minnesota, Supreme Court, Uncategorized, unions  /  No Comments

DOUBLE WHAMMY! Gov. Mark Dayton faces a second lawsuit from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation on behalf of home care workers opposed to a union.
State of MN photo.

Days before the scheduled start of the largest-public sector labor union election in state history, nine Minnesota home-care workers filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis aimed at stopping it.
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Home care assistants from throughout Minnesota sued Gov. Mark Dayton and the Service Employees International Union, asking the federal court for an injunction against a controversial 2013 state law authorizing organized labor to target providers for collective bargaining.

“I’m just looking for the union to stay out of my house and not take money out of my wages,” said Scott Price, a plaintiff whose daughter receives care for cerebral palsy.

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Fed-up taxpayers bypass City Hall to force fall referendum

By   /  July 28, 2014  /  Minnesota, News  /  No Comments

Think community organizing 2.0, taking it to the streets of the suburbs, instead of the inner city.

The unlikely outcome in this Twin Cities suburb might have caused the original community organizer — leftist Saul Alinsky — to renounce his naming rights to the role, if he were still around.

“Tim’s got a mini-van with a sliding door inside, so we’d drive around with the doors open like riding in a Huey chopper in Viet Nam,” said Gregory Sloat, a ring leader in a petition drive that broke out over a $9 million to $10 million library approved by the Columbia Heights City Council. “We’d see somebody, we’d just jump out and give them our spiel.”

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MN private colleges split on SEIU professors’ union

By   /  July 23, 2014  /  Education, Minnesota, News, unions  /  No Comments

TWIN CITIES CAMPUSES TARGETED BY SEIU:  Adjunct faculty at 3 Twin Cities private college campuses were subject to organizing drives this summer with mixed results for the union. Photo by Mike Ekern, University of St. Thomas website.

Hamline University’s part-time professors in June voted decisively to join the Service Employees International Union. The momentum appeared to be with SEIU organizers, as the first private college campus in Minnesota to unionize adjunct professors quite possibly cleared way for an even bigger domino in July—the University of St. Thomas.

But the solidarity stopped there. When the National Labor Relations Board tallied the results of SEIU’s test at the University of St. Thomas on Monday, the union got a failing grade — 136-84.

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Critics of wind power blame feds for killing, ‘chopping up’ eagles, other birds

By   /  July 21, 2014  /  Energy and Environment, Minnesota, News, Public Utilities  /  No Comments

LICENSE TO KILL: Following a public outcry, the US Fish and Wildlife Service will reassess 30 year permits exempting wind turbines from liability for unintentional fatalities of bald and golden eagles. USFWS photo.

Wind industry insiders call it a “turbine collision,” though the feds prefer “non-purposeful take.”

But critics such as Sharon Klemm get real on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website: “Why don’t you call it what it is? Shooting eagles. Killing Eagles. Murdering Eagles.”

The backlash over a controversial 2013 USFWS rule exempting wind farms from prosecution for the unintentional deaths of bald and golden eagles — for up to three decades — continues to play out in emotional online comments.

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MN commissioner’s moonlighting raises conflict of interest questions

By   /  July 17, 2014  /  Iowa, Minnesota, News  /  No Comments

original_photo_josh_tilsen-240x300

His resume posted on the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board website stands out: “Conducted hundreds of grievance hearings and mediation sessions.”

So does his daily fee: $1,200 per day, plus “actual costs for meals, lodging and miscellaneous; IRS rate for mileage.”

But what most distinguishes Josh Tilsen from the other 59 arbitrators listing their services on the Iowa state government website? His full-time day job in the next state over, serving as commissioner of the Minnesota Bureau of Media Services at a salary of $95,000 per year.

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Minnesota doubles down on nation’s top biodiesel law

By   /  July 10, 2014  /  Business, Energy and Environment, Legislature, Minnesota, News, transportation  /  No Comments

WHEN YOU GOTTA GO: Some MN truckers go out of their way to refueling instate due to concerns over nation leading 10 percent biodiesel mandate.  Kottke Trucking photo.

Fill it up with diesel fuel. Just do it in Fargo, Sioux Falls, Eau Claire — or any truck stop across the Minnesota border.

That’s the road map for fueling 90 big rigs operated by Kottke Trucking, the result of plan driven by a state biodiesel B10 rule, which the Minnesota company calls “unfair, expensive and wrong.”

Minnesota became the first state to require every gallon of diesel contain at least 10 percent biodiesel — produced mostly with homegrown soybeans — as of July 1.

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