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Owe Allina $4.5K? It Might Systemically Shut Your Ass Out.

Plus a TJ's union update, racist cemeteries, and a first for trans rights in today's Flyover news roundup.

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The lobby of an Allina clinic. Check your account balance before entering.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.

Enough to Make Ya Sick

The last piece of great reporting on Allina Health System, the so-called nonprofit health care giant based in Minneapolis, arrived last summer with this locally angled New York Times look at how bosses, spooked by work-from-home autonomy among employees, are deploying increasingly invasive and punitive worker surveillance software. The latest such report came today, not from any resource-rich local newsroom’s health or biz beat, but rather yet again from the NYT. In “This Nonprofit Health System Cuts Off Patients With Medical Debt,” reporters unearthed an internal 12-page Allina document that describes how the company systemically cancels “appointments for patients with at least $4,500 of unpaid debt.” The computer system "simply [won't] let" well-meaning schedulers book appointments for financially undesirable patients, according to interviews with patients, workers, doctors, and nurses. (Read the whole NYT story, provided you don't have preexisting blood-pressure issues.)  

One particularly horrific anecdote features a nurse practitioner who wasn’t allowed to treat an entire family for scabies; one of the three children was locked out due to medical debt. “There are so many better ways of saving money than what we’re doing,” says the nurse, Beth Gunhus. Allina’s slimy PR apparatus responded to the Times by boasting that its financial assistance programs help 12,000 (emphasis ours) of its 1.9 million patients across 100+ hospitals, and that it harasses (word choice ours) debtor patients with phone calls and letters before denying them treatment. As its reward for this craven, cash-driven approach to human life, Allina rakes in a reported $4 billion per year—if only a plausible alternative existed! The company's recently retired CEO Penny Wheeler, who made $3.5 million per year overseeing these practices, was just chosen by the Minnesota Legislature for a seat on the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents.

Union Busting at Trader Joe's?

Trader Joe's CEO Dan Bane likely wasn't excited to hear that his downtown Minneapolis shop decided to unionize last summer, making it the first union TJ's in Minnesota. Two years earlier, Bane had issued a letter to employees addressing "the current barrage of union activity" across his company. Union organizers “clearly believe that now is a moment when they can create some sort of wedge in our company through which they can drive discontent," he wrote. Allegations of union-busting almost immediately surfaced at the Washington Avenue supermarket. Late last month, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against Trader Joe's that formally documents those allegations. It alleges that supervisors—or "captains" and "mates" in TJ's parlance—removed pro-union literature from employee breakroom tables and bulletins boards last fall, actions the NLRB classifies as “interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees.”

The company opted to not settle the case, thus a hearing over the complaint is set for October 24 in Minneapolis. Trader Joe's United, the independent union representing workers, issued the following statement Thursday via email: “While we’re disappointed that Trader Joe’s wouldn’t agree to settle in this case, we are thrilled to be making progress on this and the countless other unfair labor practice charges we’ve filed against our employer. This is just the beginning of holding Trader Joe’s accountable for the many instances in which they’ve violated our rights as workers, and we’re looking forward to the hearing in October.”

Yup, Racial Covenants Included Cemeteries

Up until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled them illegal in 1948, racial covenants could be used to stop people from selling homes to non-white, non-Christian, and/or non-straight buyers. While these contracts can’t do shit these days, they’re still well documented in real estate records, deeds, and other bits of history. And, as a group of Mankato-area college and high school students have discovered, these covenants even existed for the deceased. Woodland Hills Memorial Park Cemetery, for example, reserved specific plots of land on the property for dead white people only. It’s just one of many unsettling discoveries made by the Mapping Makato Project, in which students have pored through decades of old paperwork to better understand how racist practices have impacted the area. “Racial discrimination doesn’t make any logical sense in any case,” Jill Cooley, an associate professor at MSU Mankato, tells MPR. “But a cemetery makes less logical sense than anywhere else.”

A First for Trans Rights in MN

In 2018, Christina Lusk was arrested on drug charges, and since then, Lusk, who is transgender, has been serving her sentence at a men's facility. Next week, she'll make history as the first transgender person in the state moved to a facility that matches their gender. Fox 9's Jared Goyette has the story: In January, the Minnesota Department of Corrections adopted a new policy regarding transgender prisoners, making Minnesota the 11th state (along with the District of Columbia) to approve prison transfers to facilities that match the incarcerated person's gender identity. Lusk is the first person to benefit from the new policy—it's been a decade since trans activist CeCe McDonald was released from a men's facility—and Lusk will also get a $495,000 settlement from the DOC.

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