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Workers at Maple Grove REI Go on Strike

Plus Dean Phillips for prez, MPR gets spooky, and what if Lake Superior became bread in today's Flyover news roundup.

4:49 PM CDT on October 27, 2023

UFCW Local 663|

Striking REI workers outside of the Maple Grove location earlier today.

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

Maple Grove REI Closes as Workers Walk Out

Early last year, workers at a New York City REI set off a union wave that has since spread to nine of the outdoor retailer's 181 stores, with 33 workers from the Maple Grove location joining United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 663 this past summer. Things aren't going great! Citing unfair labor practice and layoffs, the local REI bargaining unit walked off the job today, causing a temporary closure of the store at 11581 Fountains Dr.

Here's part of their joint statement: "REI’s nationwide layoff is a clear violation of federal labor law and management’s latest failure to meet their obligation to bargain in good faith with Maple Grove workers. Instead of honoring the years of hard work and expertise of their most veteran employees who made the co-op into the successful brand it is today, REI made the ruthless decision to lay off tenured staff while hiring new staff at lower wage rates."

You might be asking yourself: How many Maple Grove workers were impacted by this month's 275 layoffs across the retail chain, and how long will today's strike last? Well that's funny, because we just asked union officials with UFCW those verbatim Qs, but didn't immediately hear back.

Vanity Dean Phillips Presidential Campaign Off to Bumpy Start

You could choose to be irritated by U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips as he mounts a doomed campaign to unseat President Joe Biden as the 2024 Democratic presidential nominee. Or, and this is the route we're choosing, you could buckle up and enjoy all the cartoonishly dumb goodies it'll yield.

Those were in ample supply today, beginning with ex-MinnPost/current Daily Beast writer Sam Brodey dishing a whole lotta dirt on the booze scion representing Minnesota's fightin' Third Congressional District. In it, reliable left-punchers like the DCCC and DFL honcho Ken Martin come off as reasonable, with Martin (a friend of Phillips!) saying, “As far as I can tell, there’s no one in Minnesota, including in his own district, that’s excited about the prospect of him running for president... most people having a midlife crisis would go buy a new sports car.”

Steve Schmidt wasn't fond of the DB hit piece, tweeting, "Lol. I’m going to use some psychic powers to try to guess the embittered source. Could it be a Category 5 mean girl who eats salad with a comb?" Who is Steve Schmidt? Why he's the opportunistic strategist responsible for unleashing Sarah Palin on the U.S. political scene, and co-founder of the grift-tastic Lincoln Project. He also happens to be advising the Phillips campaign, a pairing Rolling Stone explored today.

Elsewhere a very long, very Atlantic-y Atlantic story paints Phillips as a potential spoiler candidate who could hurt Biden's prospects against Donald Trump, while offering a credulous rundown of what Phillips believes: That Democrats have embraced the "far left" (show us one piece of federal legislation…); that the party is hostile to Big Business (grow up); and, perhaps richest, that the success of Talenti, the gelato company Phillips helped popularize, renders the trust fund kid self-made in any respect.

Outside of Steve freakin' Schmidt, it's hard to find anyone who's bullish on Phillips seeking the White House, but that shouldn't matter much; he missed the deadline to appear on Nevada's primary ballot, and fellow DFLers are beginning to turn on him at home. Even the first dispatch from his briefly suspended campaign Twitter account ("We're going to do better and we're going to do it together") reads like a clunkier, try-hard version of Sen. Paul Wellstone's timeless mantra of political possibility ("We all do better when we all do better"). "He has no chance of a snowball in hell," veteran Democratic strategist Joe Trippi told the Star Tribune today. A House Democrat colleague of Phillips agrees, telling NBC News, "He’s essentially torpedoing his career completely and destroying any goodwill he has within the Democratic Party. And he’s got no path—there’s no path."

Spooky Car Washes, Skeletons!

Racket's staffers learned a new word today: autoplenophobia, or the fear of car washes. And where did such an unusual term come up? Why, in this outstanding MPR report on the haunted attractions at Tommy’s Express Car Wash locations, which for the second year in a row have transformed into a "Tunnel of Terror" during the Halloween season. The spooky, sudsy fun is available at all of Tommy's Minnesota locations—Moorhead, Duluth, White Bear Lake, Waite Park, Rochester—each of which has a slightly different terror-inducing theme. It's $20 for the wash; frights (and a little bit of candy) are included. “No one should be afraid to come to the car wash on a regular daily basis, but I think [during] Tunnel of Terror, expect the worst,” Moorhead GM Juan Alanis tells MPR's Amy Felegy. MPR is absolutely crushing the Halloween beat, by the way... if you don't care about haunted attractions that put the "car" in "scare," can we interest you in Sam Stroozas's piece on the 12-foot skeletons of Minnesota?

Teenager Asks Important Q About Turning Lakes Into Bread

When the Star Tribune's Curious Minnesota series invited folks at the State Fair to submit questions and vote for the best ones, 14-year-old Elodie Yerich came up with a banger: How much flour would you need to turn Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes, into bread? To answer the question, Christa Lawler turned to Michael Lillegard, a former math major who now bakes as co-owner of Duluth’s Best Bread. Long story short? It would take a lot: About 33 quadrillion pounds of flour costing about $12 quadrillion. "I'd need to find a textile place to make a damp towel big enough to cover it," Yerich notes, an additional wrinkle even if you were able to foot the bill. Alas, Bread Lake can never become a reality; there’s not enough flour in the world. That’s probably for the best, as turning the lake into a bread basket would probably be disastrous for the gluten-sensitive people of Duluth. Plus, um, we're really gonna need the world's largest freshwater lake to remain a liquid. 

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