Emotions run high as legislators debate merits of extending unemployment benefits
SAINT PAUL, MINN – The bipartisan Working Group on Iron Range Unemployment met for the first time Thursday afternoon. House and Senate members heard wide ranging testimony from mayors, unemployed mine workers, and labor and union leadership – all sharing the same story of hard workers who’ve depended on the mines for decades – facing the end of their unemployment. Both Iron Range legislators and testifiers spoke about the need for ‘buying time’ as national leaders work on fixing the problem of illegal steel dumping. Co-Chair of the working group, Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm) made the following statement after the completion of the meeting.
“I think we established a very clear need for calling a special session to extend unemployment benefits for unemployed workers on the Iron Range. As many of today’s speakers so clearly showed, mining is the way of life for many of these Iron Range towns, and when the jobs go away, so does the lifeblood of these communities. There are more than 1,000 unemployed Iron Range workers whose benefits will be running out in the next few weeks or months. It is critical that legislators come together and agree to a special session. We need to buy time for the people of the Iron Range until the industry rebounds; people’s livelihoods and the future of the next generation of workers is what is at stake here,” said Sen. Tomassoni.