U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar
My family is from Ely, and my grandpa spent most of his life working 1,500 feet underground in the iron ore mines. My dad and his brother also spent some time working in the mines. The way several people quoted in the article described the miners is just not accurate and I think it is important for people to know that.
Mining is a critical part of the economy in northern Minnesota. There have been and will always be disagreements on mining issues, and people are free to express their opinions. But no one should be making disrespectful comments. If they do that, they haven't met Dan Hill. And they haven't met my grandpa. Here are their stories:
I met Dan Hill in December of 2015 when we brought together miners and mining company executives to meet with the President's Chief of Staff Denis McDonough about steel dumping from China and the negative effect it was having on the Range. In front of a long table of at least 50 people, Dan — a long time Range resident who was then laid off — was one of the last to speak. He noted that everything had been said but he had just one thing to add. Dan told the story of how at his son's pre-school graduation the teacher asked the kids what they wanted to do when they grew up. Kids were picking all kinds of jobs, but Dan's son said "I want to be a miner like my daddy." Dan then tossed a steelworker T-shirt over the table to the President's Chief of Staff and said "Make it come true, Mr. McDonough, make it come true."
Thanks to Dan Hill and so many workers who stood up for their livelihoods, United Taconite is now open again, and Dan is back to work. I have visited Dan's home. I have met with his family and his friends. He is about as hardworking and good as they come.
Then there's my grandpa. My grandpa's dad was brought over from Slovenia to work in the mines. He and my great grandma had 10 children. They lived in company housing. In eighth grade, when my grandpa was getting all A’s in school and wanted to join the Navy, he had to quit school to support his family. He first drove a delivery wagon and soon got a job in the mines.
A few years later his mom died of cancer and his dad died of a heart attack. My grandpa Mike, the oldest son, was responsible for taking care of all nine of his siblings. The youngest chil — Hannah, age 10 —was sent to an orphanage in Duluth. But my grandpa promised that one day he would bring her home. Two years later he borrowed a car, drove to Duluth and brought Hannah home.
To provide for the family, my grandpa and his brother John worked in the Zenith mine. It was really dangerous back then and every time a siren would go off the whole town would come running to see who was injured or died. My dad still remembers the coffins in the local Catholic Church.
For decades my grandpa would go down that mineshaft in a cage in the darkness with his black lunch bucket. He loved to hunt and fish. How often did he think about that life he wanted at sea, that career in the Navy? How often did he think of a path in the woods, of the sun coming through the trees?
When I was first running for Senate I met a man whose dad worked with my grandpa. He said his dad always told him that my grandpa — who was later promoted to being a mine foreman — was a strong and kind boss. He told me this: "Whenever it was time to explore a new part of the mine, all the miners knew it would be dangerous. That's why most of the mine foremen would stand at the top of the mine and radio down to the miners below telling them where to go. Not Mike Klobuchar. He would always go with the miners. He would always go with his guys. And he would always go first."
Dan Hill and my grandpa? They are the miners of the Iron Range.