Feb. 23--Spurned by the mayor and opposed by a nonprofit, a workshop that had been planned for Tuesday in Duluth has been canceled.
"Thank you for agreeing to participate in the upcoming Diminishing Middle Immersion scheduled for next Tuesday, Feb. 28th," wrote Susan Choi, founder of an agency called Mr. Susan Works, in an email sent this Tuesday to individuals whom she had contacted earlier. "We have decided to cancel this event. We apologize for any inconveniences this may cause."
The original invitation said the workshop was designed to bring a small group of executives together to take a look "at the current aspects affecting American life and the American dream."
Accompanying information from the agency, which is based in Berlin, Germany, said Duluth was chosen because its wealth distribution "seems not to be ideal," local business and employment was being affected by "external factors" and middle- and low-income families "are feeling left out and losing hope."
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson received one of the invitations. Noting that Mr. Susan Works was putting on the workshop on behalf of Richmond, Va.-based Altria, Larson did some quick research and learned that Altria is the parent company of tobacco maker Philip Morris.
She wanted nothing to do with that, Larson said last week.
"I told them ... we were not interested in supporting this event," she said.
Meanwhile, leaders of a couple of nonprofits who also received invitations contacted Pat McKone, regional senior director of the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest and a longtime crusader against tobacco products.
McKone took action, contacting the media and characterizing the event as a market-research ploy by Big Tobacco.
McKone welcomed the cancellation on Wednesday.
"Thank you to all the partners in the community for saying: You're not welcome, Altria, you're not welcome, Philip Morris," she said. "Let's hope other communities get word ahead of time and they're not welcome anywhere."
McKone said she had contacted people she knows in other communities, but none had heard of any workshop such as the one that had been announced for Duluth.
Choi did not respond to an email request for a comment on Wednesday.
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