Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Minnesota Union Members Rally Against Anti-Worker Bill

February 15th, 2011 | Mike Hall

Image: Mike HallSome 400 members from dozens of Minnesota unions—backed by more than 1,000 e-mails and phone calls—helped score a victory for working families last week. They jammed a state House hearing room in opposition to a bill that called for a wage freeze for state employees, elimination of vital parts of the state’s Public Employment Labor Relations Act, a 15 percent cut in the state workforce and a so-called “Right to Work” provision.

The bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Keith Downey (R), removed the right-to-work for less provision and the 15 percent workforce cut. But a bill with the remaining provisions passed the committee on a party-line vote and the “right to work” and job cut proposals remain alive in other legislation.

That’s why on Wednesday, the Minnesota AFL-CIO will rally with thousands of union members and community supporters at the state Capitol for Working Families Day to tell lawmakers to focus on jobs—some 200,000 Minnesotans are unemployed—not a radical, corporate agenda that attacks worker rights and wages.

So-called “right to work laws” prevent employers and employees from agreeing to ”union security clause” agreements. These laws would require unions to fully represent workers who choose not to pay their share of the costs. For example if the union had to file a grievance or even go to court on behalf of a non-paying worker, the other workers would have to pick up the tab.

Also by making unions weaker, these laws lower wages and living standards for all workers in the state. In fact, workers in states with these laws earn an average of $5,538 less a year than workers in other states.

Testifying against the bill, Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson told lawmakers:

I’m sure you would agree with me–we shouldn’t ever be asking middle-class families to work for less.

For more on the hearing click here to read Workday Minnesota’s coverage and for information on Wednesday’s rally visit the Minnesota AFL-CIO here.

This blog originally appeared in http://blog.aflcio.org/wp-rss2.php on February 14, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When his collar was still blue, he carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He has also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold his blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen him at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. He was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still has the shirts, lost the hair.

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