Unions Crowd Minn. Capitol Over ‘Right To Work’

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Republican senators got a taste Monday of the fight over labor rights that gripped other Midwestern statehouses in the last year, with a committee narrowly passing legislation to curb union power even as hundreds of demonstrators chanted yelled just feet away.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a constitutional amendment that would let voters statewide decide if Minnesota should be a right-to-work state, with voluntary union membership. The vote was 7-6, with one Republican joining the committee’s five Democrats to vote no.

Union members flooded the hallways outside the hearing room, waving signs. Protesters were loud enough that people testifying on the bill were drowned out by chants of “kill the bill” every time someone entered or left the room.

If the amendment were to pass the full House and Senate, voters in November would decide whether Minnesota’s Constitution should be amended to make membership voluntary in both private and public unions. Membership is not compulsory under current law, but non-union employees in most unionized shops are required to pay a “fair share” fee of up to 85 percent of normal dues.

The Senate committee’s action far from guarantees a statewide vote. Some legislative Republicans don’t want the issue on the ballot, knowing it would pick a massive political fight with unions. The bill’s chief Senate sponsor said he has no promise from his majority leader that the full chamber will take it up this year.

Sen. Dave Thompson said he’s pushing it anyway. The Lakeville Republican said the right of workers to determine the details of their own employment status is so fundamental that voters themselves should decide if it belongs in the state constitution. There’s also a pragmatic reason for Republicans to pursue the issue by referendum rather than changing the law itself: Any attempt to do so would meet an almost certain veto from Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, a strong supporter of unions. Governors cannot stop the Legislature from putting constitutional amendments on the ballot.

“I believe the ability to work for the employer of your choice without having to pay a third party to do so is as fundamental to our economic liberty as, say, property rights,” Thompson said.

The hearing drew union shop employees both for and against the amendment. Elaine Kollar, a teacher at a public high school in an Anoka County juvenile detention center, said she is forced to pay $700 a year in union dues.

“I don’t know where my dues go,” Kollar said. “Do I have any say in any of this? The answer is no.”

Supporters said adding Minnesota to the list of 23 right-to-work states nationwide would be good for the state’s business climate, but they acknowledged it’s difficult to show a direct connection. “You cannot look at one factor. But if you look at studies that have attempted to control other factors, the influence of employee freedom seems to be positive on economic growth and employment,” Thompson said.

But Ursula Tuttle, a registered nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, said she lived in Oklahoma in 2001 when voters there approved a right-to-work measure. She voted in favor, she said, and later regretted it.

“I believed it would create jobs. It didn’t,” Tuttle said. “It didn’t create jobs, and we stayed poor.”

Several critics argued that lifting the “fair share” requirement would result in workers in union shops getting the benefits of union bargaining — salary increases, better benefits, improved workplace conditions — without having to pay for it.

“If this bill passes, it allows for freeloading,” said Sara Van Asten, a match teacher at North Hennepin Community College in Golden Valley. Van Asten said she’s worked four years without a raise, and worried what would happen if her union is weakened.

“We currently have a strong union, and even with our strong union, I am overworked and underpaid,” she said.

The most recent state to become right-to-work was Indiana, where Republican legislative majorities approved it earlier this year and the Republican governor signed it into law. The debate over various bills seen by unions as undermining collective bargaining rights have flared in state Capitols around the country this year and last, as Republicans who gained power in numerous statehouses have pushed to weaken union strength.

“I believe unions have done much good over the years, but I also believe the unions for many years have overreached,” said Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville. “Minnesota needs to be set free from the control and the intimidation.”

Critics of the measures in Minnesota and elsewhere see an effort to dilute the strength of a political movement that largely backs Democrats. Brad Lehto, chief of staff at the Minnesota AFL-CIO, said that would come at the expense of those most likely to be represented by unions: “The people who daily put their lives in danger to keep us safe, who educate our children, who keep our drinking water clean, people who are with us when are loved ones are born and when they die.”

Not every Republican is on board. Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, joined Judiciary Committee Democrats to vote against the bill. A former county sheriff, Ingebrigtsen said he’d been hearing a lot about the issue from former law enforcement colleagues.

“As sheriff, it didn’t matter if you were union or not. If I needed to fire you, I did,” Ingebrigtsen said. “Unions were very good to work with as long as you were straight up and straightforward.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Jack Boot

    You can’t work here unless you give us money.

    We are going to protect you from being abused by the big, bad, evil company.

    • Ordinary Guy

      The boss’ kid does OK in non-union negotiations though, right? Just start over if you don’t like it, right?

    • Orrest

      If there was a bill to limit corporate executive pay or company profits goons like you would protest that. Why then are unions considered greedy and corporations and executives are not?

    • Keep It Real

      There take’n our jobs….how about a big gay pile of men, having sex to stop…oh sorry, that was a south park episode… though it applies to Dayton and his union/donut puncher goons!

      • Greg Looseanus

        I’m a union diver.

  • stubby

    85% of MN workers do not belong to a union. What chance will unions have if this goes before the voters?

    • Carl

      The bill is to simply allow independant workers the choice to either join a union or not. If unions offer a gret benenfit then workers will continue to sign up. If the unions only exist for political power they will lose members in droves. Do what you are intended to do and everything will be just fine

      • dan

        Talk about drinking the kool aid! Relax Danny, let the workers decide. If at some time, workers are being mistreated or employers disregard accountability we can always come back after them.
        There is no boogie man under your bed, you can come out of your room now.

      • Unions must die

        Benefits???? The only benefit I got was higher insurance bills because our union agreed to a 2% pay raise instead of lower insurance costs. In the end our insurance went up 15% and we as employees ended up getting less take home pay. Think the union cared though, they get their pay based on our wages, not our take home pay so they made out. That is what unions do, they go for higher pay as that is how they make money but other benefits get forgotten. Few more examples…Started with Pension but Union worked with Hospital to get higher wages and no pension. Thanks so much. Double pay for working birthday, gone and instead got an extra “personal” day for the year and you were then pretty much scheluded every birthday there after. Lastly, new manager constantly harrassing me and quote from Union rep. “you are not a minority therefore we can’t help you”. If every Union disappeared I would not cry a tear.

    • stubby

      Labor stats for the state of MN website

  • Bob Rutledge

    while the lawmakers are at it why dont they give up thier retirement as they only work 3 months per year. where else could you work and recieve 80% of existing senators and representives pay at 60 years of age. i believe they only have to serve 2 terms to recieve this retirement. they can also stay on the cushy state insurance for life.

  • Len S

    What is the benefit of working in a union any more? Besides the worker has to pay some one to talk for them. I don’t see any thing good from this. If you have any benefit’s such as bonus’s that would taken away . I feel it’s all about the BIG dollar sign. The worker wound get a BIG nothing. Just my .2 cents. And I was in a union back in the 70’s so I do under stand what it’s all about.

  • Len S

    Oh I forgot to mention on the sign at the bottom it should red (NO UNION BAGGER’S)
    Vote against. ;o}

    • jackactionhero

      An apostrophe and an s do not make a word plural, Len.

  • bill

    I work for a union Cub. I want the union out.

    • Unions must die

      Stupid reply Marcus. The union will go with any company they can make money for and protect morons that don’t want to work and need protection so they don’t get canned.

    • kevin

      Unions drive up costs, look at your taxes. Look at the difference between groceries at Cub and Walmart. I was a member of the SEIU and I didn’t like goons coming in and telling me who to vote for in elections. Then after the election, coming back and getting up close and asking, ok, did you do like we told ya? That’s Jimmy Hoffas AmeriKa, not my country. I am a free American MAN and I’m not gonna put up with a worthless thug telling me what to do. Scuttle the unions.

  • DougT

    Arrst the law breaking union thugs – lets clean up minnesota – and get this garbage out of minnesota

    • kevin

      I was in a Union for several years at a Community college in Illinois. I’m a witness. Union thugs talking tough, cement truck drivers went on strike while they were doing sidewalk replacement, union goons coming around telling college empoloyees to clear out because we had to honor THEIR strike. A man doesn’t belong to a gang, real men don’t need a GANG. Cowards hide in gangs.

  • mll

    It should be voluntary. If you want the benefits of a union you pay for them. If you disagree with what they stand for and don’t like your money being spent for political gain that you don’t agree with… there is no reason you should be forced to give them your money.

    • Pat

      No mll is right, people should have the right to either be in a union or not be in a union. The unions haven’t done squat in a very long time. Hell look at Detroit and ask them how unions are helping out the unemployed factory workers or even ask the employees who lost their jobs over at the Ford plant this past year. I bet that they would say lets cut the union and figure out how to keep this plant going and keep these jobs at the plant. People don’t understand that unions are driving companies out of America by the shipload and if they weren’t so stinking greedy they would see this, but they want their money and cake also. Well guess what unemployment is getting higher by the day and factories are leaving because its cheaper to build a new factory in a different country and employee people to do the same job over here and will make a profit with in a year or two in a different country. I have seen the most laziest people not do squat and still have their job, because they are union and honestly if you were an employer you would be ticked off, because you have a bunch of people not working and getting paid for it while you see others in other companies busting their butt doing the same job and are happy because they are getting paid and earning what they make and know that if they don’t they will lose their job and someone else will gladly take that job, but union workers don’t have to worry about this at all, they know their jobs are safe and so they do nothing. I hate unions and if they were like they were 80 years ago then fine I wouldn’t have a problem with them at all, but they are lazy, fat, and don’t care about anyone except for that fat percentage they get out of your weekly paycheck.

    • jackactionhero

      Unions also guarantee their workers have specific qualifications such as CPR certifications, hazardous chemical usage certifications, etc, depending on the job requirements.

  • ipmutt

    This is America. Where do we force people to have to belong to a political party? The unions are nothing more than that. We know they are inherently bad for the workers. Look at the teachers union. This is the least productive group of employees in the world. Why would we force people to be part of this.

  • Brian

    It is nice to not be in a union. Position, salary, etc. is based on personal output and company worth rather than seniority. I am glad I am paid what I have earned rather than being lumped in as a whole. If you want to ride the backs of the actual workers, join a union, if not right to work

  • jimmyp

    Unions protect slackers and raise the cost of living for everyone and ONLY union members enjoy the increased quality of life that EVERYONE (including non-union citizens) pay for. Would you rather pay $35.00/hr to make widgets or pay
    $15.00/hr to make widgets and STAY COMPETITIVE IN THE MARKETPLACE ? ? ?
    Business owners who are jerks will still be jerks, union or no union.

    • Frankie

      What widget maker pays more than double for the labor in the same area?

  • Brian

    So which are you a member of? The teachers union, or the postal workers union?


    One small correction, “assuring UNION AND ONLY UNION families get decent wages.

  • djp

    I have seen union workers abuse the system. While working at Honey…, I saw a number of employees pull up to the door, run in and punch in, THEN go an park their cars! The workers would take long breaks and say they could because of “precedence”. I guess precedence meant they did not get caught, so the breaks could now be longer due to that.

    I am totally AGAINST unions!! Let people work for a living, get paid their worth and leave it at that. Why should a skilled union laborer get paid more than a college educated skilled technical person up in offices???

  • justme

    Yeah, when you work. That’s the problem with a lot of Unions, they don’t have staedy work for their employees. Do the math $30.38 X 0 = 0.
    My son is in the Boilermakers union and if he worked 3 monthe out of the last year I’d be surprised.

  • Ronald W

    I support private unions 100%. but I do not support Public Government Unions. They are two different things. In dealing with private unions the consumer can make choices. Public government Unions only exist for things we can not send to china or hire other to do… see the difference. We must talk about the two as totally seperate things. THEY ARE in NO WAY the SAME.

    • Ross Perot

      You are spot on Ron. Private sector OK, not the public sector.. Taxpayers have no negotiating rights with the unions.. A politician takes care of the negotiations in return for campaign contributions to help them get re-elected. And all the public pensions and benefits are bankrupting many of our states.

    • Frozenrunner

      A union contract is negotiated between the government entity and the union. Blame the government, as I don’t think anyone here should blame the worker for wanting all the pay/benefits they can get. I have yet to see a post of anyone willingly working for less money.
      Pawlenty as a GOP fiscal conservative sure did nothing while leading the state to reduce either the number or the pay of state workers. Both parties are equally culpable in setting the wage scale.
      Between the CBO statistics and an article in The Economist, the difference between government workers and private sector pay can be leveled by the fact the government pays for years of service in a job. Government workers hang around longer. Despite the economy The Economist pointed out there was a decrease in the percentage of the workforce employed by the government as the number of government workers remained flat while the private sector grew. This was an article last year.

  • Mike

    You’re out of the loop if you think that. They lost so bad last time around and got nothing they asked for, as they shouldn’t. From an hourly standpoint, nurses are overpaid. Nurses working 24 hours a week making $60k asking for more? Go F yourself. Glad they last last round.

  • Mike

    You’re out of the loop if you think that. They lost so bad last time around and got nothing they asked for, as they shouldn’t. From an hourly standpoint, nurses are overpaid. Nurses working 24 hours a week making $60k asking for more? Go F yourself. Glad they lost last round.

  • Mike

    Lol, speaking of nonsense, here’s another clueless liberal. Want to know why a section of road costs a million dollars a foot to complete? Unions. A bunch of overpaid, unskilled laborers doing grunt work and getting overpaid.

    Now for skilled workers like electricians and what not. At least these people are skilled, but paying more than doctors? Why is that? Unions.

    Either way, the overpay leads to less people shopping for their services, less roads being built, buildings being built etc. It hurts the economy. If we could pay road crew workers minimum wage to lean on that slow slgn like we should be, we would have much better roads. Get it?

    If we were all unionized, private companies couldn’t afford to hire as many people, less jobs for everyone, over worked workers, get it? Clearly you don’t

    Im not in a union, never will be. I have my degree and do good work. If I don’t like my job or pay, I find a new job and have the references to back me every time. You must be a state worker.

    • Rentacop

      Mike, I hope that degree works for you when it comes time for you to retire.

    • Frankie

      “At least these people are skilled, but paying more than doctors.”

      If you really are educated I would ask for my money back from the school. Top pay for an electrician is about 40 whereas the lowest paid Md., Psychiatrists, are at about $70 a hour.
      Per payscale.com the average road worker is paid 33,000 a year, about 15 an hour. Cutting the sign holder’s pay in half for the a week would save so much money, maybe a whole 300. Sue the school that gave you a degree for doing a poor job. The lawyer will cost $400 an hour, but the consultation should be free

      • Frankie

        That was a comment for Mike

    • something fishy

      You have no idea what you are talking about. Nasty rhetoric yes, but not based in any fact, The best thing for workers and the economy is a strong, well paid middle class. Minnesota was primarily a agricultural state and does not have much experience with what unions did for workers in the rest of the US. We once had a mighty nation where one wage earner could support a family. No more. Why is that? Corporate greed. The assault on unions began under Reagan and has increased ever since, while the standard of living and real wages for workers have dropped. In 1970 , the average family income was 60,000 ( dollars adjusted for inflation) now it is less than 45,000. Corporate America is loving the show of people too ignorant to stand up for their own best interests-

      • Frozenrunner

        To quote my friend Dave “Amen Brother”

  • Not AFSCME anymore

    AFSCME stole from my paycheck at Dakota County for over 20 years while doing absolutely nothing for me or my co-workers except convincing most of them to go out on strike for three months and accomplish nothing in so doing. They hung us out to dry. “Fair Share” is legalized theft by the DFL and their union thugs.

  • Jason

    I think you may be onto something.

    • Orrest

      I think he is on something. Maybe Solyent Green

  • Rentacop

    Len S: I paid Union dues for 30 years and now I receive a monthly pension check for the rest of my life. I have already received more in return than I paid in. Not all unions are good, I just happened to be a member of one of the goood ones.

  • tom

    I have worked for union shops in the past, all i did was pay and pay dues upon dues, when it was time for our union to save some of us from a downsizing company. poof bye bye. union did nothing, also worked in bakery , union , didn’t help there either, but hey they got their dues. The right to work should be a right, companies cry because they do not have good workers, because union people do NOT work hard for their money, they just do the min required to get a paycheck. Hire non union employees and you will see the difference.

  • fkafka

    Who let these Chicago union thugs into our state?

  • Gone

    Glad to see it happening…It’s about time!!
    I HAVE THE RIGHT TO WORK, AND THAT RIGHT SHOULD BE PROTECTED BY LAW, NOT BY THE UNION. The unions have a political outlook that I really don’t appreciate.

    • Gone

      I’ve lived in MN for 52 years, how-about you? Your post expresses your intellect very well. Were taking MN back, get over it.

      • Chris

        It all started in MN before you were even born. Minneapolis Truckers’ Strike, 1934. So you must remember that unions also created social security, workman’s comp, paid vacation, pensions and many other benefits. But you already know this…because your aged intellect.

        • Gone

          I have been a non-union machinist for 33 years, good wage and bennies based on skill and work ethic, never fired always treated fine. I have worked for a well known, large Minnesota based unionized co, as a non-union employee. I was disgusted with the way the union restricted production and the way the union employees took complete advantage of situation. I am multi-skilled I don’t wait for a union employee to make repairs, I do it myself. I didn’t last long there. I tried to keep production going, rather than waiting a day or two for the “approved” employee to show up. Time is money, my employers customer comes first even if it means breaking union rules.

          • Vote Union YES!

            @ Gone,
            If your non-union machine shops were so great why were your employers calling NWA and complaining that all of there best workers had quit and were working there?

            • Gone

              Bad Example

    • Frozenrunner

      If you read any of the states laws there is no right to a job without a union or civil service.

      • Gone

        “At will” employment

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