Reporting Pat Kessler
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Hundreds of union workers filled the State Capitol Tuesday afternoon to protest a constitutional amendment that could directly affect them.
It’s called the “Right to Work” amendment, and it would make union membership voluntary.
Republican leaders who control the House and Senate say the “Right to Work” amendment is too big to carry this year, but supporters haven’t given up. The unions say reports of its death are greatly exaggerated.
Hundreds of public workers don’t believe it for a second.
Despite Republican claims there aren’t enough votes to pass a “Right to Work” amendment, union leaders say it is not only alive, it is ready to launch at any moment. Union leaders predict they’ll bring Wisconsin-style protests to Minnesota if the bill passes.
“They want to bring Ohio? They want to bring Wisconsin to Minnesota? Well sisters and brothers, are we ready? Yes. Are we ready? Yes. Are we ready? Yes,” shouted the protesters.
Many newly-elected young conservatives want Minnesota to be a “right to work” state, putting it in the state Constitution this fall. They aren’t happy with their GOP leaders, who worry that a strong union turnout against it will hurt Republicans.
“I didn’t come up here to be re-elected,” said Sen. Dave Thompson, the chief author of the Right to Work amendment. He is also critical of his fellow Republicans who are reluctant to vote yes.
“I don’t believe people want us to govern from the perspective of fear or worry about the next election. I think they want us to govern to have the courage of our convictions and do what we believe,” Thompson said.
The Right to Work amendment is one of several constitutional amendments Republicans are serious about. That list also includes the gay marriage ban that’s already on the ballot this fall and a voter photo ID that’s awaiting final passage.