ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Fifteen months after taking control of Minnesota’s Legislature, Republicans have put a gay marriage ban on this November’s ballot, moved to expand gun rights and cast dozens of votes to cut state spending. But there’s one issue where they failed to get traction: watering down the strength of organized labor with a right-to-work law.

The problem isn’t so much opposition from Democrats. And it isn’t a lack of enthusiasm for the idea, which many conservatives consider essential for creating a business-friendly economic climate. The problem lies with Republicans who fear triggering a huge rebellion among opposition labor unions and sending a surge of sympathetic voters to the polls in November to vote Democratic.

In Minnesota and elsewhere across the Midwest, the question of what to do about the right-to-work issue is pitting Republican against Republican, straining relationships among longtime allies and weighing cherished ideals against political tactics.

“We wait and we wait and we wait, and then if we get the opportunity and we fail to take it, then the issue is done,” said Michelle Benson, a frustrated Republican state senator from suburban Minneapolis who sounded off after House and Senate leaders’ recently decided not to move on the issue.

The passage of a right-to-work measure in Indiana this year emboldened supporters in Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Missouri to try to carry the initiative across across the Rust Belt. But many GOP leaders were instead more impressed by the furor that the unions kicked up in defeat. Throngs of protestors mobbed the state capitol in Indianapolis and Democratic lawmakers periodically disrupted the legislative session with boycotts. Huge demonstrations also came after Wisconsin Republicans stripped public employees of collective bargaining rights last year.

“Whether you agree with right to work or not, you’ve got to agree there’ll be millions of dollars coming in from other states, and thousands of people,” said Minnesota state Rep. Tony Cornish, a Republican who opposes trying to pass a bill. “Buses emptying out, banners, people camping.”

The Minnesota proposal had one committee hearing last month — provoking a labor protest and AFL-CIO sponsored TV ads. Although union membership has declined nationally in recent decades, organized labor remains a political force in Minnesota, with the AFL-CIO boasting about 300,000 members. A big Democratic turnout this November could make it more difficult for Minnesota’s GOP to defend the more than 30 state House and Senate seats they seized from Democrats in the 2010 election.

But some conservatives respond with another question: If not now, when? Republicans hold more legislative sway in the Midwest than they have in years as a result of that 2010 landslide. Their ability to pass right to work might never be greater, especially if they lose seats this November.

The GOP’s tea party flank also tends to favor action. Last weekend, Benson triumphed in a party endorsement battle with fellow Republican Sen. Mike Jungbauer, a right to work skeptic.

For many conservatives, it’s a deeply felt goal. When Steve Drazkowski began serving in the Minnesota House in 2007, Democrats had controlled at least one chamber of the Legislature for a full generation. “Four decades, right there,” in which they couldn’t achieve their policy goals, Drazkowski said.

After Republicans finally won control in 2010, he put right-to-work state at the top of his to-do list.

His measure, which would preclude unions from collecting dues from workers in union shops who did not want to be union members, would make Minnesota a more attractive place for people to work and businesses to locate, he said. Opponents argue that workers who benefit from the better wages and workplace conditions that unions negotiate should share the costs.

The Minnesota measure would actually be a constitutional amendment that would go before voters — a necessity to get around a certain veto from Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. But now it is moot.

GOP leaders also fear the political consequences of right-to-work in Ohio and Wisconsin, where the presidential race could be close and where Republicans will also be defending legislative majorities.

In Wisconsin, where GOP Gov. Scott Walker faces a recall election in June as the result of last year’s anti-union legislation, Republicans did nothing with right to work this year.

In Ohio, a coalition that includes some tea party groups is collecting signatures to get a right-to-work amendment on the statewide ballot but Republican Gov. John Kasich has publically dismissed the effort. In Michigan, Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger has been leaning toward supporting a right to work measure, but Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has said he wants no part of it.

“Right-to-work is such a divisive issue,” said Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for GOP Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, who has said he would consider Senate passage unlikely.

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

Comments (38)
  1. MissyC says:

    I am so exicted to vote this November! Stick your fork in the GOP because they are done. They do nothing to try and help improve our economy, foreign relations, jobs. Everything is a social issue – gay marriage, abortions, union-busting, etc. There are many more pressing issues facing our country besides whether Lisa and Jane should be able to marry each other!

      1. StanleyPeterson says:

        With all that live in the Rust Belt, your maybe correct?. We live in a nutty environment. From Rusty Cars to Rusty Minds…..Read St. Matthew, Chapter 24…….Ufta!

  2. Wendy says:

    The Gays are easy. But big ole redneck Union workers who drink lots of beer and can rage? snd the Republican’s are scared.

    That goes to show you who the nicer people are, even though still not yet equal. I think it says quite a bit about the legislature too. HA!

    1. ale says:

      I have no idea what your post says

      1. midroad430 says:

        I am not sure what it says either? All i get from it is the ignorance of the poster.

        1. Robert says:

          I think your type was insulted and you do not get it.

          1. easy does it says:

            Sounds to me like she’s saying the Legislature are wimps. Beat up on the easy target but not those who could get you recalled (Walker for ex) and voted out.

            The Legislature is showing shrinkage like swimming in a cold lake. I think that’s what being said here.

    2. StanleyPeterson says:

      Wendy, First and foremost discribe the (Gay) Sex Acts in detail. Then make your case?

  3. Don Seaquist says:

    Wendy, this legislation was political payback against organized labor and it’s voting block. By taking away political power and voice of workers, then business owners have nothing in their way to have us work for less than we do now.
    I believe it is my patriotic duty to advocate for workers. A strong economy leads to economic security. If workers have no money, then our economy suffers.
    This RTW strategy had bi-partisan opposition which says it is a bad idea.

    1. Pekr says:

      If the unions are so good and do such wonderful things for the workers, the works will happily join the union on their own free will and accord. Not because they are forced to join by opressive laws.
      All unions do is forcefully take wages from the workers and channel it to Democrats such as Mark Dayton who will continue to bolster their ranks by forcing more workers to become union members.

      1. Nica says:

        No one is forced to a join a union. If you are going to argue your side at least argue with facts.

        1. StanleyPeterson says:

          Mike, I was in a Union. Don’t tell me you don’t have to join? Da hav vays? That’s one of the reasons that people with a brain leave the Rust Belt.. Benefits,…..?? tell that to Mexico and China. If your not employed by Civil Service and the Gov. gives us more taxes! Your not going to be a Union member! Opps, not unless your working for on the dole or working for “cash” under the table…………Just turn off the lights when your smart enough to leave and go South young/old Man!…Good Try?

    2. Gary Peterson says:

      Right on Don!

  4. StanleyPeterson says:

    The Smart thing to do is, Get the Hell out of the “Rust Belt” and go to a warmer part of the country. And leave the damn “Union’s” and the “Dumbocrats” fall from within?……..That is, if your Smart?..Ufta!

    1. Mike says:

      I wish you luck Stanley and when you get there, don’t come back when you find your making half the income you did here and stuck with the fact that in right to work states, 21% more of the working population has no health care benefits.

      1. Don Seaquist says:

        Years ago while visiting Rapid City, So Dakota my wife and I thought of moving into the Black Hills. It is a beautiful part of the U.S. I had job offers as a grocery store meat cutter, but at half the wages and benefits I was earning in St. Paul with my union contract. Just couldn’t make the money work for us.
        This is just one example of how RTW does not work for workers.

        1. StanleyPeterson says:

          Next, we will be looking like Randsburg, CA..Ufta

    2. midroad430 says:

      Bye Stan!

  5. Hypocritical republicans says:

    These republicans want us to become another Mississippi where the educational system stinks, low wages are prevalent, and there are plenty of unskilled labor jobs. I will for sure be voting against many of these Republican puppets who will only speak with the upper 2% tells them to speak.

    1. StanleyPeterson says:

      You sound like a “Rust Belt” Cry Baby??? Your Opinions are the same as they were in Virginia City until they ran out of Silver. The Midwest will soon run out of taxing the real estate property owners with pie side economic’s…. Your idea’s have been tested in the past and you will end up with a big fat “F” for failure. Get out of Dodge (Rust Belt).Get some new creative idea’s and not all those failed policies of the past… Have you been programmed by the Educational System or the Liberal Progressive News Media.?? I hope not?? .. Ufta!

      1. Don Seaquist says:

        Since when is MN a rust belt state? With major corporations here, like Medtronic, General Mills, 3M, etc our state economy is not dependent upon manufacturing like other midwest states.

        1. StanleyPeterson says:

          That was another time. We have been inindated with illegals from all over the world. Most of them are not in out mainstream culture. Look what happend to Honeywell and Minneapolis Moline-Ford Plant and Northern Pump. Plants?We do n’t have a good base. Wolrkers for all those tall building which are mainly computer junkies. Druggies, accountants and maintence people getting low pay to by drugs.. Then we have some that don’t speak English and the don’ t know how to speak English……Some like to steal and get things….Should we do go back to Mikddle River or Newfoulden…or go on Welfare…I want to want to walk down Franklin Ave at Midnight or 1am? Cops stay at donut shops. Low lifes come out at night! Maybe we need a new Walmart Super store on Franklin and Chicago Ave.? What do you think”

  6. The Crux of the Buscuit says:

    Right to Work Law, just like No Child Left Behind, corporations are people, Clear Skiy Act. A name that does exactly the opposite of what the law is intended to do. You non-union people better watch out because once your right to form a union is gone, companies won’t need to treat you any better than they treat their lowliest workers. Just like the twenties and thirties.

    1. Jason says:

      Doom and gloom. You cant scare everyone. Guess what some people are able to stand on thier own merits. Anyway whats wrong with giving someone a choice to belong to a union or not? This is the USA right!

      1. Vote Union YES! says:

        everyone has a choice, go to work in a union shop, and pay your dues, or go to work in a non-union shop, pay no dues, and complain about those who do.

      2. Robert says:

        @ Jason. Winston Churchill said that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. You say doom and gloom but the facts from the past are still there. The difference in wages and benefits between right to work states and the rest are still there. When you can produce some facts that the right to work states have a better standard of living for the workers come back.

      3. Citizen says:

        Yes, Jason, “you will be able to stand on your own merits.” Just don’t get sick, get old, get slower, or forget to suck up or bend over appropriately for management.

        1. Jason says:

          Why not give employees the choice to belong or not? I dont work at a union shop, guess what I still have my job without sucking up or bending over. I will not tell you what you want to hear like everyone else. I will tell you what you need to hear. Stop making straw man arguments.

          1. Citizen says:

            They are not straw man arguments, Jason. When you get old or sick you will learn about your value to an employer the hard way. And you already have a choice as to whether or not you belong to a union. You can opt out and just pay “fair share” because you will still get the union benefits negotiated by the active union members.

            1. StanleyPeterson says:

              i guess in the “Rust Belt” did you ever hear of “Goons”. Da hav vay to make you join……..Ufta

  7. Citizen says:

    I read this quote a while back and it bears repeating forever!

    One is reminded of the story, probably an urban legend where the head of an auto company was showing the head of the union a factory floor full of robots.

    “How many of those robots will you organize?” the auto company executive was reported to have asked the head of the union.

    “How many cars do you expect those robots to buy?” was the reply of the union chief.

    1. StanleyPeterson says:

      Yes, by Washington D.C. allowing out sourceing of our jobs. I guess we should all start Homesteading again! Back to Farming and Ranching. Produce what people need, like food and other products. Our forefathers did it! They didn’t join a Union or become a bunch of “Cry Babies”…? Maybe,a co-op, but not a union. Unions are only for those who buy protection from those who they use to call “Goones”? You can go down to the nearest Beer Joint and Dives to see those people?….Ufta!

      1. Don Seaquist says:

        Our forefathers not only joined unions, they created the union movement. they died in their attempt to achieve fair wages and benefits. Younger workers today benefit from the ideas and work of those who came before them.

  8. The Editor says:

    Why does the title of the article say Midwest?

    The Wisconsin GOP is successfully battling the unions.

    The story if focused on the RINO wimps in Minnesota.

  9. j speedbag64 says:

    the gop will pull prick on everybody…..bottom line…democrats are worse….

  10. StanleyPeterson says:

    Maybe we should all Read St. Matthew, Chapter 24..It sounds like us? The DFL (Unions) and Republicans will not help us then! …It could be latter than we think? ….Ufta!

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