MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota House Republicans are crying foul after DFL staffers on the losing end of the 2016 election were granted benefits from the state’s Dislocated Workers Program, which is normally used for mass layoffs from private companies.
Some 50 to 60 DFL campaign staffers lost their jobs after the election – something that’s not uncommon. But for the first time they’ve banded together to earn special status as victims of a mass layoff.
Republican State Rep. Kelly Fenton, of Woodbury, a veteran political organizer who’s helped run campaigns herself, says there are no job guarantees in political work, and staffers know that going in.
“At the end of the campaign, there is a win or a loss,” Fenton said. “But there is no job security whatsoever.”
The Dislocated Worker Program is for mass layoffs of 50 workers or more at places like iron mines or manufacturing plants. It’s never been used for political workers.
Top officials at the Department of Employment and Economic Development say political campaign workers fit the legal definition of an employee who’s part of a mass layoff, like construction workers.
“We don’t discriminate against different employers or employees, and so if a Minnesotan is eligible for these services, we will offer them to them,” said Shane Delany, of DEED.
The program provides assistance with rent and mortgage, utility bills, car payments and job training.
Fenton says giving those benefits to political workers may be illegal.
“There are many men and women out there right now who would love to have the child care, the transportation, help with the resume, help with the job search,” she said. “That’s the men and women this program was meant to help.”
In a written statement, DFL party Chair Ken Martin calls the Republican charges “dangerously inaccurate” and describes the program as open to any worker, including temporary workers.
Martin said the DFL “will continue to protect programs that aid all workers, no matter their political party affiliation.”