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Commentary
State legislature needs to focus on creating jobs, not attacking unions

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, February 25, 2011

By Bill McCarthy, President, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation

With Minnesota’s unemployment rate persisting at high levels, focusing on job creation ought to be priority number one for the state legislature. Candidate Mark Dayton said he would propose a $1 billion bonding bill to stimulate job creation. And January 31, Governor Mark Dayton delivered, announcing his proposal to invest in the state’s infrastructure and get 28,000 Minnesotans back to work. In his inaugural address earlier in the month, Dayton declared that job creation would be his top priority as governor.

Job creation as priority number one should be a non-partisan issue: What could be more important? The more Minnesotans who are working, the more goods and services they consume, the more the state collects in income taxes and sales taxes.

You would think the new Republican majorities in the Minnesota House and Senate could find common ground with Governor Dayton on creating jobs.

Yet what we’re seeing instead in the state legislature are Republican-sponsored proposals taking aim at workers and unions. Bills to cut essential state services. Bills to cut the number of state employees. Bills to impose a statewide freeze on teacher salaries. Bills to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to make Minnesota a so-called “right to work” state — which in fact would strip workers of collective bargaining rights and drive down wages for everyone. [See list]

Worse, these anti-worker initiatives are masked by rhetoric that sounds good, but belies the true purpose: to restrict collective bargaining, to weaken hard-won workplace protections,  to attack unions. This is the sort of hypocrisy that turns  people off to politics.

The Republicans have new-found clout as the majority in both houses of the Minnesota legislature and with that power comes the responsibility to legislate for the common good.

The efforts by some members of the new majorities to attempt to turn back the hands of time to undo several generations of work to advance social and economic justice is a threat to all working Minnesotans.

We need to see legislation that will get Minnesotans working again.

We need to see legislation that will unite Minnesotans, not divide us.

We need to see legislative leaders from both the Republican majority and DFL minority find common ground with Governor Dayton on priority number one: jobs!

 

 

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