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The temperature is rising… and legislators need to feel more heat

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, June 24, 2011

By Bill McCarthy, President, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation

The Labor Review went to press June 17 — two weeks before a shutdown of state government coming July 1 if the legislature refuses to compromise to reach a budget deal with Governor Dayton.

Lay-off notices went in the mail June 9 to 38,000 state employees. They are scared.

And everyone who counts on services the state provides or funds — from highways to health care to unemployment checks to state parks — is at risk of a serious disruption to their lives.

Call your state legislators

Tell them to
stand up for the middle class
by taxing the
richest 2 percent

Affiliates and staff of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation have been in full-on campaign mode since April. We have been working with our union affiliates — and our community affiliate, Working America — to schedule meetings with 11 Republican legislators back home in their districts.

With postcards to union members and follow-up phone calls, we have reached out to members of all unions to encourage their attendance at these meetings and to encourage them to call their legislators. And union members have responded.

June 7 we had a turn-out of 95 people at a VFW hall in Spring Lake Park for a meeting with Senator Pam Wolf.

June 1 we had a turn-out of 105 people at the Edina Community Center for a meeting with Representative Keith Downey.

That meeting attracted significant media attention — and our message came through: We need to look at where we can save money and cut spending but believe that we should take a balanced approach that includes new revenue.

I don’t think that either of these two legislators have ever before looked out at a meeting room — in their district — packed with union members.

We’ve also had strong turn-out for meetings with Senator Benjamin Kruse and Representative Branden Petersen in Coon Rapids. Meetings the week of June 20 were scheduled with Representative Kirk Stensrud in Minnetonka and Representative Pat Mazorol in Bloomington.

One of my favorite parts of these meetings: asking everyone who is a union member who lives in the district to raise their hands. Just about every hand goes up!

That sends a very powerful message to these legislators. We live here. We are working families. We are union members. We are construction workers. We are teachers. We are nurses. We take care of the elderly, staff libraries, maintain the roads. We are paying attention. And we’re taking action.

Across the state, other regional labor federations also have organized meetings with Republican lawmakers.

At our meetings, as the July 1 shutdown date looms closer, emotions have begun to run higher. People are anxious and scared. People are mad. They want legislators to stop protecting the richest two percent and instead make choices that protect the middle class.

The Governor, who has offered compromises, has continued meeting with House and Senate Republican leaders. The legislative leaders, however, have remained fixed on an all-cuts budget.

Now I don’t have a crystal ball, so I don’t know what the final outcome will be.

But I’m convinced that our work mobilizing union members is going to shape that outcome. The temperature is rising… Legislators are feeling the heat. They need to continue to hear directly from constituents what people expect the state to do:

• Raise revenues fairly so that the richest two percent pay their fair share of taxes;
• Maintain vital services;
• Make investments in the state’s future to support education and put people to work.

That’s the message. Please make a call!

House information: 651-296-2146.

Senate information: 651-296-0504.


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