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Public employees challenge 'Right to Work' proposal
Proponents say a constitutional amendment to make Minnesota a “Right-to-Work” state is essential to improving our quality of life, but don’t tell that to Carol Musielewicz of St. Cloud. “I have relatives who live in North Dakota and I just recently found out that it is a Right-to-Work state,” she said. “I’ve driven on their roads and I had to ask, ‘Is this really a state highway?’ It was a dirt road.”
Maintaining quality public services is just one reason to oppose the Republican-backed proposal, Musielewicz said. Another is, “It’s just not necessary.”
If “Right-to-Work” legislation passes during this session, voters would decide this fall whether to amend the state Constitution to weaken the right of workers to strong unions. Under the measure, workers represented by unions would not have to become members or pay dues, but would enjoy all the benefits of a union contract.
Organized labor opposes the proposal, which advocates also refer to as “Freedom of Employment.” On Thursday, Musielewicz, a member of the Minnesota School Employees Association, her fellow MSEA members and workers represented by AFSCME Council 65 made opposition to “Right to Work” their top priority at their annual Day on the Hill. After a morning briefing that featured Governor Mark Dayton, they planned to fan out across the state Capitol to meet with lawmakers.
Steve Giorgi of AFSCME Council 65 discusses the Right-to-Work legislation as MSEA Executive Director Christina Clark and Council 65 and MSEA members listen.
Council 65 represents public employees across Minnesota, except those working for the state, the Twin Cities metropolitan area, Duluth and St. Louis County. MSEA represents 6,000 public school employees in more than 55 school districts.
While the biggest effect of the constitutional change would be in the private sector, public employees would also be hurt.
“It would really cut down our ability to organize,” noted Carrie Umpierre, a Council 65 member from Carlton County.
“Right to work is a deceptive term and does not give anyone the ‘right’ to ‘work,’” MSEA said in a fact sheet distributed to lawmakers during the Day on the Hill. “It is being pushed by big political donors that favor corporate interests over working people and the middle class.”
Because of laws limiting worker rights, unions are weaker in Right-to-Work states. According to data compiled by the Census Bureau and numerous other agencies, workers in strong union states like Minnesota earn higher wages and have more access to health care than Right-to-Work states. Minnesota residents also enjoy longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality rates and lower poverty rates than residents of Right-to-Work states.
© 2012 Workday Minnesota