2006 elections are focus at Minnesota AFL-CIO convention

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With the 2006 elections first and foremost on their minds, union members from across the state will gather Monday for the biennial convention of the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

The convention will be the first since last year’s historic national split, when several unions left the AFL-CIO to form their own labor federation, Change to Win. Their departure means a smaller convention and the absence of unions representing laborers, hotel and restaurant employees and retail and service workers.

Still, two of the state’s largest unions, AFSCME and Education Minnesota, will be participating, along with the majority of the Building Trades unions, Minnesota Nurses Association, United Steelworkers and many others. As evidenced by the agenda, changing government at the state and national level will be the No. 1 topic of discussion.

Delegates will hear from many labor-endorsed candidates, including gubernatorial contender Mike Hatch and his running mate, Judi Dutcher; U.S. Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar; and Congressional candidates Keith Ellison, 5th District; Betty McCollum, 4th District; and Tim Walz, 1st District, among others.

They’ll also take part in a member-to-member doorknock after Monday’s proceedings. Organizers said the goal is to engage in conversations to emphasize the importance of the election to union members’ lives and livelihoods.

Union organizing will get center stage Tuesday morning when the Amalgamated Transit Union, AFSCME, Communications Workers of America and the Minnesota Nurses Association are recognized for expanding their memberships by more than 11,000 in the last year.

Delegates also will elect officers of the state labor federation and approve resolutions on a variety of topics. The convention runs through Wednesday at the Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown St. Paul.

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