Drazkowski: In age of widening wealth gap, let working people choose to earn less


Throughout the Coulee Region near LaCrosse, the Drazkowski family is well known for its efforts at stimulating the local economy. Who could forget the wholesome outdoor music festival held on Pere Drazkowski’s Bluff Siding farm on Chicken Valley Road in the summer of 2001?

The event certainly made work for the local law enforcement establishment, as well as creating jobs for new county commissioners the next year, according to a 2002 report in the Winona Daily News, Rave ruckus haunts board members:

Those Buffalo County folks who were upset last summer when the Road Dogs motorcycle club brought thousands of kids to County Supervisor Ron Drazkowski’s land near Bluff Siding for a rave are enjoying the last laugh.

On Tuesday, four of five incumbent supervisors were voted out of office, including Board Chairman Drazkowski, who had served on the board since 1991. . . .

. . .Previously, Drazkowski apologized to county residents and supervisors for a rave party on his land in Bluff Siding near the Gin Mill Tavern over the Labor Day weekend.

Three of his sons are members of the Road Dogs, and one, Lee Drazkowski, manages the Gin Mill. He signed the agreement with the promoter to bring the music festival to the area. [links added by BSP]

The terpsichorean splendors of the nearby Gin Mill, an informal gathering place for a mobile social club, were ended by an arsonist’s match in 2007:

The Gin Mill tavern, owned by Gin Mill, Inc., was termed a total loss and torn down soon after the fire.

The tavern featured exotic dancers and served as a clubhouse for the Road Dogs Motorcycle Club. The property is at W288 Chicken Valley Road.

Tom Drazkowski, a co-owner of the business who lives near the Gin Mill property, spotted the fire and reported it at 7:48 a.m.

The club was never rebuilt, and the wet T-shirt contests are now just a memory. Young women no longer are able to learn their worth and the dignity of labor in Fountain City’s entertainment job market.

But the family tradition of providing quality jobs may carry on after all. Steve Drazkowski (never an owner of the Gin Mill nor part of the Road Dogs Motorcycle Club like his brothers, as far as I know) has proposed yet another jobs creation measure in addition to his English-only bill that will line the pockets of English teachers everywhere.

And not since the torching of the Gin Mill has a Drazkowski been near an action that’s sparked such an incendiary response.

In Union options could wind up on 2012 ballot, the Winona Daily News looks at the Draz’s latest bright idea: asking Minnesotans to vote for lower wages for themselves:

State Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, has introduced a bill targeted at labor unions that he says could improve the state’s business environment and give Minnesota employees more choices.

However, union leaders disagree and contend the measure would actually hurt workers throughout the state. . . .

But union leaders argue that such a bill would benefit only businesses, while hurting their employees. They cite federal statistics that show workers in states with similar “Right To Work” provisions make about $5,500 less per year than their counterparts in states without the measure.

“I think ‘Right to Work’ is a catchy phrase that’s really bad for workers,” said Shar Knutson, president of Minnesota AFL-CIO, which represents more than 300,000 workers throughout the state. “It asks Minnesotans to work for less money.”

More than 360,000 people in Minnesota belonged to a union in 2009, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau or Labor.

But Drazkowski said he thinks there’s strong support among residents for his proposed amendment, particularly allowing non-union workers to not pay dues. That change alone would provide workers with “hundreds of dollars more in disposable income,” he said.

Yep, that’s what union workers want: lower average wages by thousands of dollars so that they don’t have to pay union dues. Non-union workers’ wages also are lower in right-to-work states.

Drazkowski has an interesting notion of choice. It’s interesting that the “choice” for lower wages in hard times is being suggested only for the hoi polloi, but not the corporate elites, at a time of growing wealth inequality in the United States.

But given Draz’s tendency to oppress the afflicted, perhaps his latest effort to help widen the ballooning gap between the rich and the rest of us in America isn’t so surprising. Well, maybe to him — if he’s like his father, who claimed to have no idea what them there raves were all about until the party goers rained on his hay field.

There are alternatives to Draz’s pro-elite agenda. As AFSCME Minnesota Council notes in Want the Right to Work for Less?:

State Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) wants Minnesotans to have the right to work for less money. This week, he introduced HF 65 to “establish freedom of employment.” In reality, it offers voters the freedom to work for less money. Just ask workers in “right to work” states – they earn about $5,000 less than the average worker in a state like Minnesota. This bad bill is intended to destroy unions and every worker’s human right to bargain collectively for a better life. Let’s stop this rip-off and continue to strive for a Minnesota where all labor is rewarded with wages that can raise a family, health care if people get sick, and a retirement that’s dignified.

Monday was Martin Luther King’s birthday. It’s worthwhile remembering that King was in Memphis to assist striking African American sanitation workers who sought to join a union.

Across the state, workers ranging from fast-food sandwich shop employees to security officers are fighting to form unions in their workplace, despite the worst efforts of management to stop them. One such story, Jimmy John’s Workers Union wins a new lease on life, tells the story of law-breaking bosses:

. . .The new settlement comes after the National Labor Relations Board found evidence to support the union’s charges that franchise owners Rob and MikeMulligan broke the law with union-busting activities in the lead-up to the vote.

That revelation forced the Mulligans and the union organizers back to the negotiating table to agree on the settlement that was unveiled today.

Under the terms of the settlement, the owners don’t admit to breaking the law, but they do make some major concessions, including agreeing to give up October’s election victory.

The settlement also requires the Mulligans to distribute a notice to their employees, promising not to do many of the things it has been accused of doing, including disciplining and threatening union supporters and interrogating workers about their union sympathies.

Jimmy John’s also agreed to expunge disciplinary records against nine employees associated with the union.

So it goes for franchise owners who accused the union organizers of being wretched anarchists out to tear down capitalism itself. Who knew the owners had so little regard for the law?

How much will corporations spend to con Minnesotans into further weakening labor laws by supporting Draz’s amendment to the state constitution? Should the amendment pass both houses in the Minnesota legislature, we’ll find out.