What a difference four years makes. This year, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is running for a third term with AFL-CIO endorsement in support of his candidacy. In his first two campaigns, however, labor opposed him.
“The first two races I ran against two very good friends of labor,” he acknowledged. “I fully understand why people would stick with candidates they knew better.”
“In this second term, I have developed much better partnerships with labor,” Rybak said. “I brought people around me who were more effective in building partnerships with labor.”
He added: “It is a whole lot more fun to be working together, that’s for sure.”
“One of the things I’ve learned the hard way is as mayor I don’t have to have all the answers – I have to have a door that’s open.”
“I have been laser-focused on creating jobs,” Rybak said. Despite continuing tough economic times, he noted, for the first time in memory Minneapolis now has an unemployment rate lower than the suburbs, lower than the state, lower than the nation.
“I’m calling lenders, we’re leveraging federal dollars, we’re partnering with developers in ways we never have before.”
Still, he noted, challenges remain. “It’s more reason than ever to be in partnership with labor when I see trades with 50 percent of members on the bench. We have to do everything possible to put people to work.”
In Rybak’s second term, came the crisis of the 35W bridge collapse. “The one part of it that was positive was we found ways to come together,” he said.
The city faced critical decisions under great pressure in the aftermath of the collapse, including how labor would be involved in the reconstruction work. “We used that to deepen the role of labor, not to step away,” he said.
Rybak also supported initiatives to expand the city’s labor peace policies.
Rybak was an early supporter of Barack Obama’s campaign for president and served as the campaign’s Minnesota chair.
This year, he noted, “I’m working hard to re-elect [Ward 4 Council Member] Barb Johnson. She’s been an incredible partner and Council president. It’s incredibly important to have her back at city hall.”
“It is a source of pride to me to have rock-sold labor support in this election,” Rybak reported. “It means a lot to me politically and personally. I very much want to be a mayor who represents working people.”