Two state, local government decisions ignore job losses for union workers


Why can’t local and state government consider the impact of their decisions on workers? As the Labor Review went to press, union members faced the loss of their jobs because both the State of Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis made decisions without considering the impact of those decisions on union workers.

Opinion: Two state, local government decisions ignore job losses for union workers

In St. Paul, 18 union workers lost their jobs June 30 when a new contractor took over as the operator of three cafeterias in office buildings at the State Capitol complex. UNITE HERE Local 17 has represented the workers in those cafeterias since 1958. Although the companies contracted by the state to operate the cafeterias have changed over time, each new operator has entered a contract with Local 17 — until now.

Taher, Inc. won the bid to operate the cafeterias in a state bidding process that provided no consideration for whether the contractor would retain current workers and provide living wage jobs or benefits. Now Taher refuses to negotiate with Local 17 and all but a handful of the longtime cafeteria workers have lost their jobs. The others have been cut from full-time to part-time and no longer have benefits.

Local 17 has called for a boycott of the State Capitol cafeterias and is getting support from the two state employee unions, AFSCME and MAPE (see story, page 1).

The state’s disregard for the cafeteria workers might be expected from an administration that in almost all ways is anti-worker and anti-union.

In Minneapolis, however, we would expect that a City Council filled with Labor-endorsees would do better. Not so.

In Minneapolis, the City Council recently brought forward a plan to sell eight city-owned parking ramps to private developers in a deal totalling $88 million. The plan was months in development, but neither City Council members nor city staff ever considered the impact of a sale on some 200 union workers who currently staff the parking ramps.

Those workers are members of Teamsters Local 120. They work as parking ramp cashiers or janitors or in other jobs to keep the ramps functioning. They work for AMPCO, a private company managing the ramps under contract with the city.

Significantly, this group of workers are also primarily East African and other immigrants, women and men, who came to this country in search of a better life.

Teamsters Local 120 wrote to the Minneapolis City Council in October, 2006 raising concerns about the parking ramp workers as the City began planning a possible sale of the ramps. Not until July 3, 2007, however, did the City Council send a formal reply.

At a Council committee hearing July 10, I presented a plan to the Council proposing that the new owners of the ramps be required to follow a modest transition plan to to protect the parking ramp workers. At press time, we did not yet know the outcome of this effort. Final City Council action was scheduled for July 20. Come election time, let’s remember who stood up for workers — and who did not.