Union members swarmed the Minnesota Capitol in a last-ditch effort to drum up support among lawmakers for two bills that, together, would create tens of thousands of jobs for union members in the struggling construction trades.
The bills – one to build and repair the state’s infrastructure and another to finance construction of a new Vikings stadium downtown Minneapolis – are scheduled to receive votes on the House floor Monday, according to House Speaker Kurt Zellers.
Until those votes take place, union leaders said, the full-court press at the Capitol will continue.
“The message to our members is to call your legislators and tell them they need to do what’s right for Minnesota and put some people back to work,” said Harry Melander, president of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council.
More than 100 union members, many wearing hard hats and fluorescent safety vests, gathered outside the House chambers Thursday. They chanted “Build it!” as lawmakers walked in and out of the room.
Meanwhile, union lobbyists were busy scheduling one-on-one meetings between workers and their representatives to discuss the importance of passing a construction-jobs package before the session ends.
“This isn’t about getting into anyone’s face today,” Melander told union members in a brief rally on the Capitol steps. “But we are going to talk to our legislators, and we are going to tell them that this is the time when they need to start taking care of the people’s business. And one of those items of business is putting people back to work on the tens of thousands of jobs they can create.”
Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged support for both the infrastructure-jobs bill and the new Vikings stadium, but Zellers and Republican leaders in the Senate said it would be up to the governor to round up the majorities necessary to get the bills to his desk.
Zellers said he would support the infrastructure-jobs bill, but would not push for the stadium package because Dayton had not compromised with Republicans on their priorities, including tax cuts for corporations.
“At every turn, our priorities have either been disrespected … or dismissed,” Zellers said.