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Right To Work

childworkThis is very important to understand because if Republicans take control of Minnesota state government next year, they’ll do the same thing, and it will produce the same results.

In 2015, Wisconsin enacted its RTW law. Since that time, average hourly earnings growth in the Badger State slowed relative to Minnesota. From 2015 to 2017, Minnesota average hourly earnings increased by $2.35, compared to a $1.27 in Wisconsin. Minnesota’s average hourly earnings in 2017 were $28.42—$3.69 more than in Wisconsin ($24.73). Within a two year period, the hourly earnings gap between the two states increased by 42%.
In 2017, average hourly earnings in Minnesota are 8.0% above the U.S. average and higher than in any other Midwest state. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s average hourly earnings slipped 6.0% below the national average.
(North Star Policy Institute)

Comment below fold.

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Keith Downey doesn’t care what his policies will do

by Eric Ferguson on September 18, 2012 · 3 comments

State Rep. Keith Downey, the GOP Senate candidate in district 49, is probably best known for his 15×15 plan, mandating a 15% reduction in the state’s payroll by 2015. What’s so magical about 15%? It’s the same as the last two digits in 2015. 15 … and 15. See? Isn’t that clever? All the same thought that went into Herman Cain’s “9-9-9” plan, which I believe was borrowed directly from a pizza pricing campaign. I’m not sure if Downey got his plan from a pizza sale, or a price war among sandwich shops.

Unfortunately, looking at Downey’s bills, this isn’t the only time Downey went off the deep right end with no concern for the consequences. It’s probably not even the most egregious example. This might be though: Downey authored a bill to reduce the maximum weeks of unemployment compensation to 18 when the state unemployment rate is below 6%, and as few as four weeks should unemployment ever dip below 3%. Current law says maximum unemployment benefits are the lower of one-third what the unemployed person made over a one-year period, or 26 times the weekly benefit. It’s not much to survive on, but Downey wants to reduce it further.

(c) The maximum amount of unemployment benefits available on any benefit account is the lower of:
(1) 33-1/3 percent of the applicant’s total wage credits; or
(2) 26 [The strike through is in the bill. That’s the current 26 weeks being replaced.] (i) four times the applicant’s weekly unemployment benefit amount if the
statewide unemployment rate is at least three percent;
(ii) ten times the applicant’s weekly unemployment benefit amount if the statewide unemployment rate is at least four percent;
(iii) 18 times the applicant’s weekly unemployment benefit amount if the statewide
unemployment rate is at least five percent; or
(iv) 26 times the applicant’s weekly unemployment benefit amount if the statewide
unemployment rate is at least six percent.

We probably will never see unemployment below 3%, so why would he even bother lowering the maximum weeks to four? We’re already below 6%, so this measure would reduce benefits immediately when the job market still is difficult. Would he do anything about prohibiting employers from discriminating against unemployed applicants as is so rampant now? If so, he didn’t include it in the bill. Instead, he seems to want to punish unemployed people for not having a job by cutting holes in the safety net.

One mark of a fundamentalist is not caring about the effects of policies, as long as the ideology is pure. Downey didn’t care about the effects of dumping an arbitrary 15% of state employees or reducing unemployment benefits, nor did he care about the effects of the government shutdown the Republicans brought us in 2011:

“Nobody wants a shutdown, but it’s an interesting opportunity to see what impact not having these nonessential employees has,” he said. “It will allow us a chance to assess, one-by-one, what can actually be done without all of those people.”

He knew, or should have known, because it came up before the shutdown, how hard his shutdown would be on people with disabilities. Sure, lots of people thought the only effect of the shutdown would be the state parks would close, but a legislator should have known better. Somehow Downey could take an action that would have a profound effect on vulnerable people with the attitude, “it’s an interesting opportunity to see what impact not having these nonessential employees has”. Maybe he thought only state employees would be hurt, and it’s not like he values them at all anyway.

Downey made it apparent how little he respects state employees by a change he tried to make in the rules controlling when state agencies can hire outside contractors. He wants so badly to replace public employees even at the extra cost of hiring contractors, the he tried to take out the requirement that no employee be available before hiring a contractor. He struck this line in the list of requirements for hiring a contractor: “no current state employee is able and available to perform the services called for by the contract;” In case it’s assumed laid off employees would be called back because their old jobs need to be done again, this line was also struck: “the agency will not contract out its previously eliminated jobs for four years without first considering the same former employees who are on the seniority unit layoff list who meet the minimum qualifications determined by the agency.”

Efficiency be damned I guess. Let’s spend extra on contractors despite having people on the payroll who can do the same job, or being able to recall laid off employees who already know something about the work they would be doing.

That’s looking at bills he authored. In his voting record, he voted twice for Minnesota’s version of the “stand your ground” law, also called the “shoot first” law, or maybe we should call it the “let’s make Minnesota as nuts as Florida” law. I wonder if he’s been admitting to this since the Trayvon Martin murder? I wonder if he checked into the effect of this law in Florida before voting for it? Most of us heard about how many killings Florida had only after the Martin murder, but if you’re going to pass such a law here, wouldn’t you check? Only if you cared about the effects of your ideologically correct vote and as we keep seeing, Downey doesn’t care.

Finally, some brief bits of Downey’s brilliance:







Schadenfreude Friday!!

Bob Cummins is unhappy. And because Cummins is unhappy, Minnesota Republicans are unhappy. And because Cummins is unhappy, DFLers should be happy.

Bob Cummins is a major Republican donor. He’s unhappy because the Republicans at the legislature couldn’t put his pet project on the ballot as a constitutional amendment.

Bob Cummins, who has donated more than $3.5 million to Minnesota Republican causes, is telling allies he has had it with Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature and will not give their campaigns any cash this year, according to multiple sources.

Cummins, CEO of Plymouth-based Primera Technology, is reportedly frustrated over legislators’ failure to approve a “right-to-work” constitutional amendment that would limit union power. At least 21 states have such restrictions.

A pillar of GOP financing in years past, Cummins’ support could be especially critical for Republicans, who have seen contributions drop off as their money troubles mount.

I wonder if that is Cummins’ sole reason.

As I detailed yesterday, the MNGOP is deeply in debt and it appears they are not paying their employees.

The MNGOP’s fundraising has been anemic since at least the summer of 2010. Major donors weren’t happy with Tom Emmer as their candidate. Furthermore, because of the MNGOP’s irresponsible spending under Chair Tony Sutton and Associate Chair Michael Brodkorb, they have little reason to trust that their donations will be put to good use.

The question is how many other donors will follow Cummins lead?

When you add the ongoing (never-ending) Michael Brodkorb-Amy Koch sex scandal into the picture, 2012 looks quite grim for the MNGOP.

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Oh frabjous day! Calloo, callay he chortled in his joy …

Republicans across America are trying to destroy unions and roll back all of the good things that unions have achieved. Republican-controlled egislatures across the US have passed so-called “Right-To-Work” laws to reduce the dues that unions charge their members. By reducing the dues that unions collect, they’d have less money with which to organize and lobby.

In Minnesota, Republicans can’t get their so-called “Right-To-Work” bill past Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto, so they are trying to put it on the 2012 ballot as a constitutional amendment.

But its run into trouble:

“What I’m hoping for is that we get the bill vetted in the Rules Committee and sent to the floor,” Thompson said.

Thompson said he will not attempt to move the bill from the Rules Committee to the Senate floor. He took the rare step last week of forcing the Senate to vote to yank the bill from the Senate Jobs Committee to the Senate Judiciary Committee. That committee approved it last week. Thompson said he will not force another Senate vote to get the bill to the floor.

Thompson said he asked Senjem to hold a hearing on the bill but didn’t receive a commitment. Senjem said late last week that the votes weren’t there to pass the amendment in the House or the Senate.

The House version hasn’t had a hearing, yet. The speculation is that the bill doesn’t have the votes in either House to pass as a constitutional amendment.

As Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-St. Louis Park) so eloquently quipped:

What we are seeing here is constitutionalizing policy differences. And by doing that we are, basically, writing in permanent ink.

– Photo from MPR


One of the central efforts of Republicans all across America is to do as much damage to unions and the labor movement as possible. ALEC provides the boilerplate bills which Republican copy-paste and try to pass.

Since the Republicans can’t get their boilerplate “Right-To-Work” past Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto, they want to write their far right policy into our constitution. As Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-St. Louis Park) so aptly said: “they want to write policy differences in permanent ink.”

But the We Are Minnesota is fighting back with a 30 second ad on MN television:


UPDATE: Sen. Gerlach is not running for reelection so he can spend more time with family. No, really.

State Sen. Chris Gerlach runs a direct mail business and being a state legislator, he should have realized you don’t take money from people with direct interest in legislation. Gerlach’s direct mail business was paid by Freedom Club for a piece on right-to-freeload (as right-to-work should properly be called), which Freedom Club is pushing for in the legislature and which Gerlach is supporting. One of his Republican colleagues who was targeted by these mailings, Deputy Senate Majority Leader Julianne Ortman, said, “I think it’s shocking”, and “It’s very troublesome and should be troubling to all Minnesotans.”

Not disclosed on the glossy leaflets was that Gerlach’s firm, Capitol Direct, sent the mailings. And on Thursday, Gerlach cast a crucial vote on a maneuver that allowed the measure to bypass a potentially troublesome committee and did not acknowledge his company’s ties to the group pushing the proposal.

It’s arguable which is the more slippery part: taking money to attack members of your party and hiding that fact, and taking money from someone seeking something from the legislature and voting for what they want.

Readers may recall that a similar conflict of interest was part of what cost Sen. Satveer Chaudhary his senate seat. In that case, Arctic Cat and the Carpenters Union sponsored Chaudhary’s outdoors TV show and may have benefited from legislation Chaudhary would have voted on. He was cleared of charges over that, so maybe Gerlach will be cleared too, but there is the difference that Chaudhary was open about the sponsorships, while Gerlach kept his business with Freedom Club secret. That he took the money to attack other Republicans makes this popcorn time as well as ethics investigation time.

Chaudhary lost the DFL endorsement and then his primary because other things came up, so maybe one screw-up isn’t enough to drive Gerlach from office. Hard to extrapolate from an example of one. It does seem likely that if he has other screw-ups that haven’t happened yet or just haven’t become public yet, his fellow Republicans at best have little incentive to protect him, and may even be looking for reporters looking for anonymous sources.

The one break I’ll give Gerlach is we pay legislators about $35,000, a lot less than most people think, because of this notion that legislators should be part-time. That means they need another job or business, which means they get money from someone other than the taxpayers, and that certain someone could well have business before the legislature. This part-time arrangement might have made sense when the state was new and small and much simpler than it is now, and the session needed to end in time for planting season when the legislators had to catch the steamboat back to their farms. Fine system, for the 19th century. How about a full-time legislature with full-time pay for a 21st century state? For all we know, Gerlach might have kept the business going and done this exact same thing even with a full-time salary, but at least giving up other business and jobs will be an option for legislators, which means a reduction in the temptation to conflict of interest — not to mention an increase in the pool of potential candidates. Looking at the majority party we have now, that could only be for the good.


Subjecting minority rights to majority rule

by Eric Ferguson on January 27, 2012 · 0 comments

The common theme in the constitutional amendments the legislative Republicans seem ready to put on the 2012 is the restriction of rights of people who tend not to vote Republican. Whether it’s marriage equality, reproductive rights, the right to organize, the right to vote, and whatever ever other noxious amendments they come up with, these self-proclaimed “constitutional conservatives” seem not the get that the American republic is built not just on majority rule, but on minority rights. These amendments are exactly the sort of attacks on our rights the US Constitution was meant to prevent.

We’re not the only state of course where this is happening. One state where the Republicans think rights depend on the momentary whim of the majority is New Jersey. The legislature is likely to overturn the gay marriage ban, and Gov. Chris Christie says he’ll veto it. Instead, he wants the question put to a referendum. In defense of subjecting minority rights to majority rule, he mentioned the civil rights movement, and said, “The fact of the matter is, I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South.” Right, let white people vote on whether black people should be allowed to vote, because the states that banned blacks from voting were so anxious to change those laws.

This gets to a video that’s a must-see for attacking this idea that minority rights should be subject to majority rule. Newark mayor (and possible gubernatorial candidate next year) Cory Booker was asked about Christie’s statement at a press conference. Though he was reacting to Christie’s remark specifically and addressing the bill in New Jersey, it applies to all the GOP efforts to take away rights from those who aren’t them.


I submitted the following letter to the editor of the Farmington Independent, attention Editor Nathan Hansen, on Monday January 23, 2012.

Earlier that day, State Senator Dave Thompson posted on Twitter and Facebook that he intends to introduce “Right-to-Work” legislation as a constitutional amendment for voters decide on in November.

The letter that follows is the unedited version of the letter that was published January 26th in the Farmington Independent.  The MLK quote at the bottom was removed:

Letter: Legislation’s real goal is busting unions
State Senator Dave Thompson of Lakeville posted on Facebook and Twitter earlier this week that he intends to introduce what he is calling an “Employee Freedom Bill” as an amendment to Minnesota’s Constitution.  This type of legislation has been in the works across America for decades, and is more commonly referred to as “Right-to-Work” legislation.  But don’t let the phrases “Employee Freedom” and “Right-to-Work” fool you.  Those buzz phrases were carefully developed to mislead people.  “Employee Freedom” and “Right-to-Work” legislation is simply intended to bust unions.

With fewer and fewer of us as union members, unknowingly we accept the negative stereotype about unions and union members that has been constantly promoted by corporate interests and the politicians who tie themselves to those interests.  Together they have spent billions of dollars to promote an anti-union agenda.  State Senator Dave Thompson, is now tying himself to special interest groups like the MN Chamber of Commerce who spends more than twice as much to lobby our legislators as any union does.  (MSP Biz Journal, 2012)

If State Senator Dave Thompson gets his wish and puts this on the ballot for all of us to vote on in November, voters have an important decision to make.  We need to decide if we want to accelerate the downward plunge in the quality of life many middle-class Minnesotans are experiencing, the way other states that have these laws of de-unionization have reduced middle-class wages and working conditions.

Do we want more Minnesotans to be without the ability to bargain for decent medical benefits?  Do we want to risk a living wage and prevent employees from being able to bargain collectively for the pay they deserve?  Do we want corporations to decide what air is safe to breath and what equipment is safe to operate?  Do we want employees to be fired because they complain about unsafe work conditions?  Do we want the gap between rich and poor to increase even more and even faster?

Take a close look at the constitutional amendments that will or might be on the ballot in 2012.  State Senator Dave Thompson and the other politicians like him will use compelling words to use emotions to get you to support these amendments.  But, every potential constitutional amendment so far seems to be about taking rights away from people who don’t have the power to fight back.  

Vote no on any so called right-to-work amendments. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: “We must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as ‘right-to-work.’ It provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining… We demand this fraud be stopped.”

Steve Quist
Farmington, MN

Link to Letter on The Farmington Independent site: http://www.farmingtonindepende…

Cross-posted by Steve Quist (@Quist_Galaxie) at



It’s been noted before that there’s a good chance that Minnesota Republicans will introduce a “right to work” (properly, “right to work for less” ) proposed constitutional amendment.  It so happens that Indiana is already steering that way, and an extremely well-done, comprehensive online publication details what an awful idea that is – and has, in fact, proven to be, in RTW states.

The only honest way to measure the effect of RTW is to separate out its impact from everything else. How much of Texas’ growth is due to warm weather, the oil industry, NASA, or migration from Mexico? Conducting measurements while holding everything else equal is called “regression analysis” in statistics, and it’s required for any article published in an academic journal. It is also what courts use to distinguish evidence admissible in lawsuits from what is termed “junk science.” The numbers provided by ALEC, the National Right to Work Committee, and other advocacy groups fail this most basic test; they hold nothing equal and simply assume that RTW explains growth.

Rigorous studies-using regression analysis to home in on the effect of RTW laws- show that RTW laws:

–  reduce wages by $1,500 a year, for both union and nonunion workers, after accounting for different costs of living in the states (Gould and Shierholz 2011)

–  lower the likelihood that employees get healthcare or pensions through their jobs-again, for both union and nonunion employees (Gould and Shierholz 2011)

–  have no impact whatsoever on job growth (Lafer and Allegretto 2011)

As the article notes, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has its grubby, corrupt mitts in all of this.  That outfit is bad news.

Indiana Democrats are doing what they can to block the anti-worker legislation. And, RTW looks likely to be pushed in Michigan, as well.


New Hampshire conservatives boo Michele Bachmann

by The Big E on October 15, 2011 · 0 comments

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is trying everything to regain the momentum she lost when Texas Gov. Rick Perry joined the Batman Villain Reunion Republican presidential race.  She’s attacked Perry relentlessly.  Mostly, it hasn’t gone well (remember the HPV Vaccine?).

From darling of the campaign trail a mere month ago to getting booed:

Bachmann is a big fan of right-to-work legislation.  Apparently, New Hampshire conservatives aren’t.  Who knew?

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann elicited cheers, boos and some heckling from the lawmakers in New Hampshire Wednesday after she encouraged the Legislature to enact right-to-work legislation.

All of the five GOP hopefuls appearing before the lawmaking body were greeted with respectful applause, but only Bachmann’s speech was met with loud disapproval.

“This body can have a significant impact on the people of New Hampshire’s ability to fully restore their economic liberty by making New Hampshire a right-to-work state,” Bachmann said, pausing for almost 30 seconds while lawmakers reacted.

“Just a few more votes and we’ll be there, New Hampshire,” she announced. The comment was followed by several more seconds of whistles and boos.

“Because you see, it’s a proven fact right-to-work states have created more jobs than those that are not,” Bachmann stated as the boos continued. “Facts are stubborn things.”

“We’re free people!” someone in the audience shouted.
(Crooks and Liars)