GOP scheme to strip Minn. cities of right to pass pro-worker measures may face veto

By Press Associates and Workday Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn. —A right-wing Republican scheme to strip Minnesota cities of their right to pass pro-worker ordinances faces a potential veto by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.

But even with unions, local mayors and progressive groups cheering him on and urging him to act, Dayton’s veto is not a done deal yet. He recently told a newspaper in Bloomington there may be a compromise.

News reports differ on the governor’s thinking on the issue, and his decision could set a nationwide precedent. It also would immediately hit 150,000 low-income Minnesotans.

That’s because successful efforts by unions, the Fight for 15, groups representing African-American and Latino residents and their allies to raise the minimum wage and enact paid sick leave in Minneapolis and St. Paul incensed right wingers and business.

They retaliated by getting the GOP-run legislature to yank all labor rights powers from cities around Minnesota and make the destruction retroactive to the Twin Cities ordinances, too. The measure easily passed the state House, but not the Senate: 35-31.

If the right wingers win in Minnesota, though, they would try the same tactic elsewhere. They’re already testing a variation in Missouri, scheming to destroy citizens’ right to petition the legislature’s new GOP-passed so-called “right to work” law to a statewide referendum.

The Minnesota bill, House File 600, “would prevent any local government from passing ordinances that provide working people paid sick days, paid family leave or raise the minimum wage,” Workday Minnesota summarized.

“It’s been amazing to see the work done over the last several years to create a conversation in our local communities about workplace issues and expanding the scope of municipal influence on labor standards. Rooted in organizing, these issues are being taken up for the health and vitality of our local communities,” Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou, president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, wrote in Workday.

“Much of this conversation has been led by those most affected — low income workers and workers of color,” she said. “It is so important that workers and communities are engaged in the process and that changes are not just legislated. Without this wide participation, improving labor standards would not truly be an organizing tool that builds power for workers.

“This great work currently is being threatened by Minnesota state legislators influenced by corporate interests. They want to take away local control from our cities and counties,” she warned. The bill “specifically attacks labor standards. It would reverse gains on earned sick time and stop any minimum wage work in progress. It would have profound impacts, both known and unknown, on other labor standards and labor agreements that we have fought hard for and rely on at the local level to protect our own membership.

But all the ‘preemption’ bills are an attack on local democracy, but the attack on labor standards is particularly egregious and a shot straight at the bow of our unions. This power grab against local control is just another attack in the long line of corporate strategies to limit our influence,” she declared.

The Minnesota AFL-CIO and the regional federation for the Twin Cities both established toll-free numbers for citizens to call Dayton, urging a veto. So do local mayors and public officials, not just in the Twin Cities. Dozens of cities passed resolutions against preemption.

“This is the essence of local government and this is why the decision-making power of local governments must be preserved and protected,” Maria Gonzalez, a Richfield City Councilwoman, said. And North Branch Mayor Kirsten Kennedy said the GOP-pushed legislation “seems like a power grab to me.”

Source: PAI