Minnesota State Senator Dave Thompson (R-District 36) of Lakeville has announced via social media that he intends to introduce a bill called the “Employee Freedom Act” which will amend the state’s constitution. Despite its misleadingly positive name, there is nothing positive about the “Employee Freedom Act” which moonlights as a “Right-to-Work” law.
With a Republican led House and Senate in Minnesota, the bill is likely to be passed. Though it can be vetoed by Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, the overwhelming GOP majority in the statehouse provides for ultimate veto override power. (UPDATE: Per a comment on this post below, “Proposed amendments to the MN Constitution can be passed with a simple majority and there is no option of a veto by the governor.”) If passed, it will go directly onto the ballot for November’s election alongside an anti-gay marriage proposal that state Republicans have already pushed through. Pulling out all of the stops in an attempt to turn traditionally blue Minnesota red in time for the 2012 Presidential Election, Republicans seek to curry favor with members of the state’s most extreme base.
The Northfield Patch recently reported Thompson’s intentions, which labor officials are having trouble swallowing:
Thompson, of Lakeville, represents one precinct in Northfield.
He told KSTP that the bill would give workers the choice to join a union or not. In the event they decline, they don’t pay dues, he said. All unions, both public and private, would be affected, but collective bargaining rights would not be altered, he said.
Shar Knutson, who heads the state’s AFL-CIO, told MinnPost that she isn’t surprised by Thompson’s bill.
“What we saw today is identical to what we’ve seen in Ohio and Wisconsin,” she told MinnPost. “This is a national effort being pushed by corporate interests.”
The difference between Thompson’s plan and the one in Wisconsin is that Minnesota is not attacking collective bargaining, per se. Like Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and New Hampshire, a wave of Tea Party electoral wins has opened the door for huge changes to the worker-owner power structure. These changes sway drastically in the owners’ collective favor. Union leaders recently expressed their concern to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press:
They also said the proposed constitutional amendment mimics legislation being brought to statehouses across the nation by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization liberal interest groups claim is pushing corporate-backed bills across the nation.
“Don’t be fooled, ‘right to work’ is not about choice. It is a cynical back-door strategy to weaken unions financially so they can no longer provide effective workplace protections to hardworking employees,” said Jim Monroe, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees.
As Republicans continue to follow the extremist advice of ALEC, the Koch Brothers, and Grover Norquist, they are straying further and further from the rational center. If Wisconsin is any indication of how workers and union members in Minnesota will react, then the GOP is luring turmoil into the North Star state for the remainder of 2012. State Senator Thompson told the Northfield Patch that he plans to stick by his decision to impose “Right-to-Work”:
Popular or unpopular, Thompson told MinnPost he’s doing what he believes is the right thing to do.
“I’m here to do what I believe is right,” Thompson said. “If that costs me an election in November, so be it.”