Union leaders say they are moving full speed ahead with their legislative agenda this year, despite recent comments from Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk suggesting that many issues on their wish list will not pass this session.
Bakk told an audience at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey school on Monday that a major increase in the minimum wage, unionization of daycare providers and a two-year unemployment extension for locked-out workers will be a tough sell at the Legislature this year, according to Minnesota Public Radio. All of those proposals are being pushed by unions this session.
AFL-CIO spokesman Chris Shields said he was surprised by the comments from Bakk, who was a carpenters’ union leader before coming to the Legislature.
“We were certainly taken aback by those statements, but at the same time we are going to continue moving forward on our legislative agenda. Our 75-member board approved this agenda, and that means a meaningful increase in the minimum wage is a critical issue,” Shields said. “Those things are moving forward pretty quickly.”
Shields noted that the extended unemployment provision has advanced in the House jobs bill, and that DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler‘s bill to increase the minimum wage to $9.95 an hour is also set up for a floor vote. Bakk said he expects the minimum wage to increase to a certain extent this session, but he dismissed the $10.55 figure initially pushed by AFL-CIO. “We are under no illusion that it’s going to be over $10,” Shields said.
Winkler took a jab at the Senate on Monday, saying on Twitter that he’s “not sure what agenda [the Minnesota] Senate has left for working Minnesotans.”
Members of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota rallied at the Capitol on Tuesday, calling on legislators to pass a bill to allow the unionization of daycare providers and other bills.
United Food and Commercial Worker’s lobbyist Bernie Hesse said unions were a big part of the reason Senate DFLers reclaimed majority status in the chamber, and union members are going to have to remind lawmakers of that fact.
“This has to happen this session, because it’s not going to happen next session with an election coming up,” he said. “They’re going to need us to deliver, and we are ready to organize in the districts that need us most.”