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Minnesota unions fight ‘Right to Work’ constitutional amendment

By Tracy Molm

Demonstrators against "Right to Work" amendment fill halls of Mn State Capitol.

St. Paul, MN – Over 1000 union members from all sections of the labor movement packed the Minnesota capitol, March 12, as right-wing legislators jammed a so-called ‘Right to Work’ constitutional amendment through a Senate committee. The proposed amendment needs to pass the both houses of the legislature for it to be placed on the ballot this fall.

“This amendment is an attack on workers and unions,” said Cherrene Horazuk, chief steward of AFSCME Local 3800, “it would kill our power at the bargaining table.”

Steve Fadness, a Duluth pipe fitter stated, “We have to stop this legislation because we won't be able to get back what we lose if it passes.”

Tom Fox, a retired member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, commented, “If this anti-worker amendment passes it will pit worker against worker and state against state and will domino to other states.”

A member of Minnesota Nurses Association, Susan Kreitz said, “Without a union workers will be mistreated and patient care would decline. We want Minnesota to stay a state with a vibrant union movement.”

The proposed amendment was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee to a standing room only crowd, while outside the hearing room union members packed the hallways chanting “Hey hey! Ho ho! Union busting has got to go!” “Right to work – bad deal! Right to work – unsafe!” and, hearkening back to the 2011 Madison union mobilizations, “Kill the bill!”

For over three hours, the power of the unions’ force could be heard and felt throughout the capitol and inside the hearing room. Tom Clark, Treasurer of Firefighters Local 82 and several of his fellow union members were outside the hearing. “Right to work is bad for unions and all of Minnesota. If this passes through committee today we must start a huge education campaign, letting everyone know that over time, ‘Right to Work’ will erode safety, bargaining power and workers rights.”

Diane Ersbo of Teamsters local 638 said, “I am here because I value my union job. Because I have a son with a disability, decent health care is really important. I make good wages; I’m paid equally on the shop floor compared to my male counterparts; I’m treated with respect. Right to work would end all of that. It’s important that we not wait until it gets to the ballot because there is too much at stake. Now is the time to do everything you can to stand up against this amendment.”

The amendment passed the committee 7-6, with one Republican voting against it. As politicians left the hearing room, they had to go through a gauntlet of people chanting “Shame! Shame!” and “We will return.” Republican Senators who voted for the amendment hurriedly walk past protesters and into an elevator, escorted by an entourage of police.

From here, the will move to the Rules and Administration Committee before going to the full Senate.

Martin Goff from UNITE HERE Local 17 commented, “This amendment is a culmination of attacks on the social safety net and unions, while also deregulating businesses, allowing them to reap unprecedented profits on the backs of workers.”

Protestors in MN State Capitol slam 'Right to Work' amendment.

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