Lori Sturdevant, an editorial writer and columnist, has covered state government and politics for more than 30 years.

A taste of Madison

Posted by: Lori Sturdevant Updated: March 12, 2012 - 9:04 AM

"Just vote no!" and "Hey, hey, ho, ho, attacks on workers have to go!" echoed through the Capitol corridors Monday morning as an estimated 1,000 members and friends of labor unions chanted their disdain for a proposed constitutional amendment to ban labor contracts that require all workers employed under the terms of the contract to pay a share of union costs -- also known as "right to work." 

The crowd was large, loud and defiant enough to evoke memories of last year's labor demonstrations in Madison, Wis., as Republicans led by Gov. Scott Walker enacted restrictions on public employee union bargaining rights. "Right to work" is understood by organized labor as union-busting, arguably more damaging to the union cause than Wisconsin's restictions on public employee collective bargaining. "Right to work" undercuts both public- and private-sector unions.

A member of the Senate sergeant-at-arms office said Monday's turnout was slightly smaller than the throng he witnessed last May when the Legislature voted to put a ban on same-sex marriage on the November 2012 ballot. But Monday's hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee was only the first committee stop for "right to work." The crowd and the intensity are likely to swell if and when this proposal gets to the House and Senate floors.

If it goes on the ballot, the heat will be felt in legislative campaigns this fall -- or so union leaders want legislators to believe."Intimidation is part of the game," noted Senate GOP communications director Steve Sviggum. It is -- but the fact that scores of Minnesotans made a pre-dawn drive from Winona, Mankato, Duluth and beyond to stand and shout outside a Capitol hearing room tells me that for them, this is no game.

 

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