"They own the place," GOP state Rep. Pat Garofalo sarcastically said of labor unions Monday, as pro-union forces loudly celebrated the House's 68-66 vote to authorize state-paid child care providers and personal care attendants to organize a union.
The contentious unionization issue was indeed a big-deal, long-sought victory for the state's union movement. It's seen as a boon to the public employees' union AFSCME, which will seek to organize providers of state-subsidized child care, and SEIU, the service workers union expected to organize state-paid providers of personal care services to the disabled. .
But in other respects, the DFL-controlled Legislature left plenty of union agenda items undone.
A minimum wage increase that was among the first bills introduced didn't cross the session's finish line by 11:59 p.m. Monday. A conference committee couldn't find an agreeable way to split the $1.75/hour difference between the wage floors preferred by the House ($9.50) and the Senate ($7.75).
My guess is that there are few labor negotiators in Minnesota today who wish they could school those conferees in the art of deal-making. This is a situation in which a small gain would have been better than another year of delay.
Two measures keenly desired by labor's construction trades also stalled. An $800 million bonding package shriveled to $176 million, denying a green light to scores of higher education buildings and infrastructure projects around the state. And transportation funding was reduced to what was called a "lights-on" bill for MnDOT. No new revenue was supplied to jumpstart highway improvements or transit construction.
My hunch is that the union-backed measures that were not accomplished enjoy more public backing than the one that was. I'd further note that DFL politicians appear similarly allied, and beholden to, unions of all stripes. Choosing to smile on the AFSCME/SEIU request and not on the others strikes me as a choice that DFL legislators will be asked to explain, maybe again and again.