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Service workers union's goals get Dayton, leaders support

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, Democrats, Republicans Updated: February 20, 2013 - 5:47 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton and the leaders of the House and Senate gave Minnesota members of the Service Employees International Union support for their goals during a Capitol rally on Wednesday.

Higher minimum wage? The governor, House Speaker Paul Thissen and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk all say they support an increase.

Cover more people under Medicaid? Already signed into law.

A law allowing unionization of home-care workers? Dayton says he would sign a bill.

Health exchange, a key component of the federal health care overhaul? Moving quickly toward Dayton's desk.

The rally underscores vast change in unions' reception at the Capitol. Largely thwarted in over the last two years by the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, unions and their goals are finding welcome reception at the Capitol now that Democrats hold the Legislature and the governor's office.

"We are going to show Minnesotans that we are going to build a fair tax system we are going to invest in things that are important...and we are put in that position because of all the help that you provided over the summer and the fall, giving us the opportunity to put Minnesota back on a path toward economic prosperity," Bakk, of Cook, told the group of union members. Thissen, of Minneapolis, also gave the group a warm reception.

Dayton said after he spoke that to the rally that he wanted bills to both allow child care workers and personal care attendants to vote on unionization. Last year, a judge decided that Dayton could not use his executive power to call for a union election among child care workers.

The governor said his support for their goals had little to do with the $1 million SEIU spent on Minnesota elections last year.

"I think it has everything to do with the people who were here today and who they are," Dayton said.

Bakk said his support for union goals has to do with his own union background and deeply held beliefs, not any campaign contributions.

"I think the agenda of Democrats and the Democratic platform is closely aligned with the agenda of organized labor," said Bakk. "I believe (we have) common goals and objectives."

On Wednesday, Republican Rep. Jim Abeler, of Anoka, also addressed the SEIU rally, telling members that "labor...is not a partisan issue."

Abeler, who has won SEIU endorsement for his elections, said that he could not agree with the union on all its goals but could see supporting some. He said he would support raising Minnesota's minimum wage from the current $6.15 an hour to at least the federal minimum of $7.25.

He also said he may be willing to support, or even potentially co-sponsor, the bill to allow SEIU to bargain with the state on behalf of home-care workers who help elderly or disabled Minnesotans.

"I believe in bargaining," he said.

 

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