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Dayton decries 'divisive strategy' in Wisconsin

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton Updated: February 20, 2011 - 12:35 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton Sunday morning bashed what he called "drastic" attempts to "steal" employees collective bargaining rights in a "divisive political strategy."

On WCCO-TV, the governor, a DFLer, said Minnesota doesn't want a situation like Wisconsin's, where workers have gathered by the tens of thousands to protest, schools have closed and lawmakers are at an impasse.

Dayton said he wouldn't let moves to undercut unions' power or union workers' pensions to take hold in Minnesota.

"Some of the proposals, like abolishing public pensions on July 1st, are simply not going to become law if I am governor. And Minnesota is not going to become a Right to Work state if  I'm governor. People have a right to bargain collectively. That's an earned right over the last century in this country and for somebody to just unilaterally take that away - just steal it away from people -- is simply not going to happen in Minnesota," Dayton said.

(In the Minnesota Legislature, the move to pass Right to Work legislation is a constitutional amendment. Governors have no veto power over constitutional amendments. They simply need a majority from both Houses of the Legislature to get on the ballot. Once on the ballot in a general election, amendments need "yes" votes from a majority of those voting.

It may not get that far. In their briefing for reporters on Friday, neither Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, nor House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, jumped to support the 'Right to Work' moves.

"Those are very controversial issues. They've been introduced and they'll move through the process just like the other bills. We've got $32 billion that we've got to prioritize in the next biennium," Dean said when asked about the 'Right to Work' amendments. "They've been introduced and we are moving them through the process.")

On the television show Sunday, Dayton defended public employees, as he has before since he became governor.

The governor said teachers and other public employees have taken wage cuts or freezes.

"It's not true that there hasn't been belt tightening," he said.

He said the current political moves to address unions is designed to "pit middle income people against one other, public sector and private sector." He said they are "pitting Americans against one another because somebody is making a dollar an hour more or less than somebody else is really a divisive political strategy that some are trying to employ right now."

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