No longer playing defense, AFSCME rallies at the Capitol
- Blog Post by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
- February 26, 2013 - 4:00 PM
For years when the green pom-pom waving union workers from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees rallied at the Minnesota Capitol, they played defense.
Not this year.
"We're going to get something done this year," said Wayne Altonen, a retired University of Minnesota pipefitter, one of about 1,000 who attended Tuesday's Capitol rally.
"We've got some power," said Tom Besnett, a retired social worker who has attended AFSCME's annual rally for years.
With a supportive DFL-controlled Legislature and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton in office, the members cheered the governor's tax-raising budget, the prospect of unionized child care workers, higher state funding for local governments, colleges and universities.
"This is our moment," AFSCME Council 5 executive director Eliot Seide told the members who ringed the Capitol rotunda and the two balconies above.
The potential to get what they want produced a far different rallying cry in the Capitol's marble halls than echoed last year, when AFSCME was working to beat back Republican proposals. Instead, the union workers offered a full-throated endorsement of Dayton's budget, which would raise the income tax on upper incomes and lower and expand sales taxes on consumer goods and newly tax business to business services.
"We're squaring off against big businesses that refuse to pay their fair share...AFSCME's here today not just for public workers, not just for union workers, AFSCME's here today to grow the middle class," Seide said as the crowd picked up the 'grow the middle class' chant.
AFSCME was the first union to endorse Dayton in the 2010 gubernatorial election and added boots-on-the-ground to its hefty fundraising for Democratic lawmakers last year. The union, which represents more than 40,000 Minnesota workers, spent about $1 million in the 2012 election and a similar amount in 2010 to help Dayton.
© 2013 Star Tribune