The exterior of the Minnesota State Capitol prior to this year's exterior renovation project.

Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Union, DFL jointly thumb their noses at the law

  • Article by: Steve Drazkowski and Joyce Peppin
  • September 26, 2013 - 7:33 PM

Throughout our history, we’ve recognized famous pairs who, once they joined forces became powerful, successful, famous — even infamous. Think Sonny and Cher, Siskel and Ebert, Bonnie and Clyde.

It’s time to add Democrats and unions to the list. Their “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” camaraderie has become so commonplace that one side won’t even cry foul when the other breaks the law.

Not long ago, the Legislative Audit Commission — a bipartisan group that represents the interests of the Minnesota House and Senate — directed the nonpartisan and well-respected Office of the Legislative Auditor to conduct an evaluation centered on state employee union “fair share” fee calculations.

Under Minnesota law, these unions can charge such a fee to an employee who chooses not to join the bargaining unit. By law, it may not exceed 85 percent of regular member dues.

The audit was done to ensure that the state employee unions were spending at least that 85 percent on activities that benefited all employees, regardless of union membership.

In other words, the Legislature wanted to ensure that fair share fees were not being used for political purposes, or to fund the campaigns of political parties or candidates.

Of the 10 state employee labor unions sampled, nine abided by the law and fulfilled the Legislative Auditor’s financial information request. However, one union, the Minnesota Law Enforcement Association (MLEA), flat out refused because it claimed the information “would be distorted to pursue a clearly partisan and anti-union agenda.”

Let us be very clear: The law specifically requires the MLEA to provide this data. By spurning participation, the MLEA broke the law.

Do not miss the irony here. This organization, designed to negotiate contracts for those who enforce the law, acted in complete disregard for it. In doing so, the MLEA effectively undermined the moral authority of all of the fine men and women in law enforcement whom it purports to represent.

This is a huge disservice to those who carry a badge, as well as to the people who provide the authority and funding for them to do so.

On Sept. 20, the Legislature’s Subcommittee on Employee Relations was asked to ratify state employee union contracts, including those of the MLEA. As members of the subcommittee, we asked MLEA representatives why they refused to follow the law and urged the committee to temporarily hold back on approving the MLEA contract until it agreed to play by the same rules as other unions by providing financial information to the legislative auditor.

The MLEA never responded to our questions — because Democrats on the subcommittee wouldn’t allow it. Instead, they quickly approved all the generous union pay increases and actually lashed out at us because we dared to question why the MLEA refused to follow the law.

It’s no secret that unions are among the top Democratic campaign contributors. We just witnessed a session of unprecedented DFL union payback as thanks for financial support during the 2012 election cycle. This contract rubber stamp is just another example of a shady alliance between this almighty duo.

We are fully supportive and thankful for the work of law enforcement officials throughout the state. But even they should be troubled by the message being sent by their union that it’s OK to ignore the laws so long as you’re receiving a payback from your buddies.

Do we live in a state of laws or a state of political connections? If your bargaining unit wants improved financial benefits, is it unreasonable to expect it to submit financial documents that are required by statute?

In the eyes of these legislative Democrats, political rewards appear to be more important than their oath of office or protecting their constituents. And as part of a new public relationship with their union partners, state laws apparently do not apply.


Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, and Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, are members of the Minnesota House.

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