GOP Interferes With State Contract Vote

Rep. Debra Hilstrom asks legislators to pass state worker contracts. (Image from The UpTake’s live stream)
Rep. Debra Hilstrom asks legislators to pass state worker contracts. (Image from The UpTake’s live stream)

Minnesota House Republicans blocked a bill to approve state worker contracts Thursday

DFL Rep. Debra Hilstrom had introduced a clean bill to approve contracts negotiated by AFSCME Council 5 and MAPE members.

But GOP Rep. Marion O’Neill gutted the bill by introducing several anti-worker measures, requiring Hilstrom to table the measure.

“In a little while, you are going to vote to raise your own pay 45 percent,” Hilstrom told legislators. “I think it is improper to add items to the negotiated agreement and to make public employees a political football.”

House Republicans did indeed then vote to restore funding for themselves and their staff. They’re going to get 45 percent pay hikes while they make state workers wait in uncertainty for 2 percent raises.

Many Democrats in the House and Senate voted against restoring legislative funding for themselves, saying the Legislature should have approved state worker contracts first.

That means the AFSCME multi-unit and MAPE are still waiting for their contracts to pass. In October, the SER (Subcommittee on Employee Relations) recommended that the full Legislature reject contracts for nearly 30,000 state workers. It was a 6-4 party line vote with Republicans voting to reject the contract.

The SER took no action on AFSCME Unit 8 (corrections) and Unit 25 (radio control operators) contracts, which gives them interim approval. Nobody gets the negotiated health and dental benefit improvements until all the contracts pass.

“I want to remind you these contracts are about people,” said Rep. Clark Johnson, D-North Mankato. “They’re about their families, and it’s about the work these folks do … This is remarkable, important work. It’s a modest raise. It’s a matter of respect for people who do the work for the state of Minnesota.”

O’Neill’s amendment would have tied legislative approval of contracts for the AFSCME multi-unit, corrections and radio control operators to her anti-worker measures.

Currently, SER has 30 days to decide whether to recommend approval of a contract or not; if they don’t act, the contract goes into interim effect. O’Neill wants to eliminate that 30-day window, giving the SER unlimited time to act (or never take action).

O’Neill (R-Maple Lake) also proposed allowing the SER to butt into budget negotiations, which are between the Dayton administration and worker negotiating teams; and to allow the SER to reject negotiated changes to employee health insurance. She falsely claimed dues are sometimes used for political purposes and included a measure to prohibit that. (The law already does so.)

Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) claimed the 2 percent raises were more than the private sector was making. Hilstrom pointed out the private sector is averaging raises of more than 3 percent.

Lawmakers argued that state law and House customs only allow the House to accept or reject a contract, not alter its terms. While House Speaker Kurt Daudt said that was correct, he ruled against stopping the O’Neill amendment.

“This whole thing is just really sad to me,” said Rep. Leon Lillie (D-North St. Paul). “These people (workers) are part of our team and we need to remember that … This is Minnesota. We’re better than this.”

Watch the House debate AFSCME state worker contracts at