We did it 40 years ago, and we can do it again

Editor’s Note: David Roe was elected president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO in October 1966 and served in that position until his retirement in December 1984. Prior to that, he served as president of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council and worked as representative for his own local union, Lathers Local 190. Roe wrote this “Labor Voices” column for the February 2012 Union Advocate.

In 1970, when Wendell Anderson was elected governor, the Minnesota House and Senate were led by a conservative majority. At the 1972 DFL Party endorsing convention, anti-war activists controlled the convention. The platform called for legalizing marijuana and amnesty for those anti-war activists who fled to Canada to avoid the draft. These were the only two items passed by the convention.

Sen. George McGovern from South Dakota was the Democratic candidate for President. George Meany, AFL-CIO president, ordered state bodies not to endorse McGovern. The Colorado AFL-CIO endorsed McGovern contrary to the position of the national AFL-CIO, and the president and executive board of the Colorado AFL-CIO were removed. The state body was put under receivership. The Minnesota AFL-CIO passed a resolution calling for an all-out effort to defeat Richard Nixon in his bid for re-election.

In 1972, the Minnesota AFL-CIO and its affiliates, along with the office of Gov. Anderson, worked hard and in a coordinated effort elected, for the first time in Minnesota history, a majority of liberal members to the State Senate and, for the second time, a majority in the Minnesota House. We had a one-vote majority earlier. We kept majorities in both bodies until 2010, when the conservatives won a majority in both bodies.

During the 1973 session of the liberal-controlled Minnesota Legislature, we passed the first minimum wage law for Minnesota and PELRA, which gave public employees the right to strike. Public employees went from collective “begging” to collective bargaining. We won increases in workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance with a cost-of-living clause, which allowed for automatic increases in WC and UI without having to go back to the Legislature for increases. Tax reform and many additional bills for the betterment of all working men and women were passed. In 1973, bills were passed that renamed conservatives “Republicans” and liberals “Democrats.”

In 2010, despite working hard and electing a great DFL governor, Mark Dayton, the Minnesota House and Senate fell to the Republicans for the first time in nearly 40 years. The Republicans were aided by the “Tea Party,” whose platform includes no new taxes for people and an all-out attack on workers and, particularly, public employees’ rights. Gov. Dayton stood tall representing working families and vetoed anti-worker and anti-family legislation.

The year 2012 is a pivotal one for working men and women, and we can and must repeat the election of 1972.

Under the leadership and direction of Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson, we can and will!

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