With time running out at the Capitol, unions plan rally for jobs

Before adjourning the 2012 legislative session, Minnesota lawmakers could act on a pair of bills that, if passed, would create nearly 50,000 family-sustaining jobs. But on Tuesday it appeared Republican majorities in the House and Senate were more preoccupied with saving their own.

By law, the session must adjourn by May 21. That means the clock is ticking on an infrastructure-jobs bill and a $1 billion financing package for construction of a new Vikings stadium. Together, the measures could create more than 40,000 jobs in the sluggish construction industry.

Unions are lobbying hard for both measures. The state’s largest labor federation, the Minnesota AFL-CIO, announced plans to stage a rally on the Capitol steps Thursday at 11 a.m.

“Workers in the construction trades were hit hardest when the great recession began and the sector still has yet to recover,” Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson said. “Stadium construction and a large infrastructure bill will put tens of thousands of Minnesota construction workers back on the job in every corner of the state.

“If the Legislature adjourns and leaves nearly 40,000 family sustaining jobs on the table; it will be a great disservice to Minnesotans who want and need to work. Middle class Minnesotans are waiting for real results on job creation from this Legislature.”

Gov. Mark Dayton, waiting for the Legislature to resume its work tomorrow, held a press conference at the Capitol today, responding with visible disappointment to Republican leaders for calling a last-minute stadium audible yesterday. They attempted to alter the existing stadium package after “thousands of hours of negotiations and seven committee hearings,” according to the governor.

The Republican proposal for a “roof-ready” stadium on the current Metrodome site is a non-starter for the Vikings’ local partner, the City of Minneapolis. Dayton said Republicans know their proposal will not pass, but are seeking to give themselves political cover with voters hungry for the jobs a new stadium would create.

Dayton characterized it as “one of the most cynical attempts at political gamesmanship” he has ever seen.

“It’s extremely, extremely disappointing and profoundly disturbing that all these months of working together, working it out together … have come to this kind of disaster,” Dayton added. “I hold the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate responsible for it.”

Unions are encouraging members to tell their legislators that Minnesota needs middle class jobs, not tax cuts for corporations.

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