St. Paul Regional Labor Federation: Election results are cause for celebration

[Bobby Kasper, president of the 50,000-member St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, wrote this Labor Voices column with Kera Peterson and Peter Polga-Hecimovich, political organizers for the Federation.]

The St. Paul Regional Labor Federation has a lot to be proud of from the November elections. With our union brothers and sisters from across the state we helped beat back a destructive Voter ID Amendment, the anti-gay marriage amendment and, most critically, swung control of the Legislature to a pro-labor majority.

In our federation alone we managed to swing an incredible nine legislative seats from anti-union candidates to pro-Labor candidates, including six in Dakota County and two in Washington County. Also victorious was Rick Nolan, our 8th Congressional District candidate. With these victories and others across Minnesota we sent a powerful message to those at the Capitol that unions are a force to be reckoned with and, when awakened, we will use our strength to fight with all of our might for those causes in which we believe.

During the last legislative session the Republicans controlled both houses of the Legislature and we hoped, despite our better instincts, that they would hold true to their promises of a jobs-centered legislative session. Instead of enjoying job creation, however, we found ourselves fighting a possible Right to Work amendment, devastating changes in prevailing wages, and a host of social issues the Republicans put forward.

We knew, given how close we were to seeing that Right to Work Amendment on the ballot this fall, that without a legislative majority it was only a matter of time before it came up again. So the St. Paul RLF got out early, with a series of candidate meet-and-greets in all four of our counties in June, introducing our legislative and congressional candidates to the unions. This crop of candidates, we knew, was a powerful group who would be our allies if elected.

In true form, our affiliate unions came through with volunteers, resources and release staff for the Federation, and we were able to start on the ground early, with calls and door knocks to targeted households happening as early as July. Between our volunteers and release staff, we began a mission that culminated with over 1,000 volunteer shifts.  This involved more than 20,000 individual doors knocked and tens of thousands of calls more to our targeted universe of union members.

Make no mistake about it; those phone calls and door knocks helped push our endorsed candidates over the line. This was the work that you all did.  We pushed hard and because of you we were blessed with a historic victory.

Sisters and Brothers, we should all be proud. For the first time in 22 years we have a legislative majority and governor who, after two years, we can finally bring out of the net to help us go on the offensive. We have this because of the hard work of our volunteers and release staff and the resources that all of our unions threw into this fight.

Now, as we approach this new legislative session, we can finally put a focus on the issues that we all know should reign supreme. It is time to put our friends and families back to work. Our efforts cannot be finished. We must keep pushing to hold all of our elected officials accountable, and we must turn our seasonal campaign into a year-around one.

With the election over, we look hope you join us in the new year as we let our new legislature know that the unions are here, and we are here to stay.

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