Republican governor blasted ‘right to work’ legislation 50 years ago

Fifty years ago, to the surprise of Minnesota’s labor community, Republican Gov. Elmer Anderson offered his opposition to a lethal brand of anti-union legislation unions are still fighting today.

The Feb. 14, 1963, issue of The Union Advocate reported Anderson had issued a statement saying he would veto any “compulsory open shop legislation, which usually masquerades as a ‘right-to-work’ bill.”

Although the Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate in Minnesota, RTW had not emerged as part of the party’s agenda, and Anderson issued the statement – reported by mainstream media as well as the labor press – in response to a written inquiry from the business manager of Office and Professional Employees Local 12.

“Clearly and unequivocally I oppose ‘right-to-work’ legislation … I do not know any plainer or clearer way to say it,” Anderson said. “My reason is that I do not believe it would aid labor relations in our state but would weaken the Labor Movement and cause friction between Management and Labor and cause difficulties within Organized Labor where there would be some workers wanting a free ride.”

[The Union Advocate’s “This Month in the Archives” feature offers a look back at what the newspaper was reporting from 5 to 100 years ago. Our digital archives are online, searchable and free to anyone. Click here for access.]

100 Years Ago: A better Legislature, better results

OK, so it only feels like it’s been 100 years since state lawmakers took up an agenda on behalf of Minnesota’s working families. But that was, in fact, the case during the 1913 legislative session, according to the Feb. 14 Union Advocate:

“It is particularly pleasing to note that bills in the interest of labor are given close and careful attention with a view to securing the best results,” The Advocate reported.

Bills the labor press monitored closely that year included legislation to require one day of rest per week for workers in factories, workshops or mercantile establishments (workers caring for live animals or maintaining fires were exempted).

Several bills concerning workplace safety progressed through the Legislature: one requiring employers to report accidents to the state, one requiring physicians to report cases of lead poisoning, and another requiring railroads to equip locomotives with “suitable and proper” headlights.

75 Years Ago: Two-day streetcar and bus strike ended

Thirty-five motormen and conductors refused to take their streetcars out of the barn Feb. 14, 1938, after management abruptly announced it was eliminating one of two paid positions aboard the Fort Snelling-Plymouth-Minnehaha streetcar line.

The Monday-morning strike spread quickly among transit workers throughout the Twin Cities, grinding bus and streetcar service to a halt.

The strike lasted until the following evening, when members of Local 1005 of the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway and Motor Coach Employees of America – today’s Amalgamated Transit Workers union – voted 754 to 167 to end the work stoppage.

The Union Advocate called the strike a win for transit workers in its Feb. 17 edition, noting that the company agreed to restore two-man service to streetcars – and provide 30-days notice “in the event the company decides to change any two-man car operation to one-man operation.”

Wednesday morning’s commute, meanwhile, was smooth sailing.

“At 11 p.m. Tuesday the strike was off,” The Advocate reported. “Motormen, conductors and bus drivers were at their stations waiting word of the settlement and the service was resumed immediately.”

AFSCME Local 3800 staged a demonstration during the installation of new U of M President Robert Bruininks in February 2003.

AFSCME Local 3800 staged a demonstration during the installation of new U of M President Robert Bruininks in February 2003.

10 Years Ago: AFSCME members spotted trend in U funding

Clerical workers at the University of Minnesota spotted a disturbing trend ten years ago: public disinvestment in the state’s land-grant university. And the workers, members of AFSCME Local 3800, put the blame squarely on Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

In an action organized by the local, 100 demonstrators greeted faculty and administrators as they processed in ceremonial garb to view the installation of new president Robert Bruininks Feb. 28, 2003, The Advocate reported.

The demonstrators “mostly stood quietly, carrying signs saying ‘Save Public Education’ and ‘Support Public Service.’ They distributed fliers protesting Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s budget policies, which include slashing $185 million in funding to the university.”

The cuts, of course, have only grown worse. The U’s $1.18 billion budget request for 2014-15, presented to lawmakers last month, represents about the same level of state funding the U received in 2001.

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