The Minnesota Legislature adjourned in April 1913 after nearly three months in session, but not before passing several bills benefiting the state’s workers.
The Union Advocate provided a list the Legislature’s accomplishments in it April 25 edition – from establishing a new worker’s compensation system to requiring employers to install safety devices where heavy machinery is operated.
[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.]
A new law also penalized employers who engaged in “misrepresentation” designed to “induce workingmen to go to another part of the state” to replace striking or locked-out workers. Another law created a commission tasked with establishing a living wage for women and minors.
Lawmakers failed to pass labor-backed bills requiring one day’s rest in seven and a semi-monthly payday, but they were able to kill off legislative attempts to dismantle the Board of Examiniers of Horseshoers, much to the relief of union observers.
The Advocate’s conclusion: “There are many results well enough known to be stated with positiveness, and which stand out clearly to the credit of the lawmaking body of the state.”
75 Years Ago: Mechanics vote to strike
Union mechanics staffing “practically every garage” in St. Paul were poised to strike in April 1938 after unanimously voting to reject their employers’ demand for hourly wage reductions of 15 to 19 cents.
Taking a page out of the playbook still used by employers today, members of the St. Paul Automobile Dealers Association sought to use a nationwide recession 75 years ago as an excuse to squeeze concessions from their workers, according to James Ashe, organizer for Machinists and Garage Mechanics Local 459.
“The automotive employers have taken full advantage of the recession in an effort to hammer down the established wage scales of auto mechanics and body and fender workers,” Ashe told The Union Advocate. “We are in no mood to consider reducing these standards.”
The automobile dealers quickly realized their workers meant business. Negotiations picked up, the union postponed its strike 24 hours and the two sides reached a tentative agreement the day after the strike was set to begin.
50 Years Ago: Sales tax a ‘family budget wrecker’
Tax reform is afoot at the Capitol in 2013, but it was a big issue in the Legislature 50 years ago as well. A front-page editorial in the April 18, 1963, edition of The Union Advocate railed against legislative calls for a statewide sales tax, “that hardy biennial perennial” that had been rearing its ugly head at the Capitol during the last several sessions.
“This 1963 version of the state sales tax is designed to do exactly the same thing it was always designed to do – shift the tax burden of the big corporations onto the shoulders of those least able to pay,” the editorial read.
Exemptions for food and clothing were not included in the bill as introduced because, in The Advocate’s estimation, “the aim is to raise approximately $157 million a year – most of it from people who simply can’t afford to pay more for the things they need in order to live.”
Economists estimated the sales tax’s cost to a typical family of four in Minnesota would be between $126 and $132 annually.
Though it failed to pass in 1963, four years later lawmakers overrode two vetoes from Republican Gov. Harold LeVander, to pass the sales tax.