Bobby Kasper: A successful session – with room for improvement

Bobby Kasper

Bobby Kasper

We here at the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation entered this session with high hopes. Having claimed the state-government trifecta – pro-worker majorities the House and Senate, as well as a pro-labor governor – for the first time in more than two decades, we believed that with some hard work lobbying and some help from our endorsed legislators, we could make great strides for our unions and for all Minnesotans. Ultimately, our high hopes were not dashed and, though suffering some disappointments, we finished strong and accomplished many of the extraordinary goals we originally put forth in January.

We in labor laid out the successes we reached this session, including historic investments in E-12 education, a two-year tuition freeze at public colleges and universities, tax reform that ensures the richest Minnesotans pay their fair share, property-tax relief for middle-class homeowners, job-creating investments in construction projects like the Mall of America expansion, and an opportunity for child-care providers and home health care workers to vote on whether to form a union. And none of it would have been possible without Gov. Mark Dayton’s courageous leadership on the state budget.

With all those successes, of course, some legislation was apt to be left for next session. The AFL-CIO’s minimum wage push to between $9 and $9.50 per hour, while adjusting for inflation every year, was dropped late in the session. We will make this a priority when lawmakers return next year. Additionally, the metro-wide sales tax, which would have funded the creation of a modern mass transit system in the Twin Cities, was put aside a later time. And the infrastructure-jobs bill – the bonding bill – was a rather small sum of $156 million, a disappointing number for our Building Trades brothers and sisters who would like nothing more than to be put to work helping sustain critical infrastructure projects statewide.

Disappointments will come with every session, of course. But the historic investments in our state made by this pro-worker Legislature far outweigh the inaction on those bills left on the table. Next legislative session our unions and the people of Minnesota have plenty more to fight for and, as this year, we will do so tooth-and-nail. And of course, it all starts with electing friends to the Legislature. We have to acknowledge that in the end it is up to every one of us to keep fighting and get involved with our future elections – work that will begin, believe it or not, this summer! Click here to find out how you can get involved.

We have good reason to celebrate our victories. We won better schools and safer workplaces, new rights for child-care providers and home health care workers, and much-needed progress toward tax fairness. We should all be proud of both the hard work we put into helping elect these legislators and our governor, but also in the countless hours we all put into lobbying at the Capitol. Together, we helped ensure that the promise of a better tomorrow – and a better Minnesota – would be fulfilled.

– Bobby Kasper is president of the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, and a member of Laborers Local 132.

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