Unions see plenty to like in results of 2013 legislative session

Service Employees International Union members and staff join a rally for marriage equality at the Capitol. Unions were a big part of the successful push to legalize same-sex marriage.

Service Employees International Union members and staff join a rally for marriage equality at the Capitol. Unions were a big part of the successful push to legalize same-sex marriage.

Legislative leaders called 2013 the “education session” for the new investments in E-12 students, and a bill to extend union rights to 21,000 child-care providers and home health care workers grabbed headlines as Republicans tried to filibuster it to death.

But the 2013 legislative session yielded many other victories for union members and middle class families. Here’s a look at some of the less-publicized measures passed by labor-endorsed majorities in the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Musicians locked out by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra perform an impromptu concert in the hall outside a Minnesota House committee hearing on lockouts.

Musicians locked out by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra perform an impromptu concert in the hall outside a Minnesota House committee hearing on lockouts.

• Protections for locked-out workers. Included in the jobs bill is a 26-week extension of unemployment-insurance benefits for any worker whose employer locks them out.

Lockouts have gained popularity among Minnesota employers looking to flex their muscles in contract negotiations with union workers. Minnesota Orchestra musicians remain locked out of their jobs, while St. Paul Chamber Orchestra musicians and workers at American Crystal Sugar in the Red River Valley recently struck deals to return to work.

Lawmakers viewed the extension of unemployment benefits as a way to mitigate the negative impact lockouts have had on families, communities and businesses.

• Marriage equality. Thousands gathered outside the Minnesota State Capitol on May 14 to watch Dayton sign legislation granting same-sex couples the right to marry. Several Minnesota unions supported the legislation as an issue important to their members and as an advance in equal rights for all.

Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Council 5, explained the union’s decision to endorse marriage equality: “Same-sex couples pay taxes in Minnesota. They vote here, run businesses here, and serve in our military. They work hard and contribute to our communities, and they have children who deserve to grow up in stable families with married parents.

“Everyone should be able to marry the person they love. No one should be singled out and denied the economic protections and cultural privileges associated with matrimony.”

• Fair trade advisory council. The jobs bill also included reauthorization of the Trade Policy Advisory Council, which saw its authority “sunset” in 2012, but in a new form – one more inclusive of the groups with a stake in international trade policy. The TPAC is required to meet at least once a year and report back to the governor and Legislature about potential U.S. trade agreements and their impact on the state’s economy. The council also may offer draft legislation to implement the recommendations.

Click here to read more about the reauthorized Trade Policy Advisory Council.

• Construction jobs. The Legislature did not pass a large bonding bill, but it did approve much-needed repairs to the Capitol building. Lawmakers also made investments in job creation tools and key construction projects like the Mall of America expansion.

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