Jeff Johnson, the Republican nominee for governor, provided a glimpse of his leadership style May 15, telling a Tea Party group he would “go all Scott Walker on Minnesota” if elected Nov. 4. So what is it about Walker’s Wisconsin that Johnson believes is worth replicating?
To answer that question – and to get a sense of what a Johnson administration might mean for union families – we’re analyzing the different approaches taken by Walker and labor-endorsed Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on four key issues over the last four years:
- Collective Bargaining (Tuesday)
- Education (Wednesday)
- Wages and Economic Security (Today)
- Economic Growth (Friday)
Wages and Economic Security. Dayton and DFL legislators earlier this year raised Minnesota’s minimum wage for the first time in a decade, and they passed the Women’s Economic Security Act, a nation-leading initiative to eliminate the gap between what women and men earn for doing comparable work.
Johnson has sent mixed messages about whether, if elected, he would move to block scheduled increases in Minnesota’s minimum wage in 2015 and 2016. But he has pledged to roll back a provision of the law that would trigger automatic increases, tied to the rate of inflation, beginning in 2018.
That stance puts Johnson in line with Walker’s Wisconsin, where median household income has fallen in each of the last four years – and by 5.1 percent since 2009, according to the American Community Survey. Data released last month by the Census Bureau shows Wisconsin’s median household income fell by 0.4 percent between 2012 and 2013, to $51,467.
Minnesota, meanwhile, saw a 1.6 percent increase in household income between 2012 and 2013, to $60,702. It marked the state’s second consecutive year of significant income growth.
Given the growing disparities between the two states, it’s no surprise workers in Wisconsin are looking west with envy.
“Wisconsin is dead last in the Midwest in job growth,” Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt said. “Wisconsin is missing out on economic opportunities and growth because Gov. Walker refuses to raise the minimum wage for workers or accept federal funds to expand health care access. Wisconsin workers make $5,000 less a year than Minnesota workers. Wisconsin workers can’t afford four more years of Gov. Walker.”
And Minnesota workers can’t afford a governor who will use Wisconsin as a model.
“Democrats know that valuing hard work, education and fairness creates shared prosperity,” said Eliot Seide, director of the state’s largest union of public employees, AFSCME Council 5. “Let’s give them a chance to continue moving Minnesota forward. Our blue state is a beacon of hope in the Midwest, but we still have a lot of hard work to do.”