Voters back labor candidates, campaigns in local elections

Candidates carrying the unified labor endorsement performed well in local elections across the East Metro last week, and union members helped pass several school-funding measures as well.

The St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, endorsed 25 candidates on the ballot in 2019, and 23 won their races. All six school levy and bond referendums endorsed by the federation won voter approval, including a record-breaking, $326 million facilities investment in the White Bear Lake school district.

“It was great to see our communities support investments in our schools – in both learning and infrastructure,” said Kera Peterson, the St. Paul RLF’s political director. “Our communities also voted to elect school board candidates who support public education and the schools our students deserve.”

In St. Paul, all six labor-endorsed candidates for City Council won in their respective wards.

Incumbent council members Amy Brendmoen, Mitra Jalali Nelson, Rebecca Noecker, Jane Prince and Chris Tolbert took a majority of first-choice votes, tallied by officials on election night.

Three days later, after the city’s ranked-choice-voting process played out, Nelsie Yang emerged the winner in Ward 6. A member of the Minnesota Newspaper and Communications Guild-CWA, Yang ran with the RLF’s endorsement.

Additionally, Council Member Dai Thao won reelection in Ward 1 with the support of several local unions. (The St. Paul RLF did not endorse a candidate in the race.)

All three unified labor-endorsed school board candidates in St. Paul won, as did Nicole Frethem, the labor-endorsed candidate in a special election for the District 1 seat on the Ramsey County Board.

Peterson said the election results confirm that most voters in east-metro communities share labor’s values, from fighting wage theft to lifting working families out of poverty.

“It’s exciting to know that union members helped re-elect the members of the St. Paul City Council who passed the city’s $15 municipal minimum wage and earned sick and safe time ordinances,” she said. “And it’s exciting to think about how we will work together to continue improving standards for workers in our community.”

Yang, meanwhile, was among several union members and retirees who won their campaigns for local office this year.

Tolbert, who won reelection in St. Paul’s third ward, is a member of Local 2938 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Allen, newly elected to the St. Paul school board, is a member of the St. Paul Federation of Educators. And Angela Thompson, a member of Office and Professional Employees Local 12, won reelection to the White Bear Lake school board.

Three union retirees, all former members of Education Minnesota, also won seats on local school boards: Louise Hinz in South Washington County, Jackie Magnuson in Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan and Margaret Newmaster in White Bear Lake.

The St. Paul Regional Labor Federation unites more than 100 local unions in Ramsey, Dakota, Washington and Chisago counties. Together, they represent over 50,000 working people.

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