Kera Peterson: Labor-endorsed candidates have earned our support

St. Paul Regional Labor Federation President Kera Peterson is shown speaking at the 2022 Minnesota AFL-CIO convention.

It’s autumn in Minnesota, and trade unionists across our great state are taking action together every day though the Labor 2022 program. We started earlier this spring with a rigorous screening process that helped determine which candidates had done the work to earn the Minnesota AFL-CIO’s endorsement. In August, we kicked-off our grassroots member education efforts across the state. Since then, volunteers have been talking with union voters on the phones and at the doors about the ways our endorsed candidates, including Gov. Tim Walz and U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, have fought for our jobs and our freedoms – and about what it will take for them to continue that work on behalf of Minnesotans for years to come.

Union members in other states have seen their freedoms come under attack in recent years. Politicians backed by corporate special interests and billionaire CEOs have assailed workers’ fundamental freedom to earn a livable wage and have a voice on the job. Here in Minnesota, Gov. Walz’s veto pen and the pro-working family majority in the state House have kept anti-union legislation, like right to work and repeal of prevailing wage, from becoming law.

Instead, legislators in Minnesota have taken a high-road approach to economic growth and invested in middle class workers. Gov. Walz signed the largest infrastructure bill in state history and the nation’s toughest wage theft law. He acted quickly after the pandemic hit to prioritize frontline workers’ health, safety and voice on the job. And frontline workers have started to receive long-overdue payments in recognition of their service to the state. We can see Gov. Walz’s leadership working in other ways, too. Minnesota’s unemployment rate is at a historic low, wages are rising and the state has a $9 billion budget surplus.

Other incumbents, including members of the state Legislature who never gave up the fight for frontline worker payments, have earned union members’ support. And so have members of the House majority in Congress, including two of our local representatives, Betty McCollum and Angie Craig.

Rep. Craig’s race in the 2nd Congressional District is among the most tightly contested in the country this year. That means every vote counts, and with a 100% pro-union voting record, according to the AFL-CIO, union members can’t afford to lose Rep. Craig’s voice in Washington, D.C. Since winning re-election two years ago, she’s helped break the gridlock and deliver on issues that matter to working people, fighting to deliver pension relief and pass the $1 trillion infrastructure bill. She also partnered with our unions in the effort to include buy-American and prevailing-wage standards in the Inflation Reduction Act, ensuring investments to combat climate change won’t come at the expense of union jobs. And if we send Rep. Craig back to Congress, she’ll continue working to lower prescription drug prices and pass the PRO Act, which would strengthen the nation’s labor laws and stiffen penalties against union-busting employers.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has earned union members’ support for re-election, too. Few elected officials bring more energy to the fight for justice than Keith does, and since starting his service in the state Attorney General’s Office in 2019, he has been a fierce advocate for workers and consumers.  He has capitalized on the state’s new wage theft law, which gives the office more power to go after employers who misclassify workers or short them on wages they’re owed, returning hundreds of thousands of dollars to working Minnesotans. He sued two dozen drug companies over a price-fixing scheme that drove up prescription drug costs. And he took fast-food restaurants to court for colluding to hold wages down for some of the lowest-paid workers in our community.

So much of the progress we’ve made in recent years hangs in the balance this election cycle, and so much work remains to be done to make Minnesota a state where all of us, no matter what we look like or where we come from, have an opportunity to thrive. Safe and family-sustaining jobs, high-quality schools, and health care that is affordable and accessible are things that we care about. But too often over the last four years, legislation that would make our workplaces safer, or would invest in our public schools and infrastructure, has died in the Minnesota Senate. Just this summer, members of the Republican majority walked away from a bipartisan agreement to deliver funding for schools, public safety and roads and bridges – sacrificing good public policy to score political points.

Between now and Election Day, we need to do everything we can to help elect candidates who share our values, including talking with family members, friends and co-workers about what’s at stake in this election and why their vote matters. By supporting our labor-endorsed candidates, including those for the state House and Senate, we can help ensure that Gov. Walz will be able to work with a Legislature that will put working families first.

– Kera Peterson is president of the Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. Learn more about the federation and its work at

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