Kera Peterson: Our shared agenda is advancing at the Capitol

St. Paul Regional Labor Federation President Kera Peterson is pictured speaking at the 2022 MN AFL-CIO Convention.

The Minnesota Legislature convened Jan. 3 with working family majorities in the House and Senate who are working in partnership with our labor-endorsed Minnesota Executive Council. The last time we had a pro-worker trifecta in Minnesota was in 2013-14. That Legislature voted to raise the state’s minimum wage, expanded collective bargaining rights and made investments in all-day kindergarten.

Union volunteers worked hard to help elect pro-worker candidates across our state. Those elected officials have been hard at work since taking their oaths of office in January, and union members and community allies are engaging with them in meaningful ways to advance our shared legislative priorities.

We have cause to be optimistic about the 2023 legislative session. Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic are working together closely. Gov. Tim Walz has signaled his support of many bills that our unions are supporting at the Capitol. And the projected $17 billion-dollar surplus means that legislators have the financial resources needed to make historic investments in Minnesota’s families, its workers and their jobs.

Several bills that our unions have advocated for during previous legislative cycles are quickly progressing through the committee process. Workers are delivering powerful testimony in support of Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) and Earned Sick and Safe Time (ESST), bills that will improve working Minnesotans’ quality of life, ensuring that they are able to take paid time off from work to care for themselves or a family member.

Union members and community allies are weighing in on the Skilled and Safe Workers Act, which will improve labor standards in Minnesota’s petroleum refineries, and the Warehouse Worker Safety Act. We are also advancing a measure to extend unemployment insurance to occupations that have been historically excluded from the system.

Our unions are making the most of this opportunity to address systemic racism and improve safety for immigrant workers too. We know undocumented workers in Minnesota are vulnerable to exploitation on the job. That’s why unions are working in coalition at the Capitol to address loopholes in the state’s human trafficking laws. We’re also advocating for the Driver’s Licenses for All bill, so that undocumented people can legally drive to work and get their children to school.

And because our shared values include protecting our democracy and expanding voting rights, union members are showing up to support bills like the Restore the Vote Act, which will allow Minnesotans who have completed a felony sentence and are living in the community on probation or parole to exercise their freedom to vote.

Union members have important stories to tell about the issues mentioned here, and because we’re powerful advocates, many of our unions will encourage members to contact our legislators in the coming months. We might be asked to send an email, make a phone call, attend a committee hearing or have a conversation with our representative at the Capitol on lobby day.

Since 2022 was a year when legislative redistricting occurred and elections were held, you may have a new state senator or state representative. Now is a great time to visit the Legislature’s website and find out who represents you and what type of bills they are working on. Many lawmakers send out email updates that include information about their work at the Capitol and town hall meetings, so visit your legislators’ webpages and get signed up today!

– Kera Peterson is president of the Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. The federation brings together more than 100 affiliate unions representing over 50,000 members who live and work in Chisago, Dakota, Ramsey and Washington counties. Learn more about the SPRLF and its work at

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