‘We won’t let happen in Minnesota what’s happening in Wisconsin’
By Barb Kucera, Workday editor
22 February 2011
ST. PAUL - As hundreds of people jammed the state Capitol Tuesday in a show of solidarity with Wisconsin workers, they – and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton – vowed to oppose the anti-labor agenda being pushed in many states.
“Drastic, extreme measures will not become law here,” declared Dayton, to thundering cheers in the Capitol rotunda. Added Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon: “We won’t let happen in Minnesota what’s happening in Wisconsin.”
People jammed the state Capitol Tuesday to show support for Wisconsin workers.
Firefighters, police officers and building trades workers mixed with public employees, nurses and other workers at the rally, organized by the Minnesota AFL-CIO to support Wisconsinites fighting Governor Scott Walker’s attack on collective bargaining.
They carried signs that read, “Workers rights are human rights,” and chanted, “Create jobs now!”
In St. Paul, participants took issue with the Wisconsin governor’s claim that he needs to destroy collective bargaining to balance the state budget.
“Some people say this is about dollars and cents, but it’s not. It’s about respect,” said Eliot Seide, director of AFSCME Council 5, a union of 43,000 workers, including many state employees.
Collective bargaining “Is a human right,” he said. “It is a right of all Americans. And we will not let that right die.”
An independent poll by USA Today and Gallup – the first taken on the issue since protests erupted in Wisconsin – shows 61 percent of Americans oppose attempts to strip public service workers of their collective bargaining rights.
Kate Lynch, a licensed practical nurse and member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, said she is tired of middle class workers being made scapegoats in the current economic crisis.
“Workers didn’t bankrupt Wisconsin or any other state,” she said. “The bottom line is that Wall Street recklessness and CEO greed caused our financial problems . . . Wall Street bankers are trying to get working people to take the fall for their greed.”
Participants came from across Minnesota.
While Dayton has pledged to oppose anti-labor legislation, that hasn’t stopped Republican lawmakers from introducing scores of measures that attack collective bargaining rights and shift a greater tax burden onto the middle class. View the list. Unions at Tuesday’s rally said they are united to stop these proposals in Minnesota and across the country.
Said Seide, “We’re not going to let cheap-labor conservatives pit private workers against public workers in a race to the bottom.”