The Minnesota AFL-CIO, the labor federation representing unions across the state, joined Education Minnesota in calling on Governor Mark Dayton to veto an education funding bill passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Other organizations urged Dayton to veto finance bills that included provisions harmful to immigrants and low-wage workers.
Lawmakers finished passing a $46 billion budget in a special session that ended early Friday morning. At a news conference, Dayton said he would review the various measures that were passed and act on them this week.
"I'm just not going to speculate what I might or might not do until I have a chance to give them the consideration they need," Dayton said at a press conference Friday afternoon. "They [legislators] have had five months. We deserve three days to assess the final products."
Unions said the education bill includes an “unprecedented attack” on union members’ professional standards and workplace protections.
“By weakening teacher licensure standards, legislators opened the door to undermine standards for other union members like nurses, electricians, and pipe fitters,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy. “It’s time for Governor Dayton to hit the reset button and demand lawmakers send him legislation that fully funds our schools without any poison pills.”
Minnesota AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Julie Blaha, a mathematics and science teacher on leave from Jackson Middle School in Champlin, said weakened licensure would hurt the students who need the most help.
“Knowledge and the ability to teach are two different things,” Blaha said. “Sending people with little-to-no training in education into schools with the highest need students is a recipe for disaster.”
On Sunday, a broad coalition of immigrant rights organizations and supporters held a rally at Minneapolis Central Library to call on Dayton to veto a public safety funding bill that includes language prohibiting many immigrants from getting drivers licenses.
Dayton has already pledged to veto a so-called “preemption” bill that would bar local governments from adopting policies on minimum wages, paid sick leave and other workplace standards. At the news conference, he blasted legislators for folding into that bill provisions that he supported on state employee pension and paid parental leave benefits.
"It's just cruel, just cruel to do that to good people," Dayton said.
The Minnesota Legislature convened Jan. 3 with an agenda including the state budget and longstanding issues such as transportation and health care.