A thousand Minnesota union workers, some still wearing their hard hats, rallied in the state Capitol after work Tuesday to show support for their Wisconsin brethren who are fighting a Republican governor and legislators working to remove most public employee bargaining rights.
â€œWe are all in this fight together,â€ Stillwater teacher Josiah Hill said. â€œToday, we are all Badgers.â€
The Minnesota rally, one of the largest ever held inside the Capitol, was one of many staged around the country as leaders in other states wait to see if the Wisconsin strife spills over.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, promised the labor woes would not cross into his state.
â€œDrastic, extreme measures wonâ€™t become law here because Iâ€™m here,â€ Dayton said.
Dayton said billionaires are financing the work of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, like Dayton new to the job, and other Wisconsin Republicans.
â€œWe will not let Minnesota become Wisconsin,â€ he added to cheers that filled the Capitol.
Walker wants to end most public union bargaining rights and raise what state workers pay for health insurance and pensions as he faces a budget deficit similar to that in Minnesota. In Minnesota, public workers already pay about the same for insurance and retirement plans as Walker seeks in his state.
Republicans said Dayton should not have been involved in a Wisconsin-related rally.
â€œNote to Mark Dayton: You are not governor of the state of Wisconsin,â€ Minnesota GOP Chairman Tony Sutton said. â€œInstead of taking part in a photo op orchestrated by big labor regarding the Wisconsin budget, Dayton should get serious about his home stateâ€™s finances.â€
Minnesota state Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said that he did not think it is appropriate for leaders from either party to take part in a rally about Wisconsin politics.
The Wisconsin situation could boost Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chances in next yearâ€™s election, the party chairman said.
â€œThis is the first of many battles,â€ Ken Martin said, which could unify union members and other Democrats to retake seats they lost last year.
Eliot Seide, leader of Minnesotaâ€™s largest state worker union, told those at the rally that labor will not â€œstand idly by while Scott Walker and a bunch of cheap-labor conservativesâ€ make changes to hurt unions.
Dayton said Minnesota state workers already have â€œgiven up a great dealâ€ when the state did not give them raises in recent years.
Despite Daytonâ€™s assurance that he will not let Wisconsin-type changes happen, union workers fired up the crowd by saying that the same could happen in Minnesota.
â€œI am not sure how we arrived at this place where hard-working union members became the villain,â€ Hill said, saying that he fears for Minnesota middle class workers.