Unions plan to pack right-to-work meeting

If there ever was a full committee room, it will happen at 8 a.m. Monday in Room 15 of the Capitol when the Senate Judiciary Committee hears a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove a requirement that some workers belong to unions.

Union workers from across the state are expected to arrive at the Capitol in buses to oppose the proposal by Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville.

On Friday, Senate officials set up overflow seating to accommodate the expected huge crowd, which could be the largest for a legislative meeting this year.

Republicans want to give Minnesotans the right to decide whether to join unions. But Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, called the proposal to change state the “right to work for less.” Republicans like to call their proposal “freedom to work.”

“All Minnesotans should have the freedom to choose whether or not to be represented by a union or pay union dues,” Thompson said. “This is a fundamental liberty issue.”

Unions, as could be expected, see things differently.

“Legislators should be focused on job creation,” said Jim Monroe of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees. “‘Right to work’ won’t create a single job. In fact, it will result in job losses. This amendment also means a cut in wages.”

Senators previewed the spirited fight that is expected in the coming days and weeks when Republican leaders moved the bill from the jobs committee to the judiciary committee. The decision to move the bill came in a lengthy and partisan debate on the Senate floor.

Bakk said the GOP made the move because of fear Thompson’s proposal lacks the vote to pass the jobs committee.

Bakk questioned whether Thompson has supporters willing to donate millions of dollars that would be needed to win a Nov. 6 public vote.

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