WASHINGTON--In the interests of clarifying where Minnesota's members of Congress stand on the dispute between public sector unions and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, MPR News examined their recent public statements. When a member had no statement on record, we asked for one. Here are excerpts of their statements:
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R):
"Don't let anyone tell you that the government workers in Wisconsin are losing their collective bargaining rights over wages," Bachmann said in a speech to a South Carolina Republican women's group. "They are not. They are retaining them. It's their collective bargaining right over their benefits."
"It isn't that these unions are bad or evil, it's just that we've got to get real about what we can and cannot afford," she said.
Rep. Chip Cravaack (R):
No public statements and no statement provided to MPR News by publication time.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D):
"We are enormously proud of you," Ellison says to the working people of Wisconsin and the country. "There's nothing wrong with collective bargaining, with workers bargaining with management to come up with a fair pay and good, safe working conditions."
Sen. Al Franken (D):
"As a member of four labor unions, I know personally the importance of collective bargaining. For decades, my family's health care was covered through the American Federation of TV and Radio Artists and the Writers Guild of America. Now as working Americans are under assault, we find ourselves at a crossroads. We know all too well that Scott Walker's real purpose is not about balancing budgets. It's about busting unions."
Source: Statement to MPR News
Rep. John Kline (R):
On Wisconsin, Kline says praised Gov. Walker for trying to get a handle of the state's pension and benefits for state employees. When challenged that unions have already met Walker's demands, Kline said he didn't "want to get into Wisconsin's negotiations" but said politicians need to handle the hard reckoning of budget problems.
Source: MPR News
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D):
"It was a positive development when the workers agreed to cuts--everyone needs to be part of the solution to our budget problems. I believe, however, that the workers should have a right to have a voice and representation at the negotiating table."Source: Statement to MPR News
Rep. Betty McCollum (D):
"There should be no doubt that there is a war going on right now against workers, unions, and middle class Americans who want more jobs.
In Wisconsin, Ohio, and here in Congress, workers rights are under attack by union busting politicians.
It is time for Americans to stand up and fight for the rights of workers to organize and negotiate for safe working conditions, living wages, and basic benefits. It is time to stand up and fight against the attacks launched by a union busting Republican governors and their corporate sponsors."
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R):
"The American public expects their elected officials at state and federal levels to make the very tough choices in order to get their respective fiscal houses in order. Rep. Paulsen believes that Gov. Walker's overall budget is on the right track, including his proposal to bring the state's public employee system more in line with the Minnesota model. He also believes that it's time for Wisconsin Senators to quit shirking their responsibilities and start serving the people who elected them."Source: Statement to MPR News
Rep. Collin Peterson (D):
No public statements and no statement provided to MPR News by publication time.
Rep. Tim Walz (D):
"I understand that tough budgeting decisions have to be made across the country and if the governor needs to negotiate with unions to discuss specific proposals, he has every right to do so. However, attempting to use a difficult budgeting situation for political purposes and to strip Wisconsin workers of their individual freedom to negotiate for a fair wage and decent working conditions is wrong. We should have an honest conversation about ways that we can all save money, but I don't believe a kindergarten teacher in La Crosse or a high school teacher in Rochester caused our budget problems and I don't believe taking away their freedom to negotiate will solve it either."
Source: Statement to MPR News
Posted at 6:48 AM on March 2, 2011
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: Daily Digest
MPR reports that Minnesota's top companies are flush with cash but they haven't been using that money to hire.
A panel in the Minnesota Senate approved a bill that would provide $200 million in tax cuts to businesses.
The Star Tribune says the House Tax Chair wants to cap the profits HMOs make from state money. The story focuses on what others have reported - Republican lawmakers are looking for new money to fix the budget deficit.
A legislative auditor report says environmental permitting in the state is flawed.
Gov. Dayton said on MPR's Midday that it's time for GOP legislative leaders to release their budget plan.
Vikings executives are in Minnesota to ramp up stadium efforts.
A Minnesota House committee has approved a bill that would forbid state officials from requiring that new homes built in Minnesota include fire sprinklers.
House Tax Chair Greg Davids chides Revenue Department officials for delaying the Tax Incidence Study.
Minnesota Nurses speak out against anti-union bills.
MA enrollment started yesterday.
An environmental group issues a report saying it's not certain whether PolyMet has the funds necessary to protect taxpayers from paying environmental clean up costs after the mine closes.
Calls from jail shed light on intimate crime.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker introduces a budget plan that offers deep cuts to education and aid to cities and counties.
The U.S. House passed a bill that would cut $4 billion in federal spending and avert a shutdown (for two weeks).
Minnesota's House delegation split its vote. DFLers Tim Walz and Collin Peterson joined Republicans John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Chip Cravaack in supporting the bill. GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann joined Democrats Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum in voting against the bill. Bachmann was one of five Republicans to vote against it. She said she did because the bill doesn't defund the federal health care law.
President Obama's Chief of Staff, Bill Daley, fires off an op-ed saying his boss is probusiness. The column is in response to 3M CEO George Buckley's criticism that Obama is anti-business.
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann introduces a new St. Croix bridge plan that would violate U.S. Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
Americans United for Change, a liberal group, has put up a billboard on I-35 telling GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack to "not privatize Medicare." The group says it's concerned that House Republicans are looking to create a voucher system for the federal program.
2012 Race for Congress
Former DFL state Sen. Tarryl Clark is showing signs that she's keeping her options open in 2012. She joined the BlueGreen Alliance to help spearhead an effort to discuss jobs.
2012 Race for President
Tim Pawlenty says he'll announce his plans sometime in the next 45 days.
Pawlenty hasn't given any hints as to what that announcement will look like.
Tim Pawlenty's archives have been released.
Pawlenty wants Minnesota's nonbinding caucuses to be changed so Iowa and New Hampshire go first.
The conservative blogger for the Washington Post takes a look at how Pawlenty handled the bus strike. His former spokesman seems to exaggerate some claims like the Twin Cities media covered the 2004 bus strike like it was "Y2K."
Pawlenty will speak at a Club for Growth conference this weekend in Florida.
Michele Bachmann is also expected to speak at the event. Bachmann will speak to a Tea Party chapter in Florida on Friday.
Bachmann says she's a "student of foreign policy."
Newt Gingrich is exploring a bid for president but it isn't certain if that will include an exploratory committee announcement this week.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he could win the White House (but says he won't run).
It turns out Vikings president Mark Wilf was heading up to the Capitol yesterday during his visit to St. Paul. He just took the long way to the Legislature after meeting with Ramsey County commissioners.
Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, a likely sponsor of an eventual stadium bill, says she talked with Wilf last night about 8 p.m. "Real informal," she reports. Rosen said there were no specific details, and that she won't be putting any more dates on prospective stadium bill introductions, thank you.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said he, too, met with Wilf last night, but separately. "No concrete discussions came up," he reported of the meeting. Like Rosen, he's a prospective sponsor, and he's not setting a kickoff time for the Vikings bill, either.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak's spokesman John Stiles says Mark Wilf also met with Rybak yesterday, about mid-afternoon.
"The overall goal is to keep the Vikings in Minnesota, and obviously, the mayor has expressed his preference for the Metrodome site," Stiles said. He called the meeting productive, but said the Vikings aren't playing any cards yet, site-wise.
Stiles also said that Rybak talked to the Vikings leadership "about the need for a global solution. For Target Center. The Saints. The St. Cloud Civic Center. All of them."
DFL Sen. Al Franken has hired former state Rep. Al Juhnke to handle Agriculture, Energy, Environmental Outreach in Minnesota. Junhke, who lost his reelection bid to Republican Bruce Vogel in 2010, will handle his duties from his hometown of Willmar. Juhnke served 14 years in the Minnesota Legislature. He served as Chair of the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee.
"Al Juhnke understands how important agriculture, energy, and the environment are to creating jobs and spurring economic development in Minnesota," Sen. Franken said in a statement. "He has spent years working closely with key Minnesota groups, stakeholders, and communities on these issues and knows how important they are to our state's economy and its future. We're all lucky to have him back in a role where he's serving the people of Minnesota."
Posted at 3:15 PM on March 2, 2011
by Tim Nelson
Here's the list of candidates the Governor's office just released in the "Notice of Intent to Appoint" filed with the Secretary of State.
District 1: Roxanne Smith, Champlin
District 2: Lona Schreiber, Brooklyn Park
District 3: Jennifer Munt, Minnetonka
District 4: Gary Van Eyll, Chaska
District 5: Steven Elkins, Bloomington
District 6: James Brimeyer, St. Louis Park
District 7: Gary Cunningham, Minneapolis
District 8: Adam Duininck, Minneapolis
District 9: Edward Reynoso, Ham Lake
District 10: John Doan, Blaine
District 11: Sandra Rummel, White Bear Lake
District 12: Harry Melander, Mahtomedi
District 13: Richard Kramer, St. Paul
District 14: Jon Commers, St. Paul
District 15: Steven Chavez, Eagan
District 16: Wendy Wulff, Lakeville
As a battle over public employee bargaining rights rages in Wisconsin, Minnesota labor leaders are touting the positive effects of union membership.
For instance, Eliot Seide, Executive Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, defended the benefits of unionization during an interview with MPR News last week:
"The 10 states where [unions are] most dense, the poverty rate is lower, health care is better, household income is higher, education spending per pupil is higher, and frankly the quality of life is better because trade unions in this country - public and private - have created the middle class and are essential to a democracy in this country."
Seide's facts are correct and comparisons are fair. But whether unions lead to a better quality of life is another story.
Seide is comparing states with the largest percentage of unionized workers, which include New York, Alaska and Washington, to states with the lowest percentage, which include South Dakota, Oklahoma and a handful of southern states.
According to Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Seide's comparisons are all correct. For instance, the average annual median income in states with robust unions is $56,412, while states with sparse unionization have an average median income of $43,816. Poverty rates in these states tend to be lower and more people have health care coverage.
Coincidence? Yes and no.
Labor academics and economists agree that it is misleading to imply that unions are responsible for creating a better quality of life, because there are many other factors that lead to higher income and lower poverty rates.
That said, labor experts also noted that unions have historically supported and backed politicians who support policies that lead, for instance, to higher education spending; public employee unions have long pushed for more education dollars because their members, namely public school teachers, benefit from such spending increases.
This is a tough claim to rate because of Seide's concluding assertion -- that unions are responsible for a better quality of life. It's simply an overstatement. Still, his facts are accurate and comparisons are correct. It's also accurate to say that unions have played a role in shaping public policy, including efforts to increase education spending and lower the poverty rate.
So with those important caveats, Seide's claim passes the PoliGraph test.
Minnesota Public Radio, Midday, Feb. 25, 2011
The AFL-CIO, Right to Work for Less, accessed March 1, 2011
AFSCME, Minnesota Council 5, Why Unions?, accessed March 1, 2011
The AFL-CIO, Unions Raise Wages for All Worker, accessed March 1, 2011
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by state, accessed Mar. 1, 2011
The U.S. Census Bureau, Income data, 2009, accessed March 1, 2011
The U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009, Sept. 2010
The U.S. Census Bureau, Health Insurance Coverage Status by State for All People: 2009, accessed March 1, 2011
The U.S. Census Bureau, Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance Data, accessed March 1, 2011
The Washington Post, How Do Unions Affect State Spending and Taxation?, by Ezra Klein, Feb. 25, 2011
Interview, Jennifer Munt, spokesperson, AFSCME Council 5
Interview, Morris Kleiner, professor, The Humphrey School of Public Affairs, The
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, March 2, 2011
Interview, Alex Keyssar, professor, The Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, March 1, 2011
Interview, Daniel DiSalvo, professor, The City College of New York - CUNY, March 2, 2011
Interview, Richard Levins, professor emeritus, Department of Applied Economics, The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, March 1, 2011