Flashback to November 2010: As Republican governors win victories across the country, the race in Minnesota comes down to a nail biter. Eventually, Democrat Mark Dayton wins the governorship, beating Republican Tom Emmer by just under 9,000 votes, or 0.42 percent of votes cast.
Working America organizers and canvassers were part of the ground game that put Dayton over the top, and boy, are we glad we did.
Over the last 18 months, the radical anti-worker legislature in Minnesota have passed bill after bill, none of them having to do with the promises of jobs from the 2010 campaign. Gov. Dayton’s veto pen was the only thing keeping many harmful policies at bay: ending Minnesota’s status as a right-to-bargain state, voter suppression, limiting consumers’ rights to class-action suits, a Florida-style “Stand Your Ground” gun bill, and even a bill that would protect asbestos companies from liability.
In all, Gov. Dayton vetoed 10 bills passed by the Republican-controlled Minnesota legislature that are modeled after ALEC legislation. Check out the list.
To get around the veto, GOP legislators voted to put the voter suppression bill to a referendum in November as a Constitutional Amendment. However, as the legislative session ended last week, they decided not to similarly put a harmful bargaining rights bill on the November ballot.
Why? There are lots of reasons, but a significant number of GOP legislators did not want to want the situation over the border in Wisconsin to come to them; enormous protests, national labor support coming into the state, and a complete political standstill.
GOP state Rep. Tony Cornish cited the prospect of “millions of dollars coming in from other states, and thousands of people. Buses emptying out, banners, people camping.” In other words: the fear of becoming the next Wisconsin…Sen. Benson says that the threat of union payback at the ballot box “was enough to divide our caucus.” She attributes her colleagues’ reticence to their “justified concern that the unions, with their massive coffers, will come after people in swing districts.”
They also expressed that they didn’t want a repeat of last year’s Ohio referendum, where a high-profile
“Citizen Veto” of Gov. Kasich’s union-busting law continues to reverberate. Josh Eidelson of Salon calls them the “Cold Feet Caucus.”
As the session came to a close, some Republicans instead opted to reach across the aisle, working with Dayton to approve the construction of a new Vikings stadium. “Thanks to strong leadership from Governor Mark Dayton, Legislative DFLers, and several Republicans on job creation, the 2012 session was redeemed,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson in a statement, “Between a jobs & infrastructure bill and a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis, tens of thousands of Minnesotans will soon be going back to work in good-paying, family sustaining jobs.”
That’s not to say Minnesotans can rest easy. In addition to holding anti-worker legislators accountable, the battle to defeat the voter suppression constitutional amendment is just beginning.
However, if that close election in 2010 had gone the other way, Minnesota working families would be in a much more perilous position: those 10 ALEC bills are just a sampling of what these radical legislature could have passed. From their rights to collectively bargain to their access to the courts, Minnesotans have a lot of reasons to be thankful for Gov. Dayton’s veto pen.