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A dispatch from the front lines: As the shutdown approaches, chaos reigns

Just 12 working days to go and these state employees still can't be sure if they'll be drawing down their severance pay, applying for unemployment, or both.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Just 12 working days to go and these state employees still can't be sure if they'll be drawing down their severance pay, applying for unemployment, or both.

It was all folded arms and worried faces at this afternoon's monthly meeting of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) at the Elmer Andersen Human Services Building in downtown St. Paul. Nearly 200 union members had signed in by the time I entered the packed conference room. Union leaders were speaking, and the lines were predictable: There was talk of feet stuck in cement, of public employees disrespected, and of a battle that has only just begun.


These were not applause lines. Better to call them head shakers. That was the response to each scripted zinger: heads shaking. The state workers gathered in the room were frustrated and full of questions. Most of their questions had no clear answer.

When a union representative asked if anybody thought the state government shutdown would be averted and then called for a show of hands, just two went up. This is real for these people. In 12 days, all but two of the state employees in that room fully expect to be at home, left to watch the news, curtail their spending, and wait.

Just 12 working days to go and these state employees still can't be sure how health insurance issues will play out or if they'll be drawing down their severance pay, applying for unemployment, or both (in succession). That's one of the things MAPE President Chet Jorgenson told the meeting he'd be negotiating this afternoon. A show of hands revealed a preference for leaving severance alone and allowing laid off employees an early shot at unemployment.

Just 12 working days to go and some who will be laid off don't even know it yet (though one woman wondered why she received two layoff notices). For some, that may be as simple as a wrong address in a database because of a move. For others, it may be because their fate has not been decided yet. There are stories from the 2005 partial shutdown of people receiving word of their layoff in the afternoon on June 30.

When one union member asked how MAPE will remain solvent in the event of a prolonged shutdown, Jorgenson assured the members that there was a reserve, though it was intended for a strike.

The most ominous piece of advice Jorgenson gave was his answer to a question about whether employees should take their personal items home with them if there is a shutdown.

His response: Definitely take your plants.


Keep reading! The Intelligencer covers the shutdown:

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Comments (11)

Dayton could avert a shutdown by doing two things - sign the budget that is on his desk and quit wasting time negotiating with the Vikings.

Labor, if you're listening, this is all a result of the "job creators" mantra, same crap as Wisconsin, different format.

Labor MUST rise again in this country. I'll vote in favor of labor every election like I have in the past.

Jeff Wilfahrt, Rosemount, MN

I'll point out that the union has six weeks of funds available, money that is supposed to be for a strike. BUT, our union contract also ends June 30th and we have nothing in place and negotiations aren't really happening. While a strike is VERY unlikely, there is always a possibility, but our union would not have the money to function if it were to happen. This whole thing is a complete cluster...

Friends, be assured that this is, indeed, going to happen. The dysfonic Republicans are completely blinded by their dysfunctions to the fabled handwriting written in eighteen-inch letters on the wall.

Because of their dysfunctions, they believe so completely that their way is the ONLY way, and even that the vast majority of the population of the state is wrong in disagreeing with them,...

Not to mention that any of them who DO seek compromise will lose their party endorsement for the next election, they're still convinced that THEY can't lose.

They could not be more wrong, but rather than face the truth: that this is absolutely a lose-lose situation for the Republicans, they're going to maintain their denial of that truth, take the state into a protracted shutdown and do so under the delusion (all evidence ALREADY proclaiming the contrary) that they'll be able to blame Gov. Dayton and the Democrats for the result.

They won't. This will be their Waterloo, but they're quite determined to march into this glorious battle (like Custer at his "last stand") with their heads held high assured that they are right and that they can somehow pull victory from the jaws of the defeat they've so lovingly and carefully built for themselves over these past few months.

There will be a great deal of pain statewide, but there will also be at least one silver lining: the public will finally know the truth about the Republicans and that truth will "set us free" of them for at least a couple of decades or more.

That "truth" may also inspire one of two helpful things: either the moderates will finally stand up to the dysfonic "conservatives" who have taken over the Republican party simply by virtue of their willingness to obnoxiously shout down those who disagreed with them, or those moderates will start a third party so that there is, once again, a thinking reasoning, intelligent conservative voice to counter the Democrats who will, without such a voice, do what we humans tend to do - go too far in their own favorite directions.

Duke, #1, if you mean the budget he presented the legislature with in February, you and I are together, baby. Ditto the Vikings.

If not, dream on. This guy is much tougher than you and yours think.

I have a better idea. The republicans agree to meet the Governor half way, as he has reasonably asked. Then everybody can go home and take credit for a job well done.

Sounds good to me.

Gov. Dayton-

Quit playing around. Your a decent guy. On your good days all Minnesotans know your one of us. But this brinksmanship is not justified by a 17,000 vote victory. Purchased by you, your rich family, rich friends and public employee unions who spent millions trashing a decent man. Sign the bills. Come back and get them next year.

The union meeting was another moment in the high stakes game that MAPE is playing. Win the political battle and the risk to the rank and file is justified. Lose, and the unions have needlessly squandered the careers of their constituents. Either way, the cynical treatment of the rank and file as mere political pawns should disturb any member.

Always, always MAPE and ASCFME attempt to hammer home the Dayton plan. In today's meeting they passed out fliers that the union member is supposed to cut up and give to their local merchants. The little fliers admonished the merchant that they could no longer buy from them because of the coming hardship, and that they should contact their legislator to support Dayton's plan.

It's a cynical bit of political theater whose end result is anything but certain, and whose purpose it is to frighten the members into taking action.

If the unions are sincere about averting the shutdown they can at least help by distancing themselves from the Governor long enough to admonish him that he needs to sign the bills, and that the rank and file jobs are more important than the union boss's political agenda.

As the Governor, AG and State try to piece together some way to keep the public safe from this shut down Republicans are challenging there every effort. Why do Reublicans want so badly to injure Minnesotans and cause economic hardship. It is as if they are rubbing their hands together at the thought of all those state workers loosing their salaries and ability to pay bills. Everything Repubicans do works in a negative way toward creating more jobs. Starting with government workers right on down to their willingness to import jobs overseas as part of free trade or cuting jobs programs to sustain tax cuts for the rich every single policy stifles job creation.

Right on, Greg.

There is a totally differnt take over at http://www.shotinthedark.info/wp/ Specifically, Does Dayton Really Want a Shutdown? Yep http://www.scribd.com/doc/57867473/Dayton-Administration-Distributes-Fal...
and http://freedomdogs.com/114-news-archive/elections/4751-does-dayton-reall...

also "Dayton’s Smoking Guns – Gun #1" http://www.shotinthedark.info/wp/?p=20490

Ialso checked at http://mnpera.org They explained that while they are technically a MN State agency they are self funded so they expect business as usual.

Bring it on and let the chips fall where they may.

#1 Rule of web postings...

Just because you can find someone else posting on a web site somewhere who agrees with you DOES NOT make you correct.

I'm sure I could find a web site that says the Hadron Collider has already produced multiple sub-microscopic black holes that are beginning to swallow up the earth, but that doesn't make it true.

Some of us actually search on the web for verifiable truth, and, when we think we've found it, keep searching long enough to be sure.

Others of us seem to be searching only for other individuals and groups who will become company for us in our misery as we try to pretend our lives aren't so wrapped in denial and delusion that we're unable to comprehend that any "truth" exists outside our own alternate reality.