COOK, Minn. — The first Labor Day was observed in 1882 by the Central Labor Union of New York as it sought to create a day to honor working citizens. In 1894, Congress made Labor Day a federal holiday, and eventually all 50 states recognized it as a state holiday, too.
As a retired carpenter and union leader on the Iron Range, I have many fond memories of gathering with union members to celebrate the spirit of our organizations and commitment to improving the lives of working people. For those not involved with unions, Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer; one last long weekend to gather with family and friends, get the kids ready for school, and take a breather before heading back to work.
But 2009 is different.
This Labor Day, too many Minnesotans don’t have a job to return to after the long weekend.
A record for unemployment
Last week, more than 235,000 Minnesotans received an unemployment check. Unemployment numbers have been above 200,000 every month in 2009. This has set a record for the unemployment insurance program.
Under the administrations of Govs. Rudy Perpich, Arne Carlson and Jesse Ventura, Minnesota added more than 300,000 new jobs. Under Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota has fewer people working today than when he took office.
This is unacceptable and it’s time for a strong leader who will get people back to work. I am running for governor because I have a passion for creating jobs and as governor getting people back to work and growing economic opportunity will be my No. 1 priority.
As a carpenter who was out of work during the 1981-82 recession, and who ran out of unemployment and health insurance for my young family, I know firsthand the importance of having a pay check on Friday to take care of a family’s needs and what it means to be unemployed. Almost all Minnesotans have been touched by this recession. They have lost their job, or have a family, friend or neighbor who has. We have to turn this around.
Jobs are the only way
As chairman of the Senate Tax Committee, I know that Gov. Pawlenty is leaving Minnesota’s next governor with a budget deficit that could be as serious as $6 billion. As tax chair I am working hard to help people understand this financial crisis. There aren’t enough taxes we can raise or programs we can cut to fill a $6 billion hole. The only way to get Minnesota back on track is to get Minnesotans working.
In the past weeks I’ve meet with union and business leaders across the state to talk about how we can create jobs. With more Minnesotans out of work than ever before it’s a real challenge, but if we don’t bring all interested parties to the table to work together and get more money into the economy there will be long-term consequences for the state.
Minnesota is at a crossroads. The next governor will determine if Minnesota regains its status as the Star of the North or if we continue to lose our competitive edge. I have spent my life cooperating with others to build solid structures, negotiating with businesses for fair wages and good benefits for workers, and finding innovative ways to support economic development in the state. It’s time Minnesota has a leader who will make putting people back to work a top priority. I am that bold and courageous leader with the vision to create a better future. As your next governor, I will use my experience, skills, and drive to turn Minnesota’s economy around and get Minnesota working again.
Have a wonderful and safe Labor Day weekend in 2009.
Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, represents District 6 in the Minnesota Senate. A union member for more than 30 years, Sen. Bakk retired from his job with the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters to run for the DFL endorsement for governor.