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'Right to work,' Act One: Ending a 'jobs tax'?

Minnesota's “right to work” legislation, aimed at creating yet another referendum, gets a going over, this time by Jim Ragsdale and Jennifer Brooks at the Strib: “[A]s union workers chanted ‘Shame on you,’ supporters insisted the measure is crucial to making the state attractive for homegrown businesses and companies looking to relocate here. They say current union laws automatically raise the costs for businesses in the state. ‘What this amounts to is a job tax,’ said Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, who is sponsoring the measure. ... The state's largest business associations did not testify, but supporters from the Center of the American Experiment, a conservative think tank, said Minnesota will attract more job-creating businesses if it makes the change. ... Supporters said the current law allows unions to take its members for granted, rather than competing for their business — and their union dues. ‘Right to work changes the dynamic and gets unions focused on members as customers,’ said Kim Crockett, head of the Center of the American Experiment.”

Making far less noise at the Capitol Monday ... Frederick Melo of the PiPress reports: “A proposal to build a $54 million regional ballpark in St. Paul's Lowertown neighborhood went before the state Senate Committee on Capital Investment on Monday, a key stop before the legislative floor. Senators asked how traffic will maneuver in and out of a new 7,000-seat, city-owned facility for the St. Paul Saints in the shadow of U.S. 52 and the Lafayette Bridge. St. Paul Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hahm assured the committee that up to 20,000 patrons at a time descend on downtown St. Paul for concerts and hockey games at the Xcel Energy Center without too much fanfare. ... The Senate bill authored by Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, would set aside $27 million in state bond funds for a new Saints ballpark next to a future Central Corridor maintenance facility at Fifth and Broadway streets.”

Never mind the experience of the Metrodome ... Kevin Duchschere and Janet Moore of the Strib write: “City leaders and developers say plans to build a new Minnesota Vikings stadium at the Dome site could be the spark needed to transform downtown Minneapolis' east end into a vibrant urban neighborhood. ‘With or without a stadium, we want this to be a collection of neighborhoods that come together,’ Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said. ‘But our ability to pull that off is dramatically accelerated and just made a whole lot easier if the stadium is the catalyst.’ Others are not so optimistic, saying too much stock is put in sports arenas as a development stimulus and that the asphalt district surrounding the 30-year-old Dome is a cautionary tale for planning a livable community in the shadow of a large stadium. … The possibility of a $975 million fixed-roof stadium has leaders talking about development prospects for downtown's east end more than at any time since the Dome opened in 1982. Back then, hopes ran high for new interest in an area formerly consigned to railroad tracks and squat industrial buildings. That didn't happen. But Rybak said the site today is ‘dramatically different.’ ‘There was no light rail, the riverfront wasn't developing at all, and the city had a strategy to zone this area to prevent much development because they wanted it all focused over in the core downtown,’ he said.”  I still think creating a lake out of the bowl left from the Metrodome would a be better development magnet.

Meanwhile, over at MPR, Curtis Gilbert notes that there is nothing sacrosanct about city charters — like Minneapolis’ — when the state needs to get something done. “ … the state Legislature routinely overrides local governments and their charters. ‘[The Minneapolis City Charter] has been waived, in the last 20 years, umpteen times,’ said stadium bill sponsor Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, on MPR's Morning Edition. The Charter requires a citywide referendum before Minneapolis can spend more than $10 million to finance a professional sports facility. The stadium bill introduced Monday simply says the charter doesn't apply. The 2006 law that created Target Field for the Minnesota Twins contained similar language, even though the public money in that project came from Hennepin County, not the city of Minneapolis. … There have been at least 22 state laws passed since 1982 that overrode some section of the Minneapolis city charter, according to John Stiles, a spokesman for Mayor R.T. Rybak.” In other words … resistance is futile.

Cargill may be winding up to take a shot at Canada’s biggest grain handler. Says Mike Hughlett in the Strib: “Canada's largest grain handling firm, Viterra Inc., is in play, and agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. may be one of its suitors. Any deal for the Canadian grain powerhouse would likely run in the neighborhood of $5 billion, though it would also likely face some political resistance in Canada. Viterra, based in Regina, Saskatchewan, announced late Friday that it has received ‘expressions of interest’ from ‘unidentified third parties.’ On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that Cargill and Glencore International are among the interested companies. Also Sunday, the London-based Telegraph newspaper reported, without citing sources, that Switzerland-based commodities giant Glencore is believed to have offered $5.5 billion for Viterra. Grain heavyweights ADM Inc. and Bunge also are likely to take a look at Viterra.”

Frederick Melo is back with another piece … on congestion for some Irish event on Saturday in downtown St. Paul: “St. Patrick's Day falls on a Saturday this year, which might be reason enough to avoid driving and consider a free Metro Transit ride. Wherever your destination, buses, light-rail and even the Northstar Commuter Rail line will waive fares after 6 p.m. To add to the fun (or complicate matters), the annual St. Paul parade gets started at noon downtown, an hour before the Minnesota Wild take on the Carolina Hurricanes at the Xcel Energy Center. But wait, there's more: At 7:07 p.m. Saturday, the Xcel hosts the final night of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's Red Baron Final Five. With two hockey games and a parade, it's safe to say downtown St. Paul will be busier than usual. The 46th annual St. Patrick's Day Parade will follow a new route along 5th Street this year ... Revelers will head west on 5th to Washington Street and then wrap around Rice Park.” Really? “Revelers?” Is that what we call them?

This one still amazes me … Tad Vezner and Emily Gurnon of the PiPress report: “A former St. Paul and Eden Prairie police officer has filed a lawsuit claiming that 100 fellow cops invaded her privacy when they looked up her driver's license photo in a state database some 400 times. On Monday in U.S. District Court, Anne Marie Rasmusson filed the 31-page suit against nine cities in the Twin Cities metro area, Ramsey County and the University of Minnesota, for the alleged actions of their officers. One of her attorneys, Lorenz Fett of Minneapolis, declined further comment beyond what was detailed in the suit. Rasmusson, 38, said those who accessed her private information had no ‘legitimate business reason to do so.’ ‘The extent of this illegal access appears to be widespread and pervasive throughout departments, and is a custom and practice,’ the suit alleges, adding that women are disproportionately targeted by such searches. She began suspecting the other officers' behavior around 2007, the lawsuit said, after they began ‘taking an uncomfortable interest in her.’ Newly divorced, Rasmusson said men who somehow knew where she lived and what kind of car she drove began asking her out.” Creepy.

It seems Marilyn Hagerty — of Olive Garden fame — has a son, James R. Hagerty, who works at the Wall Street Journal. He wrote about his suddenly “viral” mom: “[S]he didn't care to scroll through the thousands of Twitter and Facebook comments on her writing style. ‘I'm working on my Sunday column and I'm going to play bridge this afternoon,’ she explained, ‘so I don't have time to read all this crap.’ She didn't apologize for writing about a restaurant where many people like to eat. Her poise under fire endeared her to people who do read all that. Strangers started sending me emails about how much they loved my mom. Her phone line was tied up, so I emailed her: ‘You've gone viral!’ She replied: ‘Could you tell me what viral means?’ … When she takes a vacation, it is only after writing enough articles in advance to fill her daily space. She pays her own way at restaurants, rather than submitting expenses, so no one can say she does reviews just to get free meals. When she was successfully treated for breast cancer two years ago, she used the occasion to write a review of the hospital's food. It was right up there with the cuisine at Olive Garden. My mom has her own style of reviewing restaurants: She doesn't like to say anything bad about the food. Her regular readers read between the lines. If she writes more about the décor than the food, you might want to eat somewhere else. Her Olive Garden review was actually mixed. She said the ‘chicken Alfredo ($10.95) was warm and comforting on a cold day.’ She also noted that the restaurant is ‘fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway.' "

Another just-slightly-past-middle-age columnist, Pat Nash of the Baraboo News Republic, writes about why some people are so supportive of Gov. Scott Walker: “[T]here are many people who still support Walker and the Republicans passing these bills. What are their reasons? They say it’s because he didn’t increase taxes, he balanced the budget, eliminated the deficit, and improved our economy. However, a closer look reveals the weakness of these arguments. As for property taxes, many people who saw a slight decrease fail to consider that the market value of their homes has in many cases gone down, reducing their assessment. In fact, some property taxes went up. And lower-income citizens, those who can least afford it, will now pay more taxes because the Walker administration and the Republican Legislature eliminated the earned income and homestead tax credits. Meanwhile, many of the biggest contributors to Republican campaigns will pay less. Most people aren’t aware that Wisconsin’s Constitution mandates a balanced budget. Former Gov. Jim Doyle balanced it, as have governors before him. Yet Walker makes it sound like a big deal. The same way he proudly announced that he’d repealed the cap on expansion of the Family Care program, while failing to mention the federal government ordered the state to do it. On his 2010 campaign website, Walker stated, ‘I promise to require the use of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to balance every state budget, just as we require every local government and school district to do.’ He called Doyle a liar for using the cash accounting method to make the budget appear balanced. However, after he was elected, Walker did the same thing.” Ms. Nash appears to be describing your typical low-information voter.

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Comments (29)

Transforming the neighborhood

In St. Louis, a new Busch Stadium was built in much the same manner as is being proposed for a new Vikings stadium – that is, the new stadium’s footprint overlaps the old stadium’s footprint to some degree. Once built, the new Busch Stadium did nothing to revive the immediate surrounding area, which remains populated largely by parking facilities, a couple of hotels, and a handful of high-end restaurants. It certainly doesn’t feel like a “neighborhood.”

Denver’s situation is not quite comparable, since there wasn’t an existing stadium already on the site, but before Coors Field (the Colorado Rockies’ baseball stadium) was built, the surrounding area was largely a wasteland of semi-abandoned warehouses and industrial sites. Construction of Coors Field really *did* dramatically alter the dynamic of the area, which is now home to not only the usual sports bars, but also continuing and apparently successful development of urban housing, accompanied by a revival of retail in that part of town.

Offhand, I’d say the odds are no better than 50-50 for a new Vikings’ stadium provoking some sort of renaissance at the east end of downtown Minneapolis.

Can you think of any factors to account for the difference

The article here says that at the time the Metrodome was built, area development still favored downtown at the expense of the area surrounding the dome. They're claiming that has now changed and that THIS time around, development around the new stadium site will be actively supported.

Are you aware of any similar dynamics at play in the St. Louis Busch stadium v.s. Denver's Coors stadium which you have written about here?

Denver's LoDo was already revitalizing

Denver's LoDo was already revitalizing before Coors Field located there. While the stadium could be seen as an amenity to the neighborhood, certainly the success of the surrounding area was not contingent on its construction. From the Wikipedia article on LoDo:

"The Lower Downtown Historic District was formed by an act of City Council in March 1988, with the intention of encouraging the preservation and vitality of an area that is significant because of its architectural, historical, and economic value. The historic status granted protection to the community's historic resources and to 127 historic structures (approximately 20% of Lower Downtown's buildings were demolished in the 1960s and 70's) by enactment of a zoning ordinance.

"It was during this time, that the neighborhood started to experience a renaissance. New businesses such as future Denver mayor and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper's Wynkoop Brewery opened, and slowly LoDo became a destination neighborhood. By the time Coors Field opened on the edge of the LoDo Historic District in 1995, the area had begun to revitalize itself into a new, hip neighborhood filled with clubs, restaurants, art galleries, stores, bars, and other businesses. Pepsi Center, located on the other edge of the neighborhood, opened in 2000 and further encouraged the neighborhood to become a sport fan's paradise. New residential development came to LoDo, transforming old warehouses into pricey new lofts."

Right to Work

Shall we do 'Right to Work' for the Koch brothers and all the Minnesota legislators they bought?

Wisconsin job growth and stadium

Since Walker assumed the governorship in Wisconsin, the state has had the worst job growth rate of any state in the Midwest.

Those touting the stadium give us many supposed facts and figures supporting their cause, but rarely do we get research from independent sources, which shows that public financing of stadiums is not the best use of the public's resources.

Oddly enough

As for property taxes, many people in Minnesota who saw a large decrease in the market value of their homes have not failed to notice that their property taxes went up anyway, reduced assessment withstanding.

Wisconsin does not have LGA, how, how I ask, can they manage lower taxes when MN Democrats instruct us that property taxes are as tied to LGA as gravity is to the Earth?

Don't Lie To Me

What might be most infuriating about those pushing Right To Work For Less is that they refuse to just come out and say they want to weaken unions. It is insulting to citizens to be less than forthcoming.


I support the right for a citizen to take a job for which he or she is qualified and is offered by an employer without the interference, or mandate to pay tribute to, any third party.

I support MY right to negotiate MY own compensation and work rules without the interference of any third party.

Though I aver, the fact that in the absence of such coersion unions wither is a welcome bonus.

Who Owns Minnesota Legislators?

Any politician who supports 'Right to Work for Less' is bought and paid for by the out-of-state Koch brothers.

The Lamestream Media...

...continues to amuse me by calling this Right to Work. Who in the heck has ever currently been denied the "right to work"? Why does the media continue using this name? Really, let's at least be honest and call it the "Right to Increase the Income Disparity" bil.l

Stadium dead zones

Rybak is clearly being disingenuous about the lack of development around the dome. First of all, you have similar dead zones around the new Twins stadium, and the Target Arena, Block E has been dying a slow death ever since it opened across the street from the arena. If Zoning has been the issue, it's a lot cheaper and easier to change the zoning rules than it is to build a billion dollar stadium. It would also be cheaper and easier to simply promote some kind of development around the dome, like has been done along the river. You don't need a new stadium to do this.

These stadium dead zones are the rule rather than the exception in most cities. Economists and sociologists have studied the phenomena and explained it. For one thing, retail outlets next to stadiums tend to perform badly because people going to and from events are typically not interested in shopping, the want to get in and out. Other businesses like hotels rarely want to be located next to stadiums because the traffic and congestion inconvenience their guests. Housing developers likewise have found that few people want to live next to stadiums for a variety of reasons. Even restaurants and bars can find close proximity to a stadium or arena problematic. There's nothing a "new" stadium or light rail that changes these dynamics in any meaningful way. And stadiums can actually drive customers away from downtown business. I know I avoid downtown on game days because of parking problems and expense, and I doubt I'm the only one.

Light Rail


Your comments on stadium dead zones make a lot of sense and I agree heartily.

Light rail, on the other hand, can't be lumped in with a stadium. There has been a lot of development and rising property values along the Hiawatha line, and the same is happening along the Central Corridor. Light rails does a lot to revitalize a community and spur economic development.

One more point, Block E partially died it's own death, but it has truly gone quiet since the building was bought by new developers who have been forcing out the businesses one by one so they can try and build an urban casino (good luck!). I don't think the death of Block E can really be attributed to the Twins stadium.

I don't think that's really the case with the Twins stadium

I think your general point is correct but the Twins stadium is one of the minority cases where it's right. The street scene around there is quite lively, not because of the stadium alone, but because they work together. When there's no game, the stadium is not a big empty blight but sits unobtrusively off to the side, and the neighborhood supports itself anyways. When there is a game, the stadium engages the neighborhood well and encourages foot traffic through it.

I have plenty of reservations about publicly funded stadiums, but I have yet to find something bad to say about the execution of the Twins ballpark.

Housing near stadiums

Just anecdotal information, but I know people who were renting near the Twins stadium and said the parking, traffic and crowds on game day were a major pain, and they moved. I suppose some residents will enjoy those aspects for a time, but they're not condusive to a "community," in my opinion.

Who wants a representative democracy in the workplace?

I do, for one. If majority rule through democratic elections is sufficient for every other aspect of our lives, I have no problem applying the same principle in the workplace. Unions, like local and state governments, sometimes work better for their constituents than others. But, like local and state governments, we'd be in worse shape without them. It wasn't corporate leaders, by and large, who fought for workplace safety, the 40 hour work week, or any of the benefits that oranized labor has won for the American worker. It was union leaders and members who not only paid their financial dues, but other dues as well.

A union presence in an industry is itself often sufficient to increase wages and improve working conditions throughout the industry.

Yes, some unions have become national disgraces to the labor movement, as some local and state governments have disgraced the very idea of representative democracy. For every UAW, there's a Chicago. The response to both is not to dismantle, but to reinvigorate the organizations, through member and citizen involvement. If a union can't be saved, then workers have the right to vote to decertify it. (We in Minnesota should only be so lucky to be able to de-certify local politicians without waiting for the next election.)

I pay taxes which support any number of activities I do not support. So, too, do some union members. Again, the answer is to become active in the union or work to de-certify it in your workplace, not to back laws that are intended to and will spell the end of unions in Minnesota.

I'm no longer in the workplace and have not been a union member for more than 25 years, not because I oppose unions but because I worked in a profession which has not been and is unlikely to ever be unionized. In my first 15 to 20 years in the workplace, I was on occasion a union member. Some unions were better than others. All had their problems, from my perspective, just as every community in which I have ever lived has had its problems.

I've also worked in non-union positions. They, too, have had their problems, usually with no means of addressing them other than to pack my bags and find other employment: e.g., the plastics factory in which I was expected to work in 108 degree heat and take salt tablets to counter its effects and the sawmill that lacked even the most elementary safeguards for its employees and where the owner tried to lower hourly wages when a federal contract required he pay overtime for more than a 40 hour week.

I won't be directly affected by the death of unions. My son, my nephews, nieces and their children will and it won't be for the better.

Re: development by the dome

I bet if restaurants and other retailers were offered the level of subsidy that is being offered the Vikings there would be a lot of development near the dome or any new stadium.Rybak assumes the NFL needs a huge subsidy to put their business there but all the other businesses don't need a similar subsidy. More bull from the politicians supported by the 1%.

Right to Join a Union, or not. A choice.

The only change will be the Unions can't just take money out of hard working people's pockets. The union will be forced to change their memberships from being pretty much forced ($48/mo not to join, vs $49 to join... not a choice really).... to convince people that the service they provide is worth it.

If you talk to a union supporter, they answer is: yes the service is worth the fee. If that is true, then there will be little to no change in union support. People who like being in the union can continue to pay for their memberships and all is well.

If people feel the union isn't representing them, and do not want to give the unions support, they shouldn't have to. If they don't, then they don't get the protection or services the union offers. They are on their own and if they feel they can do better on their own... fine. Let them. If they find they are not doing well, they can always join a union. That is not being taken away.

As for the evil Koch Brothers... They are #79 in the heavy litters list. Look at numbers 1-20... Count the Unions. Look where the money is going.... You are worried about #79???

Right to work law necessary

It's truly amazing a basic first ammendment right(as included in the proposed law) is being so strongly opposed by Unions and their members. The right to choose membership or not and the benefits that go along with it should always be voluntary. Forcing an employee to pay for protection? Sound like anything else? I worked for a County that had both union and non union members. Both were treated fairly and similarily year in and year out.

the only problem with your comment...

is that you don't understand that the union will be forced to represent that employee even if they are not a member of the union.

unions forced to represent non-union employees

This is *NOT* true.

Unions have a choice:
1) They can represent members only, but only collect dues from members.
2) They can represent all employees, and all employees must pay a minimum 'representation fee' to the union.

The unions chose #2. They can do the first option, but choose to do the second because it means more $$$ for them.


Just keep looking for solutions to problems that don't exist. No job bills, just attacks on gays, older and poor voters and unions through the MN constitution! Even the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Partnership did not testify on rtw. As discusses in the sunday Trib, even business thinks the Republican legislators are nuts. Their goal must be to lower our state's status to Mississippi or Alabama.

Ya got us!

"Their goal must be to lower our state's status to Mississippi or Alabama."

Yup; we do love us some grits!

I'd love to see a non-joking response to this

Why *do* all of your policy ideas seem to come from the most awful states in the union?

Good news

That you love grits - I think you would fit in well in either Mississippi or Alabama.

Really? Ya think?

Schwoooop! Prettiest flyby I've ever seen a clue make!

What the voters really want

We want a Right to Work amendment that states:

We have the right to work for a company that provides a living wage
We have the right to work for a company that doesn't treat its employees as "Human Resources"
We have the right to work for a company that doesn't pay its executives 500 times the average worker
We have the right to work for a company that respects the environment
We have the right to work for a company whose profits go to Main Street not Wall Street

The reason we have these laws in the first place is because some employers treated their employees like Kleenex and the only way to fight back was to form unions.

Maybe union supports should...

Put up a list up front of what the services are that make them so valuable.
I was in one for a very short period of time.... so I do not know that much, but
I DO know, that besides negotiating wages and work conditions, they are also involved sometimes with training and pensions, etc.
Some one help us out here? Please?

P.S. We of a certain age, also remember when many companies also provided pensions for their eemployees and quit a bit of on the job training....

Right to work law necessary

It's hard to understand why a first ammendment right as included in the Right to work bill is so strongly opposed by Unions and their members. The choice to join or not join a union and the benefits that may go along with it should always be voluntary. Forcing an employee to pay for protection? Sound like anything else? I worked for a county that had both union and non union employees. Both groups were treated equally year in and year out .The donations Unions are making to politicians on every level is astronomical, I can see why they might be fearful of possibly losing a few members and their dues.

"The Koch Brothers are #79"

However, their creation and support of a nationwide pro-corporate organization that "helps" state legislators write bills that benefit corporations at the expense of ordinary people, that has tame think tanks in every state to help push their agenda, that works with anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist and the National Chamber of Commerce to support anti-union, anti-public schools, anti-science idiocy about climate change that seeks to make people believe it's a hoax so they can continue to push dirty coal and oil as "safe," that gets legislators to insist that regulations protecting us from unsafe food, dirty air and water, and destruction of the environment are "job killers."

This is a partial list of all the damn-age the Koch Brothers and their helpers are working on. See