Dayton strongly objects to partisan committee vote rejecting state union contracts

A proposed contract that covers nearly 30,000 state union employees was rejected today on a partisan vote by the Legislative Subcommittee on Employee Relations.

All six Republicans on the panel voted to reject the contracts; all four DFLers voted in favor of the contracts. The vote was not a surprise; a meeting of the legislative group earlier this month got testy, and showed where the votes were lining up.

The contracts had been negotiated by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration with the American Federal of State, County and Municipal employees (AFSCME) and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE.)

The full Legislature could still approve the contracts when it convenes in January. If the Republicans return as the majority party after the election, it won’t happen; if the DFL wins control, it will.

Explaining today’s  subcommittee rejection, state Sen. Mike Parry, the group’s Republican chair who lost in the GOP 1st District congressional primary, said:

“We have communicated our expectations for new contracts to Gov. Dayton since January. We support salary increases. However, as we have stated many times, we would like to see performance as a determining factor in salary increases. The time to reform government costs and accountability is now.”

Affected union members will continue to work under the existing contract.

Republicans on the subcommittee said they want Dayton to renegotiate the contract, “with performance-based wage increases and employee contribution to health insurance premiums.”

State Rep. Ryan Winkler, a DFLer on the subcommittee, supported the contract and said afterward:

“Today, anti-union extremists chose to attack a fair and modest contract for our hard-working state employees. Unlike the legislators who constantly attack them, state employees have sacrificed. State employees lost $65 million in wages — nearly a 6 percent pay cut — during the Republican government shutdown last year.

“Beating up public employees and pitting middle-class workers against each other won’t make Minnesota a better state. The hard-working, middle-class men and women of this state deserve fair wages and fair benefits. They certainly deserve better than these Republican attacks.”

On Wednesday, Dayton had sent a scathing letter to Parry and state Rep. Steve Drazkowski, Republican vice chair of the subcommittee, saying he didn’t want to participate in “political theatrics” on the issue.

In the letter, Dayton says of the proposed union contract:

It is a responsible agreement and one that is well within the financial parameters established in the four, two-year contracts negotiated by the previous Republican administration, all of which were approved by the legislature. Most of the other issues you raise are embedded in the contracts, which we inherited from the previous administration and previous legislatures.

We can find no evidence that either of you publicly criticized the previous Governor for his four agreements. We can find no record that either of you offered amendments on the House or Senate floors to change the laws, rules, or procedures, which you now question. So, why is it that what was acceptable during the eight years of the Pawlenty administration, is now unacceptable under mine?

Dayton continued:

Your first action at the beginning of last year was to propose a 15% reduction in state funded employees for every department, including even Corrections and Veterans Affairs. That opening gambit was followed by 22 bills introduced by members of your caucuses, which attacked public employees, collective bargaining, and even the right to form unions. The hearing you held recently to consider this contract was highly charged, adversarial, and partisan.

That kind of atmosphere is antithetical to discussing and enacting the reforms you profess to be seeking. Hopefully, the next legislature can create an environment, where everyone can truly work together, cooperatively and constructively, to better serve the needs of the people of Minnesota.

Let me conclude by reiterating that my administration greatly values our state’s employees, most of whom work very hard for very little recognition or appreciation. They understand that we are in an era of increasingly limited budgets to serve ever-growing needs. Yet salary and benefits improvements are important to our retaining the best and brightest among them. Unfortunately, you and other Republican politicians continue trying to drive a wedge between public and private sector employees. The repeated claims that state employee unions are ripping off Minnesota taxpayers are designed for political gains, not constructive reforms. And they are wrong.

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Comments (28)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/30/2012 - 01:56 pm.

    “fair and modest contract “

    When everyone else in society is paying several hundred dollars a month for their health insurance, it’s time the state union employees be made to pay SOMETHING.

    The public “servants” shouldn’t have it better than their masters, the taxpayers.

    • Submitted by Pete Barrett on 08/30/2012 - 05:48 pm.

      Work For It

      Employers pay fringe benefits to people who work for them. They work, in return they get pay, some in the form of cash and some in the form of benefits. The fringes are cheaper for the employer, they don’t have to pay their share of FICA or unemployment tax. If the entire wage and benefit package were converted to all wages, it would add costs for the employer. It’s a zero sum game, the more you want in fringes, the less you get on the check.

      Employees do not get health care for free. They work for it.

    • Submitted by James Hamilton on 08/30/2012 - 08:36 pm.

      They are not our servants,

      they are our employees. If you want to compare public and private compensation, have at it. But do it on the basis of total compensation, not one aspect of it.

      Salary and benefit trade-offs can be a win-win proposition. Every dollar paid in salaries rather than for benefits increases the state’s social security and pension costs while those benefits are not taxable to the employee.

    • Submitted by Nathan Lind on 08/31/2012 - 12:46 am.

      The only public employees who don’t have any money taken out of their paycheck are single employees. The vast majority who carry health care for their families DO contribute. Let’s end this myth right now.

    • Submitted by Ross Reishus on 09/02/2012 - 08:57 am.

      We do pay something, every single month

      Mr. Tester,

      Your information is blatantly false. My wife is a MAPE member, and we pay a significant 3-figure amount PER MONTH for our health insurance, so you need to stop telling people otherwise. Now please take the time to go back and tell your friends that you were misinformed on this issue.

    • Submitted by david schultz on 09/04/2012 - 10:22 am.

      insurance payments

      perhaps a little fact checking on what state employees pay would be in order, can you possibly believe that insurance is provided at little or no charge? not the case. finding a provider is a problem because of the low provider reimbursement by the state. take a few seconds and check, its all public info on the web. if you think they are overpaid fine, but use some facts.

  2. Submitted by Tim Walker on 08/30/2012 - 03:25 pm.

    Bravo, Gov. Dayton

    What a brilliant letter, properly cutting down those know-nothings who ARE doing nothing more than grandstanding and pandering to the basest of their base.

    Go get ’em, Mark!

  3. Submitted by Pat Missling on 08/30/2012 - 04:00 pm.


    Everyone else in society is not paying hundreds a month for health insurance. Some private sector employees pay as little as $25 a month, so it seems possible some even pay nothing. Perhaps we should rise up and demand they pay more because we feel we’re paying too much for their services?

    Don’t forget public employees are also taxpayers, so they are your equals and belong by your side in the class you call the “masters”. Money they spend keeps whatever your private sector business is going – very likely their state and federal tax dollars do too.

  4. Submitted by JP Winker on 08/30/2012 - 03:48 pm.

    Anti-Government Solution

    The populist ire propagated by the GOP continues to be destructive. I appreciate the anger behind their motivations but challenge the notion that destroying every structure in sight somehow makes everything better.

    If you want less government, move to Somalia or Yemen. According to the theory subscribed to by Libertarians, Tea Partyers, and republicans, a country with minimal governments must be a veritable paradise. If you’re really committed, go try it. See if you like it. Don’t hurry back.

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/30/2012 - 04:08 pm.

    Thank you, Mr. Tester…

    …for finally being up-front about source of the antipathy you routinely display toward working people who’ve organized themselves, and who bargain collectively with their employers, whether public or private.

    It’s envy.

    Not exactly a noble or righteous basis for protest, but at least it has a certain logic.

    Perhaps if you and your fellow employees at… wherever it is you work, used to work, would like to work, don’t ever want to work, etc., got themselves organized and began to bargain with your employer, you, too, could get less expensive health care.

    Of course, the best solution in regard to health care would be to have a single-payer, national health-care system, like most other civilized industrial countries have. I look forward to your support for that idea.

    • Submitted by scott gibson on 08/30/2012 - 04:19 pm.

      Thank you, Mr. Schoch

      fpr your comment. It IS envy. No one is stopping the private sector from organizing to improve their lot. Well, I take that back. I’m sure Republicans would like to minimize such organizing, even though they profess to dislike only public unions. And yes, Mr. Tester, public employees do pay in for their health care and they do pay taxes (& certainly at a greater rate than the Romneys of this world).

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/30/2012 - 07:05 pm.

      When I’m paying for

      your free health care and generous early retirement, it’s not envy, it’s disgust that the “public servants” are living high off of MY dime. But as Scott Walker showed, that will change as soon as the governor’s office changes because the people agree with me.

      I don’t pay for the benefits of private sector employees, they do. And there is no private sector employer where the employees pay nothing for health insurance. Even people who work for health insurance companies pay SOMETHING.

      The gravy train is over.

      • Submitted by Don Medal on 08/31/2012 - 06:31 am.


        living high at your expense?

        want to compare your income to that of public sector union employees?
        The value of your home to theirs?

        I don’t know ANY union members who are “living high”.

  6. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/30/2012 - 04:52 pm.

    Dayton’s got nothing to lose.

    There is no downside to Dayton shelling out pay raises while those lucky enough to be employed at all have accepted reductions in pay and increases in insurance payments.

    Which is why Minnesota taxpayers should thank their lucky stars that there are folks at the capital that take their professional and fiduciary responsibilities seriously.

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 08/30/2012 - 05:42 pm.

      Like Brodkorb

      And Koch and the rest of the republican senators who are forcing MN taxpayers to pay legal fees for a republican party sex scandal. Professional? Meeting their fiduciary duties to the citizens of MN? Hardly!

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/31/2012 - 08:09 am.

        Logan, are you suggesting

        the Senate should just pay to settle? With all due respect, I’m not sure that fulfills my idea of fulfilling a fiduciary responsibility, but you’re entitled to your angle.

        Personally, I’m really tic’d about this lawsuit. I’d rather pay a lawyer to make sure that not only does Brodkorb not get one, thin dime, but get hung with the legal fees we’re paying to fend him off.

        • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 08/31/2012 - 10:14 pm.

          Smart people hire a lawyer

          Before acting like the gang of five or whatever. No matter what – the party that screws up should pat the freight period. Especially for the party of the sanctity of marriage. LOL

          • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/02/2012 - 03:27 pm.

            Maybe you didn’t get the memo, Logan….

            The party of the sanctity of marriage booted both the adulterers out. LOL.

            • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 09/04/2012 - 08:47 am.

              Baloney as usual

              Koch retired after the session without any meaningful discipline from the ethics committee and Brodkorb has his lawsuit. Typical

  7. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 08/30/2012 - 05:57 pm.

    Follow the Money

    How much special interest money do AFSCME and MAPE give to the DFL?

    Did these Unions buy as much influence as Education MN?

  8. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/30/2012 - 07:00 pm.

    We Need to Ask Out Republican Friends

    What it is, exactly that they mean when they say “performance pay,” because I strongly suspect it’s just a meaningless buzzword phrase.

    The fact is when compared to the private sector, the much (and falsely) maligned public sector ALREADY routinely does far more with far less than the private sector EVER does (probably, at least in part, because they don’t have to pay the salaries and outrageous perks of private sector CEO’s).

    In practice in the private sector, “performance bonuses” and “performance pay” simply mean NOBODY gets a raise,…

    except those few who are dishonest enough to kiss up to the boss on a continuous basis (and of course management, CEO’s and CFO’s who ALWAYS give themselves hefty raises by pocketing the money that should have gone to everyone else’s raises and get away with it, year after year, because there are no unions left in the private sector to demand that they do anything else).

    The public employees ALREADY outperform private employees, up and down the line (except for the political hacks so often appointed (especially by Republicans) to manage some of their departments, but over the years, they’ve gotten pretty adept at keeping their departments running smoothly despite the sometimes “flavor of the month” department heads foisted upon them.

    They ALL deserve a raise!

  9. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/30/2012 - 09:25 pm.

    The benefits package for the MN Senate is the gold standard.

  10. Submitted by Don Medal on 08/31/2012 - 06:38 am.

    why are unions bad and corporations good?

    Why do people object when the working class organizes but not when corporations organize?

    Unions grew up in this country because management was unresponsive to the needs of their workforce. large business is inherently strong. the working class is inherently weak.
    Unions have equalized that.

    I do not see that the working class is taking over this country. Nor do I see the upper class losing any of their power.

    No, I’m not a union worker, but I’m not afraid of them either.

  11. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 09/04/2012 - 09:45 pm.

    Semi-recent tidbits

    The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009) show that government workers make about 5 percent more than private sector workers on average.

    Public sector workers also are significantly more likely to have traditional pension plans – called “defined benefit” plans. The latest data from BLS showed 20 percent of workers in the private sector have pension plans. In the public sector, defined benefit plan coverage is four times greater — about 79 percent

    The latest Kaiser Family Foundation survey on the costs of health insurance showed government workers are more likely to be offered health insurance while they work and in retirement.
    In retail firms, for example, only 48 percent of workers were covered by health benefits offered by their firm (the worst industry for insurance coverage), compared to 80 percent of workers in state and local government (the best industry for insurance coverage).
    And those state/local government employees are paying less for coverage than their private sector neighbors.

  12. Submitted by Michelle DeMist on 09/07/2012 - 06:13 pm.

    Performance as a Determining Factor in Salary Increases

    Managers have ALWAYS been able to stand in the way of raises for poor performance and many managers have ALWAYS done performance reviews and career planning – mine did on all counts! Nobody’s waiting for legislators to dictate good employee management practices and for them to do so seems to run counter to the GOP positon of small government

    What they should be talking about instead is standards systems across all agenices. You’d get no argument from anybody, but rather a question about priorities … and what they’re willing to budget for

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