Committee Helps Thwart Minnesota Power Grab

Stealthy Scheme Would Have Corralled Refinery Workers Into Unions

State-mandated union apprenticeships enrich Big Labor bosses like Sean McGarvey at workers’ expense. (Credit: U.S. Labor Department/Wikimedia Commons) 

This summer, the Republican-controlled Minnesota state Senate came dangerously close to acquiescing to a Big Labor power grab that would have mandated unionized apprenticeship training for would-be refinery workers.

If the Big Labor Refinery Training Amendment had become law, refinery workers would have been forced to go through union boss-sponsored training, even when other training options existed and the workers had no interest in being pressured to join a union.

Fortunately, after the National Right to Work Committee and the Minnesota Right to Work Committee communicated with fence-sitting lawmakers about the devastating impact of this amendment, the Senate reversed course and stripped it from the state’s $52 billion, two-year budget.

National Committee Vice President John Kalb, who oversees Right to Work lobbying efforts directed at the 50 state capitols, explained:

“Big Labor bosses in Minnesota and a number of other states are furious about the rising share of American boilermakers, pipefitters, carpenters, and other tradesmen in the refinery industry who choose to work union-free.

“Early this summer, as lawmakers in St. Paul were racing to finalize the state budget ahead of a June 30 deadline, Big Labor state Sen. Karla Bigham [DFL-Cottage Grove] brought up her hitherto little-discussed apprenticeship-mandate scheme as an amendment to the entire package.”

‘That Amendment Gave Me Concerns, So Glad to Hear Your Concerns Too’

The Bigham amendment would have forced many experienced refinery workers who have performed their jobs safely and efficiently for years to go through multi-year union apprenticeship programs, or find another line of work.

Such blatantly discriminatory Big Labor bills rarely get much traction when they are introduced in states with Right to Work laws.

But the political climate is very different in forced-unionism states like Minnesota.

On June 18, a coalition of pro-forced unionism Senate Democrats and Big Labor-appeasing Republicans voted to attach mandatory unionized apprenticeship training to the budget bill by a lopsided 50-17 margin.

Since the state House of Representatives and the governorship in Minnesota are controlled by union-label Democrats, it seemed the battle was over. But it was only beginning.

Over the next few days, the Minnesota Right to Work Committee and the National Right to Work Committee contacted state senators in both parties to alert them to the strong grassroots opposition to the Big Labor Refinery Training Amendment.

The National Committee alone has more than 67,000 members in Minnesota.

On June 21, the Senate voted 36-30 to send the budget bill back to the Finance Committee to reconsider the Bigham amendment and several other provisions. The following day, the Finance Committee voted 6-4 to strip the apprenticeship mandate from the bill. 

Subsequent Big Labor efforts to reinsert it were unsuccessful.

As the battle continued, several Big Labor-allied senators contacted the National Committee to express their anger at the organization for defending the interests of independent-minded workers and other pro-Right to Work Minnesotans.

But Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), who had stood up to the power grab from the beginning, expressed his appreciation:  “That amendment gave me concerns, so glad to hear your concerns too.”

No Minnesotan Should Be Forced to Pay a Union Boss Just to Work

“It is laughable when union-label politicians and their media enablers claim legislation designed to take money out of workers’ pockets so it can be funneled into the coffers of union bosses like Sean McGarvey [the head of the North American Building Trades Unions] is ‘pro-worker,’” said Mr. Kalb.

“But were it not for the Committee and our grassroots allies, they would likely have gotten away with it in Minnesota this year.

“And Right to Work supporters have a long way to go in St. Paul. Today most members of the GOP-controlled Senate as well as of the Democrat-controlled House continue to toe the Big Labor line and oppose enactment of a state Right to Work law.

“The fact is, no Minnesotan should be forced to pay a union boss just to work. In the wake of the successful battle to protect independent-minded refinery workers, freedom-loving citizens must redouble their efforts to ban all forced union dues and fees.”

This article was originally published in our monthly newsletter. Go here to access previous newsletter posts.

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