The Minnesota legislature has taken up a controversial right-to-work bill that would greatly reduce the power of unions, much as similar laws have done recently in Wisconsin, Indiana, and other states now controlled by Republican lawmakers.
The measure, aimed ultimately at forcing a referendum on a right-to-work amendment to the state constitution, drew a heated reaction from union supporters and prompted one of the biggest demonstrations at the Capitol building in years, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune
More than a 1,000 union workers and supporters showed up Monday to urge the state Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee to reject the bill. It passed on a 7-6 vote, moved on by a Republican majority.
“This is going to turn Minnesota into a Third World country,” said union member Mike Riley, a pipefitter. “The way people are struggling now, how can they go after the unions?”
Riley’s argument that right-to-work laws ultimately lead to lower wages was echoed by Democratic opponents of the measure, including Gov. Mark Dayton.
“It’s a misnomer; it’s the right to work for lower wages,” Dayton said.
But supporters insisted that turning Minnesota into a right-to-work state would help grow more businesses and attract more investment. They said the state’s organized union laws raise the costs of doing business.
“What this amounts to is a job tax,” said Republican Sen. Dave Thompson, who is sponsoring the measure.
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