The MN GOP made it easy to have a focus for AFSCME Council 5's annual day of communicating with our legislators. A host of "solutions in search of problems" amendments have been proposed. What it's really about is that Gov. Dayton vetoes their crazier bills, so they are using ballot initiatives to try to get around him. Today was our day to let them hear from public employees.
details below the orange squiggle
My local union, 3937, sent a large group this year, 39, and our sister local at the University of Minnesota, 3800, sent 60, so we were about 1/10th of the thousand or so registered, but it looked like more than that showed up. We began with a choice of 2 workshops, either on the law making process or on messaging to stop the amendments proposed for the ballot in November. I chose the amendments messaging; we also learned who in our state belongs to ALEC, the force behind most of our bad legislation and ballot initiatives.
Then we all gathered for the "red meat" speeches in the general session.
Mike Buesing, President of Council 5, soon to retire, gives his last Day on the Hill welcome. and went over the right wing threats: the proposed RTW amendment , what we call Rob the Worker (aka Right to Work), the Voter ID amendment, the Supermajority (for raising taxes) amendment, and the anti-marriage amendment which is already going to be on the ballot. Unsafe, Unfair, and Unnecessary is our message for the RTW amendment
Chuck Loveless, Director of Legislation for AFSCME International, got us caught up on what's going on in DC , for any who have not been watching/reading news! Julie Bleyhl of the Council 5 political staff gave us more detail on the amendments and how to talk to our legislators about them.
Then we grabbed a quick box lunch and met up with other attendees from our own legislative districts to organize for the afternoon at the Capitol. Soon we were out on the buses, jackets not really needed this year-amazing weather for MN!
Eliot Seide, Executive Director of Council 5, got us fired up and chanting. I think the camera men were getting blown away be the loudness. I was right behind them, but my zoom was acting up so I did not get a good picture of Eliot this year. Our other speakers from locals around the state talked about the work they do and how the extreme right wing agenda would impact them.
Victoria Johnson from Local 744 talked about how the Voter ID amendment would disenfranchise likely Democratic voters. Jess Anderson(pictured above), from Local 66, explained how the Supermajority amendment is really about protecting the super-rich from paying their fair share of taxes. Daryl Arola, soon to retire from the Dept. of Natural Resources, talked about attacks on our pensions. Lisa Thompson of Child Care Providers Together told us why day care providers need a union. Unfortunately I missed part of her speech since we had one of the earliest appointments with a legislator.
However, the appointments turned out to be meaningless as everyone had been called into session. (Personally, I suspect the Republican majority did this on purpose to avoid talking to us) My district's reps, all good solid progressives, were kind enough to come out and chat with us when we paged them. Mike Nelson (MN46A) was very knowledgeable about pensions and how unnecessary the GOP attacks on them are.
Our new Senator from District 46, Chris Eaton(on the right) was actually an AFSCME member for 20 years. She did not mince words about how stupid she thinks the proposed amendments are.
She also impressed me last week by leading a moment of silence for Trayvon Martin at our Senate District convention.
Our patience was rewarded when we finally got Deb Hilstrom (MN46B) out to talk. She is also Deputy Minority Leader and VERY busy. I did not get a photo but her aide did, so I may post that later. Deb reminded us outrage is not enough, there also has to be action!
After a quick debriefing, I was finally able to get a yoga break and then head home; a good day, a little hard on the feet but enlivening for the brain.
7:06 PM PT: and here we are, photo courtesy of David Gross, leg. asst. to Sen. Eaton