Minnesota workers rally in support of Wisconsin unions (video)
ST. PAUL — Hundreds of union workers rallied at the Minnesota Capitol on Tuesday to show their support for Wisconsin workers in their battle with Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton took to the podium at the rally organized by the AFL-CIO and vowed that as long as he is Minnesota's governor, he will stand up for workers' rights.
"This is not Wisconsin. This is Minnesota. We don't need to be Wisconsin because drastic, extreme measures will not become law here. They won't become law here because I am here," Dayton said.
The governor's comments won loud cheers as workers waved signs that read, "I am a proud public worker" and "solidarity forever."
Walker has proposed stripping public employees of the right to bargain collectively and cutting their benefits in order to help balance the state's budget. Thousands of union workers have packed the Wisconsin State Capitol protesting the governor's plan. Meanwhile, some Tea Party conservatives have rallied in support of Walker.
In Minnesota, several bills that would affect public employees have been introduced in the Legislature. They include a measure that would impose a two-year salary freeze on school educators and prohibit them from striking. Another bill would cut the state government's workforce by 15 percent over the next four years.
Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Tony Sutton blasted Dayton for speaking at the labor rally at a time when Minnesota is trying to solve a projected $6.2 billion budget deficit.
"Note to Mark Dayton: You are not governor of the state of Wisconsin. Instead of taking part in a photo op orchestrated by big labor regarding the Wisconsin budget, Dayton should get serious about his home state’s finances," Sutton said in a written statement.
1st District DFL Rep. Tim Walz was among several politicians who turned out at the labor rally in St. Paul. Walz said that because both he and his wife are teachers, they understand the important role unions play in making sure workers can earn a livable, middle-class wage.
He added, "We wanted to stand here in support of the workers in Wisconsin and across the country, and hope that Gov. Walker sees the light and realizes that the right to collectively bargain has nothing to do with his budget, and it's an attack on workers."