For the second time in a month, an elected official in Minnesota has decided to ‘dis their neighbor to the east. First Governor Mark Dayton mocked the Wisconsin Office of Travel & Tourism, then Minnesota Rep Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, called on Wisconsin companies— who don’t like the soon-to-be-enacted Right-to-Work law– to move over the border. In a letter sent last week to Wisconsin companies, Garofalo interjected himself into Badger State politics. Democrat Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling called the letter “very sincere” and used it to warn her legislative colleagues against passage of the bill. With both Minnesota Democrats and Republican leadership mocking Wisconsin, the old time “border battle” is becoming about more than college sports.
Minnesota voters strongly support the concept of employee freedom. The last poll available, conducted by Survey USA in February 2012, indicated that 55% of Minnesotans would have voted for a constitutional amendment to make Minnesota a Right-to-Work state. Only 24% were against such a measure. At the time the poll was taken, Republicans controlled the Minnesota House and Senate for the first time in nearly forty years. A conservative coalition, lead by Senator Dave Thompson. worked to move Right-to-Work onto the ballot. That effort failed. Moderate Republican critics at the time were too worried that putting employee freedom on the ballot would mean massive union mobilization and a loss at the polls. Republicans lost at the polls anyway, losing both chambers in the fall of 2012.
In Wisconsin, Right-to-Work passed through the legislature on March 6th with Governor Walker signing the bill March 9th. A recent poll conducted by the Wisconsin State Journal in January showed overwhelming voter support, with 77% of respondents saying that agreed that nobody should be required to join a labor union. Union membership in Wisconsin has dropped since Walker signed collective bargaining reform for public employees into law in 2011, with 306,000 unionized workers in 2014 compared to 360,000 in Minnesota during the same year. With Wisconsin about to become the 25th Right-to-Work state in the nation, numbers could decline further.
But despite those facts, Garofalo felt compelled to share his regret that “Republicans in Wisconsin would inject the heavy hand of government…..” with passage of Right-to-Work calling the measure “inconsistent with the principles of free enterprise and limited government.” The Minnesota Republican Party platform clearly supports employee freedom laws by stating: “All workers in Minnesota have the right to work without being forced to join a union and to organize through secret ballot to join a union or other association.”
Garofalo was appointed by Speaker Kurt Daudt as the Chair of the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee and a key part of Daudt’s House Republican Campaign Committee as the largest donor to the committee last fall donating $60,000. A sixth-term representative, he is a leading voice for Republicans in St. Paul.
UPDATE: Per the Pioneer Press, one of the companies which Garofalo contacted, Hoffman Construction, will add two new salaried and 15-20 hourly jobs to its Lakeville office– if they can win competitive bids on transportation projects likely to be funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.