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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Health Care Providers Union YES

Category: Labor
Posted: 08/27/14 01:52, Edited: 08/27/14 01:57

by Dave Mindeman

Republicans don't like unions.

Rep. Tara Mack, (R) Apple Valley seems especially upset about the home health care providers union that was just formed via a positive union vote....

"I strongly believe in the right to free association, but the government should not use its power to make private, independent care providers into employees of the state," said Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley. "The law passed by Minnesota Democrats in 2013 gives government greater power to decide how a mother provides care for her disabled child. There are significant concerns about the conduct of this election given that barely one in 10 affected providers supported public sector unionization, but any regulations agreed to between the union and state could affect all care providers. In light of the United States Supreme Court decision from late June, I hope the Dayton administration will respect the independence of providers who do not wish to participate in this arrangement."

Hmmm...very somber tone. You would think that these independent care providers were looking at impending doom.

She seems to be insinuating that this is some kind of a government takeover. Except the State of Minnesota was already paying them. The only difference now is that they have someone to represent them in wages and working conditions. In light of the fact that they barely make a living wage, I would think that might actually be a good thing.

And I am a little puzzled that Ms. Mack wants to use some kind of 1984 analogy in that "government" will decide "how a mother provides care for her disabled child". What? It seems to me that government mandates were already a distinct possibility because although these workers are hired by the families, these particular workers are paid via Medicaid through the State. The reality of this is that a union can now intervene if these workers or the working conditions that may be regulated by the State of Minnesota are not what the workers or providers want or expect. There is now an advocate....someone with contract strength to intervene.

And then there is the election. Yes, there was a low percentage of participation....but those that voted were in the affirmative by 60%. But if that bothers Ms. Mack or the providers who didn't vote, the question has to be asked why didn't they voice there objections by a negative vote? And why didn't Ms. Mack's concern translate into encouragement to get out and cast a negative vote? Democracy works only when you participate. Apparently opponents of this union think participation is optional in all aspects.

And speaking of optional, recent court rulings seem to indicate that union dues may be optional. Which seems a little unfair in that if the union manages to increase wages or get better contracts, all of the providers will probably benefit.

If Rep. Mack wants the "independence" of providers who did not participate then I think that should also mean that they do not get any of the benefits that the union might negotiate. But I doubt that will happen.

Some of Rep. Mack's Republican colleagues sense an advantage in the possible "opt-out" provisions - because another GOP statement was issued on the same subject....

Minnesota Republican lawmakers tentatively welcomed the new union, saying it in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, it "would be the first union in Minnesota to operate under the concept of employee freedom."

This union forms (as part of the SEIU) with a number of obstacles but it does exist. If the union is able to bring needed changes for all of these workers, then I think the union will be able to whether the storm and benefit everybody.

They will have to fight for that existence every step of the way, but it is still a major step forward for unions in Minnesota. Maybe the tide has turned.
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MN Senate Office Bldg - A Buttery Issue But A Little Rancid

Category: GOP 2014
Posted: 08/26/14 01:12, Edited: 08/26/14 01:12

by Dave Mindeman

When you can't find an issue to run on, you look for something that, on the surface, looks like an unnecessary expenditure, distort the facts and beat it to death to whomever will listen.

That is the GOP message for 2014 and the issue they want to "beat to death" is the new Senate office building.


It started out a little extravagant which was a mistake by DFL Senate leadership, but the more practical MN House scaled it back and made it more utilitarian. Then they added a much needed parking garage (which user fees will pay for) and the current idea of the Senate Office Building was born.

Still not good enough for the MN GOP. In fact, they thought the optics of having it sculpted in butter would be even better....


(photo by MPR)

An "uncanny" likeness, don't you think?

But what about this new expenditure. Was it really needed? And are the Republicans getting the facts right? First answer YES. Second answer, as usual, is NO.

This Capitol building is over 100 years old. The rennovation currently going on is badly needed. Even the MN GOP gets that one. But the legislature has been talking about new office space for 4 decades. None of the Parties have had the cajones to propose building something new for the reasons that are occurring right now - objections by the Party out of power.

Republicans are telling us that the Senate could have rented temporary office space in downtown St. Paul. But there would be problems. First of all, constituents are not going to appreciate running all over town to get to their Senator. Secondly, the cost of temporary space is not going to be any appreciable savings... in fact, the House asked for cost effectiveness to be analyzed.....

After an initial hearing on the building at the start of session, House members asked the Department of Administration to analyze other possible options. Among their questions: Is there enough space to hold senators in any nearby buildings on the Capitol complex? Is it cheaper to lease space for senators somewhere else, both temporarily and in the long term?
Most of the department's responses Friday boiled down to an unequivocal "no."

As for the GOP version of the facts....

1. They say the taxpayers are paying $90 million. Actually the cost of the building is $77 million and the rest is paying for a parking garage that is paid via parking user fees, not the taxpayers. Capitol parking has been a pain in the neck for years and adding a new garage on site is actually a welcome relief.

2. It's a lavish facility - unnecessarily extravagant. The original design did have some unnecessary amenities. But the more frugal House members took out many of those....some of those changes included:

A. A mechanical room was moved up to the rooftop of the building, giving space to all 67 senators.
B. They also cut the number of conference rooms by half and shrunk offices sizes to make room for everyone.
C. The House reduced some of the glass on the facade of the building facing the Capitol's north side.
D. There's no more service tunnel at the parking level, and the lot will now be user financed.
E. The roof level no longer has skylight and green-roof options

3. Too much for the budget. The real facts on the financing show some creativity. It will be paid for in bonds. The state will own the building and the legislature will pay rent for its use. There could be other uses for the facilities which might cut more of the cost.

The project will be financed through a "lease-purchase agreement," which is shorthand for a lease with an option to purchase. Minnesota Management and Budget will issue revenue bonds or certificates of participation to borrow the money for the building, and the Legislature will appropriate funds every two years to pay the debt service on the bonds, said Wayne Waslaski, the Department of Administration's director for real estate.

When the Senate initially drafted this proposal, I didn't like it either. It was rushed through and tacked onto another bill allowing for minimal debate. But the House prevailed on the issue and have arrived at a very practical and solid solution to a space problem that has plagued the legislature for several decades.

But the MN Republicans needed an election issue. And so here we are - at the Senate office building. I think this particular issue will last as long as their butter mock-up will - without refrigeration.
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McFadden And Polymet: Short Term, Fast Buck Thinking For MN

Category: GOP 2014
Posted: 08/25/14 01:34, Edited: 08/25/14 01:48

by Dave Mindeman

When he isn't talking about Chinese steel, Mike McFadden promotes the premise that our over regulated economy is being held back by government restrictions. And he loudly states that Polymet in Minnesota is a prime example.

If the government would lighten up, McFadden argues, the economy would take off.

Well, we don't have to look very far to see why his premise is incorrect. In fact, we can use his favorite steel manufacturer, China, as a prime example of how loosening regulations can be detrimental.

The state run Chinese government has given its businesses every kind of advantage when it comes to government support. And Chinese steel is an example of how that support can add to the "cost" of using it....

When California bought Chinese steel to renovate and expand the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, for a project that began in 2002, problems like faulty welds by a Chinese steel fabricator delayed the project for months and led to huge cost overruns. Those delays eroded much of the savings California was banking on when it opted for the "cheap" Chinese steel.

Environmental advantages have also been given to Chinese manufacturing. And their population is paying that price as well....

The air is off-the-charts bad. The U.S. embassy cautions that at this level, "everyone may experience more serious health effects." Even the Chinese government, whose own air-quality monitoring often records pollution at a lower intensity than the American embassy does, recommends that residents should wear masks and avoid outdoor activities.

Is that the kind of "help" we want to give businesses like Polymet?

The main problem with the slow process of approval in Polymet's case largely stems from Polymet itself. They were slow to take the environmental studies seriously....

The (March 2014) assessment was far better than the rating PolyMet's environmental study received four years ago. Then, the EPA said that the study provided an inadequate assessment of the proposed mine's effects on the environment.

The study that Polymet provided early this year finally did put them on an approval track - which was four years in the making, because Polymet was not providing all the needed information.

McFadden promises to fast track all of this, but at what cost? Sulfide mining is not a "clean" process and we are dealing with a pristine Boundary Waters area. A place that would have difficulty recovering from a chemical onslaught that happens with fast track production.

McFadden can criticize the process (and he surely will), but if he is wrong, it will be the next generation that pays the price. If the 360 jobs produced from this mine are worth a multi-generational burden of clean up, then bring in McFadden and roll the dice.

A slower process and extreme caution are a wiser method. But business never considers that the "economically" preferred way.

Polymet talks about being responsible for the "millions of dollars" and "decades" of clean-up that could very well result. But if the mine doesn't produce over the long term, you think that contract will be honored?

Not when you can cut your losses and move on. That's the kind of short term, roll the dice, strategy we will get from Mike McFadden. Exactly the way Chinese steel fits into his idea of the business bottom line.
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