Labor’s agenda advances in House, finds roadblocks in Senate
From the Minneapolis Labor Review, April 19, 2019
By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor
SAINT PAUL — As the Labor Review went to press April 12, the Minnesota legislature adjourned that day for a 12-day recess. The 2019 session will reconvene April 23 — with the clock ticking towards the May 20 adjournment date four weeks later.
At this point in the session, almost all of the Minnesota AFL-CIO’s legislative priorities had advanced in the DFL-controlled Minnesota House — but had made little progress of any kind at all in the Republican-controlled Senate.
In the House, “all of our top priorities are very much alive,” reported Melissa Hysing, the Minnesota AFL-CIO’s legislative director.
With little action in the Senate, however, “a lot of this is going to come down to conference committee negotiations,” Hysing said.
Here’s a rundown on the status of the Minnesota AFL-CIO’s agenda.
Paid Family and Medical Leave
The proposal backed by the Minnesotans for Paid Family and Medical Leave Coalition, of which the Minnesota AFL-CIO is a co-chair, has passed through nine committee hearings in the House. The proposal is included in the omnibus jobs bill (HF 2208) and in a largely identical stand-alone bill, HF 5.
“The Senate has done nothing,” Hysing said. “They haven’t addressed the issue in any way. No hearings. No proposals in their bills at this point.”
Ending Wage Theft
Legislation to address wage theft also is included in the omnibus jobs bill (HF 2208) and in a stand-alone bill, HF 6.
“The House bill reflects the priorities of the Coalition to End Wage Theft and the experiences of directly-affected workers, employers, advocates, and the Department of Labor who have been working together to address this problem for years,” Hysing said.
“The wage theft bill in the House is bi-partisan,” she noted. “It has bi-partisan authors and has received multiple bi-partisan votes.”
In the Senate, however, the companion bill — SF 1933 — was not even accorded a hearing by Senate leadership.
A Republican wage theft bill in the Senate — SF 1816 — is weak on enforcement, Hysing said, and contains provisions harmful to workers.
(For example, the bill would require a worker who experienced wage theft to submit a written demand to his or her employer for payment five days before the Department of Labor would be allowed to investigate).
The same weak wage theft bill is in the Senate’s omnibus jobs bill, SF 2611, which also includes language to preempt the City of Minneapolis $15 minimum wage and earned sick time ordinances.
Accessible and Affordable Health Care
The House omnibus Health and Human Services bill (HF 2414) includes the Governor’s OneCare proposal, a prescription drug price transparency bill, and the important repeal of the sunset of the healthcare provider tax. The bill goes to the House floor April 24. The Senate omnibus Health and Human Services bill (SF 2452), contains none of the key House provisions.
Fair Taxes for Working People
The House tax bill (HF 2125) includes conformity with new federal tax laws and raises $1.2 billion in new revenue. “We support it,” Hysing said. “Overall the bill raises revenue to fund working Minnesotans, their schools, healthcare and communities. It provides investments in things working people in Minnesota need.”
The Republican-controlled Senate will not release its tax proposal until after the recess.
Minnesota is the only state that has a 48-hour workweek in state law, but legislation to mandate a 40-hour workweek, supported by the AFL-CIO has stalled. “We are prioritizing that one more for next year,” Hysing said, and the bill is “no longer in play for this session.”
Comprehensive Transportation Funding and Gas Tax Increase
The House omnibus transportation bill (HF 1555) includes a 20-cent increase in the gas tax, which will be phased in over four years, to invest in roads and bridges. For transit, the bill includes a one-half cent metro area sales tax. The bill will go to the House floor after the break. The Senate Republicans’ omnibus transportation bill, SF 1093, contains neither provision.
Contact your Senator
During the legislature’s break, Hysing said, “legislators will be back in their districts. People should call their Senators.” And, if they hold a town hall, she urged, “show up!”
|About 1,000 members of Building Trades unions attended an April 3 Day on the Hill.
> Walz proposes $1.3 billion infrastructure plan
(Minneapolis Labor Review, 3-22-19)