Minnesota Republicans want to be like Wisconsin

Is it time to protest in St. Paul?
Is it time to protest in St. Paul?

After introducing a bevy of union-busting bills, Minnesota Republicans are sure starting to look like their Tea Party-ing Wisconsin counterparts.

One measure, authored by Waseca Sen. Mike Parry, calls for the state--as well as local county governments and school districts--to cut pension contributions by 3 percent. Another, by Eden Prairie's David Hann, would strip teachers of their collective bargaining rights.

Madison redux, anyone?

Sen. David Hann wants to bust teachers' unions
Sen. David Hann wants to bust teachers' unions

Hann's bills on education would hand power to school administrators; among other things, Hann wants to limit union negotiating to the summer, and enable school boards to make unilateral contract decisions--effectively stripping teacher's unions of their bargaining power. He also wants to make it illegal for teachers to strike.

Another Hann bill would end the practice of automatic union dues payments for teachers, and allow non-union teacher contracts, according to this MPR report.

None of those things are good for teachers' rights.

But some of the changes--allowing non-union contracts, for instance--are exactly the kinds of moves that reformers like Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of public schools in Washington, D.C., say are necessary to improve our failing public schools. In a recent Newsweek piece, Rhee explains why she's a teacher union-buster: She ties the tactic to improving public schools.

But let's not forget what this effort is really about: here in Minnesota, just like in Wisconsin, Republicans see public employee unions as a threat at the ballot box. And now that they've got the power, they're trying to kill them off. Just as in Wisconsin, Minnesota's unions are among the most powerful backers of Democratic candidates. Without them, it would be harder for Barack Obama to win again in 2012.

"Collective bargaining is the extension of democracy in the workplace," says Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Council 5. "It's free trade unions that have created a middle class and are fundamental to having a democracy in our country, and in any nation." Related Coverage:

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