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Thompson introduces 'Right-to-work' constitutional amendment

Republican legislators want to give Minnesotans the option to opt out of unions, a subject that has created heated debate in many states.

"In Minnesota law, if a worker refuses to pay union dues, they are fired," Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said Thursday. "This isn't fair and it's definitely not free."

The labor community immediately shot back, saying such a move would hurt workers and businesses.

Drazkowski said the proposed constitutional amendment is the most important jobs-related bill possible. Jobs are created twice as fast in states that give workers the right to not be in unions, he added, than in states like Minnesota.

"Our bill is simple: Let's allow Minnesotans to vote on whether or not an individual should be forced to pay a third party in order to work," said Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville.

Thompson, who represents Farmington, said anyone who wants to belong to a union still could do so if the constitutional amendment passes.

The "right-to-work" issue is important to Republicans, who control the state House and Senate. A constitutional amendment does not need approval of Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton; instead, if the House and Senate approve the measure it heads to voters in the Nov. 6 election.

"Minnesota consistently outperforms anti-middle class 'right to work' states like Mississippi and Alabama," state AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson said. "Why would anyone want to enact something that is bad for working people and bad for business?"

Knutson discussed statistics that show Minnesota has fewer unemployed people and that Minnesotans earn $5,000 a year more than in right-to-work states.

Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said the right-to-work proposal is "nothing more than the right to work for less. It will cut wages, it will cut benefits."

But Drazkowski said meetings Republicans have held around the state produced Minnesotans who want the right-to-work amendment.

Don Davis covers the Minnesota capitol for Farmington Independent parent company Forum Communications