Other Opinion: Not a 'real' Minnesotan?
During a press conference in Duluth last week, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton accused the Republican majority in the Minnesota House and Senate of "once again (putting) the priorities of corporations and wealthy individuals over the priorities of real Minn...
During a press conference in Duluth last week, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton accused the Republican majority in the Minnesota House and Senate of "once again (putting) the priorities of corporations and wealthy individuals over the priorities of real Minnesotans."
It was political posturing, to be sure, in the wake of a 2017 legislative session now destined for the courts after Dayton defunded the Legislature and after Republicans snuck in a last-minute provision to financially cripple the state Revenue Department if their tax cuts weren't signed into law.
As frustrating as the politics continue to be, our state's top elected official actually suggesting that some of us aren't "real Minnesotans," and that job-providing corporations aren't a "real" part of our state, was insulting, inaccurate, and disappointing, even if it did follow what has become an unfortunate anti-Republican script.
And it wasn't all Dayton said, either. He referred also to a "business community" in Minnesota "that doesn't want to pay living wages or health care and family leave benefits."
Not only was that comment divisive when what we really need right now is unity; it was inaccurate, as Minnesota Chamber of Commerce President Doug Loon confirmed.
"Employers are already offering increased benefits and wages, voluntarily, to attract and retain employees," Loon told the News Tribune Opinion page Monday. They're doing so because "competition for workers at all skill levels is sufficiently strong." In April 2017, Minnesota's unemployment rate was 3.8 percent; the national rate was 4.4 percent.
Stirring all this up is a debate over who governs workplace benefits, including the ability to earn paid days off. Many Minnesota employers already offer the benefit. It's appropriately negotiated during contract times. When it's not offered, it's usually because a worker is part time, seasonal, or otherwise shouldn't expect it.
Such rules traditionally have been applied statewide. Over the past year, however, Minneapolis and St. Paul passed their own so-called sick and safe time rules. Duluth is now moving in the same direction.
But what if all of Minnesota's 850 cities chose to enact such measures on their own? Imagine the chaos. Imagine the impossibility of conducting business here.
"Employers, not (the) government, should determine the benefit offerings that suit the distinctive needs of their employees in their industry," Loon said. "The Minnesota Chamber is supportive of local control where it traditionally exists and thereby does not support expanding local government jurisdiction to areas of employment law. ... Minnesota has realized the benefits of uniformity across the state as reflected in our statewide criminal code, consumer protection laws, banking regulation, insurance regulation, securities regulation and occupational licensing."
In other words, those issues, like the workplace-benefits issue, are most effectively applied statewide rather than community-by-community.
"Bigger companies have the ability and many already do a good job of providing employee benefits. Government-mandated benefits will have the greatest detrimental impact on small employers, the backbone of the state's economy," Loon said.
And aren't small employers "real Minnesotans," too? They won't be for long if they can't stay in business. Divisive political rhetoric, whether uttered by the governor or any other elected official, only fosters a business climate contrary to success, holding back the prosperity of our entire state.
-- Duluth News Tribune