Gov. Dayton signs MAPE contract bill, other labor agreements
|MAPE's 2011-13 contract|
ABOUT YOUR RAISE! ... MAPE employees will get their 2% across-the-board raises and backpay on their April 5th paychecks. Backpay goes back to Jan. 2 of this year. Congratulations!
Gov. Dayton signed Senate File 58 into law today, Feb. 19. The governor's signature is the final step in the approval process for five labor agreements, including MAPE’s, and two compensation plans.
The bill calls for a 2 percent across-the-board increase retroactive to Jan. 2, the first such raise in 3 1/2 years. MAPE’s 2011-13 contract was approved by a 83-44 vote of the Minnesota House Thursday evening, Feb. 14.
SF 58 was authored by Sen. Chris Eaton (DFL – Brooklyn Center), in the Senate and Rep. Leon Lillie (DFL – North St. Paul) in the House. In addition to MAPE’s contract, SF 58 approves contracts four additional unions – AFSCME Council 5, Middle Management Association, State Residential School Education Association and AFSCME Correctional Officers – and two compensation plans (commissioner and managerial plans).
A lengthy debate ensued again Thursday afternoon and evening in the House over a slew of amendments by the Republican legislative minority that were aimed at significantly increasing the cost of health care to state workers and many other topics. The legislative minority also tried to replace the 2 percent across-the-board raise with pay-for-performance. However, the amendments were either ruled out of order or failed floor votes.
It was pointed out multiple times to the Republican legislative minority that it should not attempt to amend agreements negotiated in "good faith" by a process the Legislature had set up. They should vote to "accept" or "reject" the agreements and debate their merits, they were advised.
"Under PELRA (Public Employment Labor Relations Act), we do not have the right to change the terms and conditions of employment," said Rep. Erik Simonson (DFL – Duluth). Pointed out Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL – Golden Valley), "These are agreements that have been negotiated in good faith ..."
In the end, Reps. Erin Murphy (DFL – St. Paul) and Lillie implored the House to end the debate and approve the contracts. Rep. Murphy pointed out that 19,000 public employees were laid off during the three-week state government shutdown led by the then-Republican majority. Laid off state employees lost $65 million in wages during the shutdown. "These contracts are modest and fair," Rep. Murphy said. "Passing this today is the right thing to do."
Rep. Lillie thanked public employees who he said are "good people" and should be treated fairly. "They're part of our team and we need to treat them right," Rep. Lillie said. "Nobody's getting rich."
Despite the negative way the legislative minority repeatedly tried to paint the 2 percent across-the-board pay increase and health-care benefits, the implementation of the contracts will save the employer $7.9 million in health-care costs. Furthermore, half of the state workers are not eligible to receive performance-based step increases.
The Senate approved MAPE’s contract a week ago by a 40-25 vote after a barrage of failed amendments from the legislative minority.
Last week on the Senate floor, the DFL majority fought off a number of amendments from the Republican minority raising the cost of health care for public employees as well as legislators. Many of these same amendments were defeated during committee hearings in both houses since the labor agreement bills were introduced Jan. 17.
Before passage, Senate Majority Leader Thom Bakk (DFL – Cook) thanked public employees in Minnesota for their "professionalism" and for "being very productive as well." He also praised public employees because of their "huge impact on the quality of life of all Minnesotans" and for their hard work, which also includes "cleaning up the Capitol when we are done here today."
The failed attempts to amend the labor agreements continued the Republican minority's attack on the contracts at committee hearings in both houses. Senate Republicans were critical of the proposed 2 percent across-the-board increase in the union contracts. They also were critical of state employees who received both a performance-based step increase and a cost-of-living raise.
Chief Employer Negotiator Barb Holmes defended the agreements, pointing out that state employees haven't had a cost-of-living wage increase in 3 1/2 years, meaning that the 50 percent who weren't eligible for performance-based wage increases hadn't had a raise in that time and in the first year of the 2009-11 contract no raises were granted at all.
Republicans repeatedly attempted to amend the labor agreements in committee hearings in both houses by calling for a mandatory 5 percent health insurance contribution from employees – they said it'd cost employees approximately $46 more per month or more than $550 per year.
"We already have a negotiation process, so for us to get in the middle is totally inappropriate," Sen. Eaton said at a Senate committee hearing. When the amendment was rejected, Republicans promptly proposed an amendment to levy the same 5 percent health-care premium charge on legislators. That too was rejected.
Republican House committee members also claimed they were dissecting state workers’ wages to get the best deal for taxpayers.
“They (state workers) pay taxes just like anyone else,” said Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL – Brooklyn Park).
Rep. Lillie, chair of the Legislative Subcommittee on Employee Relations (SER), led the subcommittee’s recommendation to the Legislature to approve the five agreements and two compensation plans Jan. 28.