Legislators, Governor Dayton make crucial investments in education and health care while expanding rights for workers
St. Paul, MN – As the dust settles on the 2013 legislative session, members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) say it will go down in history as one of the most successful legislative sessions, providing a balanced approach to making key investments in our middle class, while expanding the rights of collective bargaining for workers.
“Over the past five months, Minnesota has positioned itself to make incredible gains for our middle class and for Minnesotans for years to come,” said Jamie Gulley, President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “Governor Mark Dayton, together with our legislators, has passed a budget that stops giving special treatment to the corporate elite and instead grows the middle class through fair taxes and a responsible budget. This budget provides tax relief for homeowners while making investments in education and health care.”
“This year will definitely be remembered as the education session,” said Carol Nieters, Executive Director of SEIU Local 284, which joins together over 8,000 public school service employees who work as paraprofessionals, office clerical staff, bus drivers, custodians and school food service workers. “Finally, Minnesota is closing corporate tax loopholes instead of schools. It’s a much better investment for Minnesota’s future. After years of gimmicks and borrowing billions from schools, we have a historic investment in education.”
Nieters says the adoption of the Student Achievement Levy (a statewide, uniform general education levy) introduced by Rep. Joe Radinovich will ensure equity across school districts. She also is proud to see improved opportunities for districts hurting the most in Minnesota, to guarantee that a child’s zip code doesn’t determine the education they receive.
“Thank you to Rep. Joe Radinovich for ensuring that a child’s opportunity for a quality education is not dependent on where a child lives. Members of Local 284 are proud to see we have equalized education funding across the state,” continued Nieters.
“Minnesota will finally stop balancing the budget on the backs of the working class,” said Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26. “We’ve needed a fair tax system for years, one that didn’t allow the richest in our state to pay fewer taxes than the middle class. Now, the richest two percent of Minnesotans, those who earn an average of $617,000 annually, will pay their fair share for the investments Minnesota needed.
“We’ve seen many bills which will put the interests of working families first,” continued Morillo. “I am proud to see the legislature pass the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights, which will give homeowners some of the strongest foreclosure protections in the nation.”
This session also brought investments in health care, through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the preservation of MinnesotaCare and the expansion of Medicaid.
“More than 300,000 previously uninsured Minnesotans will now have access to qualify, affordable health insurance through the Health Insurance Exchange,” said Gulley. “By 2016, nearly 1.3 million Minnesotans will use the Exchange. In an economy where it seems costs continue to rise, the ability to provide affordable coverage to families is key to keeping Minnesotans healthy.
“Even more, Minnesota passed landmark legislation which expands collective bargaining rights of workers. As more and more states – especially in the Midwest – restrict workers’ rights, Minnesota is expanding them,” continued Gulley. “Now the workers doing the incredible job of caring for our state’s elders and those living with disabilities will have the same opportunity as other workers to decide for themselves if they want to join together in a union.”
“In addition to historic steps forward for economic equality, Minnesota is now the 12th state to legalize the freedom to marry,” said Morillo. “Our members worked hard in 2012 to defeat the marriage amendment which would have limited the freedom to marry – we were proud to see the legislature take this historic next step in recognizing that all families are important and all families deserve protection under the law.”
“We are surely headed in the right direction,” said Gulley. “These historic successes in economic fairness, education, health care, workers’ rights and equality will strengthen our middle class, our communities and our state.”
SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, child care, and the Twin Cities’ largest public and private buildings. The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their collective bargaining and new member organizing campaigns. By building the political involvement of approximately 30,000 SEIU members throughout the state, the State Council is working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans. The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, members, and staff of the four SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota.