The ‘right to work?’ (5×8 – 3/12/12)

The anti-union effort reaches the Minnesota Legislature, Vikings stadium improv, the missing Doonesbury, health care reality check in Esko, and is there anything North Dakota doesn’t have going for it these days?

Hart VanDenburg delivers this week’s Monday Morning Rouser:


Labor unions are showing up at the Capitol today for the 8 a.m. hearing on whether Minnesota should be a “right-to-work” state. Apparently, the bill divides the Republican majority enough that leaders pulled it from one committee where it didn’t have enough votes and put it in another one with a friendly membership, MPR’s Tom Scheck reported.

Here’s the full bill:


An amendment to the Minnesota Constitution is proposed to the people. If the amendment is adopted, a section shall be added to article I, to read: Sec. 18. No person shall be required as a condition of obtaining or continuing public sector or private sector employment to: (1) resign or refrain from membership in, voluntary affiliation with, or voluntary financial support of a labor organization; (2) become or remain a member of a labor organization; (3) pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges of any kind or amount, or provide anything else of value, to a labor organization; or (4) pay to any charity or other third party an amount equivalent to, or a portion of, dues, fees, assessments, or other charges required of members of a labor organization. An agreement, contract, understanding, or practice between a labororganization and an employer that takes force or is extended or renewed after adoption of this section and that violates this section is unlawful and unenforceable. A person who suffers an injury or a threatened injury under this section may bring a civil action for damages, injunctive relief, or both. In addition, a court shall award a prevailing plaintiff costs and reasonable attorney fees. As used in this section, “labor organization” means any agency, union, employee representation committee, or organization of any kind that exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning wages, rates of pay, hours of work, other conditions of employment, or other forms of compensation. If any part of this section is found to be in conflict with the United States Constitution or federal law, the section shall be implemented to the maximum extent that the United States Constitution and federal law permit. Any provision held invalid or inoperative is severable from the remaining portions of this section.


The proposed amendment must be submitted to the people at the 2012 general election. The question submitted must be:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to guarantee all citizens the individual freedom to decide to join or not join a labor union, and to pay or not pay dues to a labor union?


You can watch the Senate committee here, starting at 8 a.m.

Over in Michigan, unions are trying to fend off any right-to-work movement with a proposal to enshrine collective bargaining in the state’s constitution.

Meanwhile, the Swiss are ruining it for everybody. Voters have rejected the idea of a six-week paid vacation. Proponents said more break time was needed to help people cope with rising workplace stress due to the fast pace and increased competition, the Associated Press reported.

The old-timers — the one with the work-ethic, according to some news accounts — were solidly against the notion of more national holidays. The young, on the other hand, were mostly for it, according to polls.


The Theater of Public Policy invites someone involved in a public debate and then provides an improve production about the issue. Late last week, it hosted the founder of, Cory Merrifield . The organization has posted a video of the evening.

The Viking’s Stadium from The Theater of Public Policy on Vimeo.

There remains a big hurdle for stadium proponents — Minneapolis’ city charter, which requires a vote of the people if more than $10 million is spent on a subsidy.

“I did not write this charter amendment to prevent the building of a stadium,” Bob Greenberg, who wrote the amendment, tells the Star Tribune. “But only to force the city to put it before the voters.”


doonesbury_frame_2.jpgYou won’t find Doonesbury in either the Pioneer Press or the Star Tribune this week. The storyline is too hot for either paper to handle — abortion and a Texas law requiring a woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound and sonogram.

Its creator, Gary Trudeau, tells the Washington Post that it would be “comedy malpractice” to ignore the issue.

I chose the topic of compulsory sonograms because it was in the news and because of its relevance to the broader battle over women’s health currently being waged in several states. For some reason, the GOP has chosen 2012 to re-litigate reproductive freedom, an issue that was resolved decades ago. Why [Rick] Santorum, [Rush] Limbaugh et al. thought this would be a good time to declare war on half the electorate, I cannot say. But to ignore it would have been comedy malpractice.

Q: After four decades, you’re an expert at knowing the hot-button satiric words and phrases — such as, in the case [this] week, terms such as “10-inch shaming wand.” Can you speak to how you approached writing these strips?

A: Oddly, for such a sensitive topic, I found it easy to write. The story is very straightforward — it’s not high-concept like [the satiric] Little Timmy in “Silent Scream” — and the only creative problem I had to work through was the physician’s perspective. I settled on resigned outrage.

Texas’s HB-15 [bill] isn’t hard to explain: The bill says that in order for a woman to obtain a perfectly legal medical procedure, she is first compelled by law to endure a vaginal probe with a hard, plastic 10-inch wand. The World Health Organization defines rape as “physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration — even if slight — of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.” You tell me the difference.

Trudeau’s story line will get more attention with the strip not running than it ever would have had newspapers included it.

Here’s today’s strip.


If we’re all just one medical problem away from financial disaster, where is the Couture family of Esko?

The Duluth News Tribune profiles the family today in which mother Valerie needed major surgery for a genetic condition, father Ray fell while working for the local police department and needed surgery and had to quit a second job, and two children inherited the mother’s condition.

“We get them almost every day — doctor bills,” Ray Couture said. “We get collection agencies calling and trying to bug us, and we’re doing the best we can in trying to pay for them.”

He says all the family can do is take it one day at a time.


Is there anything North Dakota doesn’t have going for it these days? The Fargo Forum says a man and his wife from South Carolina are moving to Edgeley (southeast North Dakota) because the state is well positioned to make him a ham radio star.

James Stiles says the airwaves of North Dakota aren’t as congested as other parts of the country, and the atmospheric conditions in the region are more conducive to broadcasting farther.

He and his wife bought a home in the town on eBay without visiting the town first.

Related: North Dakota isn’t Darwin, Calif.

Bonus: Are home-schooled kids smarter? A 12-year-old girl has won the metro spelling bee. She’s home schooled, and home-schooled kids usually do very well in these competitions. Writing on her blog today, conservative commentator Katie Kieffer, calling for the abolition of the Department of Education, says families could educate their own kids at a fraction of the cost of public schooling. It takes sacrifice, she says. But how many people can sacrifice to home-school their kids? And isn’t education a cumulative gain? Is there a benefit to individuals to have someone else’s kid be well educated? Discuss.


A series beginning today on MPR News looks at how welcoming a place Minnesota is to newcomers. Today’s Question: When you came to Minnesota, did you feel welcome?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Minnesota Legislature update with House Speaker Kurt Zellers and DFLer Paul Thissen.

Second hour: When doctors lie. A study published last month in the journal Health Affairs shows that a large number of doctors have not been completely honest with their patients over the past year – either by telling patients they had a better prognosis than they did or by flat out lying. Like most of us, doctors struggle with complete transparency. How do those little white lies affect patients and how can we push for most honesty when it comes to our health?

Third hour: Laura Yuen debuts the first part of her series examining what it means to be a newcomer to Minnesota, and the Daily Circuit follows with a conversation about how welcoming the state really is to outsiders.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Alex Chadwick’s documentary, “Burn.” Part one focuses on nuclear power after Fukushima.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: TBA

Second hour: School discipline: what happens when punishment isn’t fair. Plus, why you can’t get some songs out of your head