Minnesota state workers’ union contracts in limbo

Published 10:10 am Friday, October 30, 2015

ST. PAUL — New labor contracts containing raises for thousands of Minnesota state government employees got thrown into limbo Thursday after a legislative panel reviewing the agreements failed to ratify them.

A joint House and Senate committee deadlocked on contracts Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration negotiated with public employee unions. The panel’s Democrats moved to endorse them while Republicans unified against them, resulting in a series of 5-5 votes.

Thursday’s votes don’t automatically kill the contracts. State law allows most of them to take effect after 30 days unless the panel reconvenes and a majority votes to strike them down. But the full Legislature must adopt or reject them next year, and the tie votes could foreshadow trouble. Republicans, who control the House, could try to force the sides back to the bargaining table by not adopting them.

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The contracts spell out pay and benefits for the 14,800-member American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 5, the 13,700-member Minnesota Association of Professional Employees and four other smaller units. The agreements call for 2.5 percent across-the-board raises this year and next with many employees qualifying for seniority and merit raises on top of that. But employees will bear higher health insurance premiums and other care costs.

Two pacts covering 2,600 managers won’t take effect next month with the others. Those workers will pay higher health fees but won’t see more money in their paychecks, prompting an angry reaction from Dayton.