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Legislators rally for state workers

VIRGINIA -- Three area legislators were on the front lines Wednesday to support striking state workers. Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, and Rep. Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, met with striking state employees ac...

VIRGINIA -- Three area legislators were on the front lines Wednesday to support striking state workers.
Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, and Rep. Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, met with striking state employees across the Iron Range and held impromptu rallies.
One of their stops was outside the Minnesota Department of Transportation building in Virginia, where the legislators met with roughly 35 striking workers.
The rally was a boost to the strikers, said Mary Williams, who works in the Driver's License Bureau of the Department of Public Safety.
"It means a lot to know they are supporting us. They understand what it is like," Williams said.
A co-worker of hers, Kay Cohn, agreed.
"It gets our adrenaline going and makes it seem like it's really worth it," Cohn said.
The state's two largest public-employee unions walked out on Monday over pay and benefits, in the first such strike in 20 years.
The unions include Council 6 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees.
"We've always believed in a decent living wage for people," Rukavina told the strikers. "The money is there to negotiate. There's money to settle this strike."
Rukavina took shots at Gov. Jesse Ventura during the rally, saying the striking workers and the public need to call the governor and let him know what's on their minds.
"We have a Republican in sheep's clothing, and his name is Jesse Ventura," Rukavina said. "Everything Jesse's done has been for Jesse. Everything is done to pick on public employees."
Rukavina said the longer the strike continues, the more people will see how important public workers are.
Sertich said he was disappointed that Ventura was in New York City that Wednesday while the strike is ongoing, saying the governor should be in Minnesota working on negotiations.
"With all due respect for New York, his ground zero -- his crisis -- is in Minnesota," Sertich said.
Tomassoni told the union members that Ventura's administration had two extra weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to come to the table and continue negotiations and failed to do so.
He also said that the strike should not be considered unpatriotic given the current situation in New York, and that he was proud to be on the line with them.
"What is more patriotic than collective bargaining and standing up for your rights?" Tomassoni said.
Jesse White reports for the Mesabi Daily News, a Murphy McGinnis newspaper.

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