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House DFL Leader's View: Improve lives of Minnesotans; don't divide us

Minnesota workers have contributed to the identity of our state, from the Iron Range to the Iowa border, for generations. DFLers value these hard-working men and women. That's why we support higher wages, better benefits, and the right for workers to organize and negotiate together.

Melissa HortmanSome Republicans seem to be attempting, once again, to divide the people of Minnesota in the apparent hope of a partisan advantage. This time it's over mining and pipelines. Republicans represent that people with environmental concerns and workers are pitted against each other in a zero-sum game.

The truth is, everyone on both sides of these issues is a Minnesotan committed to the same goal: a better future for all of us.

The future of our state is bigger than one project and bigger than the next election. We must chart a path forward, together, for more and better jobs.

As Republicans seem to be pitting us against each other for their political gain, the bigger question is: Are you for working people or not?

Too many families are working hard without getting ahead. They're working at jobs that pay very little, unable to take time off to take care for a sick child or parent, and lacking a secure retirement and the ability to save for one. While DFLers fight to do something about this, Republicans block efforts at every turn, seemingly in an attempt to protect their corporate donors.

State leaders need to put workers first with an agenda that helps everyone do better.

Instead, Republican leaders in Minnesota repeatedly have stepped on workers' rights while prioritizing corporations and the wealthy. They've cut taxes for big businesses and special interests like Big Tobacco while leaving working families behind.

Recently, Republican lawmakers refused to approve modest raises for state workers that were negotiated in good faith. Just like President Donald Trump at the federal level, who seems to be working hard to sabotage people's ability to get affordable health insurance, Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature said no to health care cost savings negotiated in these contracts. That was not just mean-spirited. It's foolish if they actually care about taxpayers and not just about crushing workers.

In recent years, Republicans have shown us too many examples of cynical, hard-hearted action toward workers and their families. In 2015, they stood in the way of unemployment benefits for Minnesota's hard-hit Iron Range until they could secure a tax cut for their fat-cat contributors. In 2014, the DFL raised Minnesota's minimum wage to $9.50, indexed to inflation, increasing wages for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans. Not one Republican voted for it, and they spent months trying to stop it.

Now, as then, Republicans should spare us their crocodile tears until they show some legitimate and consistent concern for Minnesota's working families.

Some CEOs fight hard to pay workers as little as possible as they chase quarterly profits. Looking out for workers isn't the top priority of corporations and big businesses. That's why it must be ours. But Republicans are way too busy looking out for CEOs during the legislative session to have time for measures to help workers. Yet now we are supposed to believe they care?

If legislative Republicans had their way, Minnesota would follow the trajectory of Wisconsin with a collection of anti-worker policies. Our families would end up with less money for doing the same amount of work. We can't let that happen.

That's why DFLers in the Minnesota House are fighting for state laws that ensure all working families the opportunity they deserve to live successful, middle-class lives. Instead of lip service, we support policies to raise real wages, improve real benefits, and protect workers' rights.

Minnesota is a state where we value hard work. Generations of Minnesotans' hard work have made our state the economic powerhouse it is today.

But we can do better to make sure everyone is sharing that success. We should be working to improve the lives of Minnesotans — not working to divide them.

Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, is the minority leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives.