The Potluck

Walz says Legislature ratified state worker contracts, setting up clash

By: - May 20, 2020 2:33 pm

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, on May 14.

The administration of Gov. Tim Walz informed state workers Wednesday that contracts negotiated with their unions were ratified by the Legislature as is, even though Senate Republicans recently approved the contracts but only with raises stripped out.

The Walz administration has argued that the Legislature can only ratify the contracts as is and not modify them. Minnesota Management and Budget, which is the state’s human resource agency, “has concluded that the legal effect of the Legislature’s action is to ratify the agreements and plans as submitted. MMB will implement the labor agreements and plans without modification,” according to an email sent to state workers Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, warned Walz not to go ahead with the contract in a statement Tuesday:

“The plain language in the bill was clear: ratify the first year of the contract but forgo the 2.5% raise for the second year. The Walz administration would look very tone deaf if they interpreted this action as full ratification of the contract, even if they invent a legal framework to justify their decision. It’s impossible to justify asking the 650,000 Minnesotans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own to help shoulder the burden of the extra costs of this contract.”

In an email to members, Minnesota Association of Professional Employees Lina Jamoul praised Walz’s announcement.

“We are grateful to live and work in a state that continues to value the importance of collective bargaining and uphold the integrity of the negotiations process. This modest contract is fair and was negotiated in good faith,” Jamoul wrote.

Public employee unions were major backers of both Walz and the House DFL caucus in 2018.

It’s unclear yet whether Senate Republicans will sue to stop Walz’s move.

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children