Earlier this week, State Sen. Dave Thompson (R-District 36) of Lakeville, announced on Twitter and Facebook that he plans to introduce what he is calling an "Employee Freedom Bill" as an amendment to Minnesota's Constitution.
The bill is somewhat similar to a law passed last winter in Wisconsin, referred to as "right-to-work" legislation, which caused massive government protests, but was ultimately passed by a Republican-held legislature.
In a nutshell, right-to-work provisions make it so unions can no longer require membership, or collect dues from non-members who work in a union shop.
Thompson, of Lakeville, represents one precinct in Northfield.
He told KSTP that the bill would give workers the choice to join a union or not. In the event they decline, they don't pay dues, he said. All unions, both public and private, would be affected, but collective bargaining rights would not be altered, he said.
"What we saw today is identical to what we've seen in Ohio and Wisconsin," she told MinnPost. "This is a national effort being pushed by corporate interests."
Meanwhile, a report issued on Jan. 26 by the Center of the American Experiment said workers in Minnesota would have made between $2,360 to $3,072 more in wages in 2008 if the state had prohibited closed union shops in 1977.
"Instead of being 14th in the nation in per capita income in 2008, the state would almost certainly have been in the top 10," the report, said.
Knutson told MinnPost she wasn't surprised to see the report numbers, and disregarded them, pointing out that the numbers differ significantly compared to other studies suggesting wages are lower in most "right-to-work" states.
"The fact remains that these laws exist so corporate CEOs can pay their workers less, cut worker benefits and line their own pockets," Knutson told the Pioneer Press.
The key difference between Thompson's bill and Wisconsin's controversial measure, is that Thompson's wouldn't change collective bargaining, he said. The Wisconsin bill stripped most public employee unions of fundamental collective bargaining rights and the battle against the law has been intense.
In this state, similar bills have failed int he past. That could change this year, with Republicans in control the House and Senate, and generally supportive of making Minnesota a so-called "right-to-work" state.
Thompson told MinnPost that the bill is about employees and their rights, not collective bargaining.
"It's about employee freedom," he told MinnPost. "This amendment does nothing to prevent anyone from joining a union or organizing a union. It simply means that you would have a choice whether you want to or not."
Like the marriage amendment passed past year, if this bill is approved by a simple majority in both chambers of the legislature, the issue would go straight to voters in the form of a Constitutional amendment question on the November ballot.
Gov. Mark Dayton, who is opposed to the bill, would not be able to veto the measure.
Popular or unpopular, Thompson told MinnPost he's doing what he believes is the right thing to do.
"I'm here to do what I believe is right," Thompson said. "If that costs me an election in November, so be it."