Lockout Over - Dayton Blinks, then Dayton Collapses
Well, the sad, sorry story of the state government shutdown in Minnesota is nearly over. 22,000 mostly union workers let go, many other contractors out of work or sent away, parks shutdown during the 4th of July, gaming and gambling money not coming in, job search facilities shutdown, workers compensation investigations stopped, funds for private daycare facilities for poor parents stopped until a few days ago, no fishing licenses being issued and a looming transit shutdown in the Twin Cities. And worst of all - to some - liquor licenses not being renewed and booze disappearing from store shelves and bars.
Was it worth it? As one MAPE union official commented, "If Dayton would have gotten something out of this, it would have at least been worth the lost days. "
However, 'class-warrior' Mark Dayton, standing alone against the whole vicious Republican Party, like King Canute before the waves, or George Wallace in the Schoolhouse Door, with his union allies turning out in small numbers and most of the DFL silent on the issue of taxing the rich - blinked, then collapsed like a house of cards.
Dayton's position started by 'taxing the rich." That is what he was elected on. However, as the negotiations got underway, he quickly agreed to $3.2-$3.5 billion in spending cuts to solve the $5B deficit. Then 'rich' was redefined down to the 2% of the Minnesota population who are mostly millionaires. The unions like AFSCME got out their little banners out and waved them to 'tax the 2%.' Well, then that negotiating point disappeared a few days ago, and Dayton decided (like a long line of Democrats before him) to tax anyone who'd pay the bill, not just the rich or the 2% rich. You see Dayton, and the Minnesota DFL, long ago abandoned the position of 'progressive taxation' as some kind of socialist plot.
Of course, the Republicans said no again. And so ... Dayton agreed to the original Republican position on June 30 and opted for selling more tobacco bonds and delaying payments to the schools to make up the remaining $1.5B or $1.8B. These are same accounting tricks used by former "Real Estate Taxes" governor Tim Pawlenty of Nothing to postpone a real day of reckoning. The MAPE officer was pointing out that the 'lockout' lead us all right back ... to the beginning. In other words, the workers died for no one's sins.
Tobacco money is to be used to improve the health of the people in Minnesota - not to subsidize the rich or the corporations in this state. Minnesota's taxpayers will have to pay investors tobacco bond interest for up to 20 years, just to fix the budget for one year. Delaying payments to the schools only makes their situation more precarious.
Barring some right-wing culture war crap, this 'deal' has to be approved by the legislature. We can assume the Republicans will vote for it, and Dayton will sign it and all the disgruntled DFL'ers will ... grumble. It would be voted down by anyone with a spine.
Now let's look at the union leaderships on this. They had a demonstration on June 30 in the morning of about 700. They had a 'vigil' that night, shining lights on the Capitol as if that might make it come to life. They had a demonstration the next Wednesday of 400 calling for taxing the 2% and a demonstration the next week too. They also had signs saying that a deal had to be reached to get state workers back to work. Unsaid, they wanted any kind of deal. And they got their wish - any kind of deal. This confusion of aims, and slavish following of Mark Dayton has once again made the AFSCME leadership, and the leadership of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, an embarrassment to their members. They don't have an independent thought in their heads. And it seems the Minnesota AFL-CIO, the Minneapolis Labor Council, the St. Paul Trades and Labor Assembly and even the state employee unions did not really pull out their members for any of these events.
The crisis of the labor movement is too serious to paper over with cliches and reliance on people like Mark Dayton or the Democratic Party. It is time for labor to run its own candidates on a program of progressive taxation and supporting militant labor action. Meet fire with fire.
July 15, 2011