North Dakota AFl-CIO Legislature Watch - Week 5

Sisters and Brothers,

Five weeks has passed and the session marches on. For Labor, this week has been a mixed bag. We aren’t winning overwhelming victories but at the same time, we’re not losing ground and are giving them our best. Labor is making its points, and we are holding legislators accountable for voting against the working people of North Dakota.  Please consider calling or writing your legislator on several of these important bills.

Monday, a press conference was held in support of HB 1401, the bill that would allow police and firefighters to collectively bargain. Around 25 firefighters from the local area showed up and stood together asking for the same rights that most other workers already have under the law. I have said this before and I will continue to say it. Workers who are called on to do the job that these men and women do should be considered responsible enough to collectively bargain.

Nevertheless, on Tuesday, the house overwhelmingly voted down this sensible bill and refused to honor our emergency responders with the credit they deserve. Please look below at the voting record for HB 1401 and hold those who voted against our emergency responders accountable.

Also on Tuesday, Marvin Nelson’s minimum wage bill, HB 1263, was heard in committee. Despite testimony about the 37,000 people and 22,000 children that this would help out of the worst of poverty, the committee refused to accept the basic idea that wages are not universally high across the state.  Numerous times, they shot back that in their oil-boom areas, you couldn’t hire employees at anything close to minimum wage so an increase was unnecessary. They refused to understand that many regions of the state lag far behind those place dotted with oil wells.  At the same time, it was argued that a raise in minimum wage would damage businesses by forcing them to pay more.

So the arguments against HB 1263 pivoted back and forth between “It’ll do no good because no one is paying minimum wage anyway” to the completely contradictory idea that “It’ll destroy our business community.”  Thanks again to Representatives Boschee and Dobervich for supporting workers.

The floor vote is very likely this week, and we have set up an action page to write your legislator. Please get as many people as possible to click the link below and send their legislator the message that we are tired of the taxpayers picking up the tab for those parts of the business community who won’t pay wages that full time workers can live on.

On Wednesday, HB 1386 was heard in the House Human Services committee. This would ban discrimination from employment, housing and public accommodations for the LGBT community. Testimony in favor of the bill clocked in at just under three hours with dozens of community members coming in and offering their support.  The testimony was both rational and emotional, with some of it was heart rending.

We all need to realize that the world is changing and, North Dakota needs to keep up with it. Certainly, we all want to make a more diverse economy, but it’s going to be hard to diversify our economy if we don’t tolerate the diversity in the workforce that these jobs will attract. We all need to stand against discrimination!

It’s unsure when this will hit the house floor or what form it will be in when it does.

The last item on the Labor plate for this last week was SB 2336. This would have added a great deal of restrictions to North Dakota’s ballot initiative process, limiting how initiated measures can be paid for and dramatically complicating the reporting requirements. In trying to get money out if the system, this bill would throw so many obstacles in the way that only large organizations could navigate them. Our citizen’s right to initiate measures is sacred in the North Dakota Constitution, and this bill is an absolutely unnecessary restriction on our constitutional rights.

The legislature keeps trying to clean up democracy when the people act on what the legislature refuses to do.  They fail to understand that you can’t clean up democracy. It is, by nature, messy and the vast majority of attempts to clean it up only limit it. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Democracy is the worst form of government… except for all the others.” The AFL-CIO stands firmly against any change to our initiated and referred measure laws. The rights of the people stay with the people.

Next week is going to be a slower one, but there should be some bills hitting the house and senate floor.

What I do is again urge caution on several bills and don’t let anger or emotion take over. As we all know, there are bills out there that are aimed to curb protesting, and I understand that many look at elements of the protests unfavorably. Nevertheless, we have to remember that most labor actions are a form of protest, and many of these bills would also restrict the rights of working people to strike and rally. In fact, some of these bills are painted with such a broad brush that labor strikers and demonstrators could face felonies for simple and honest mistakes while protesting.

We have to be very careful or these bills will be used against us, and I feel we have to stand against the worst of them. In the quest for law and order, I am very unwilling to give up our future freedoms.

Voting record for HB 1401

Allowing police and firefighters collective bargaining rights.

(Yeas are for workers. Nay are against) 

YEAS: Anderson, P.; Becker, Rich S.; Boe; Boschee; Delmore; Dobervich; Ertelt; Guggisberg; Hanson; Hogan; Holman; Maragos; Mitskog; Mock; Nelson, M.; Olson; Schneider; Skroch; Vetter

NAYS: Anderson, B.; Anderson, D.; Beadle; Becker, Rick C.; Blum; Boehning; Bosch; Brabandt; Brandenburg; Carlson; Damschen; Delzer; Devlin; Dockter; Grueneich; Hatlestad; Headland; Heinert; Howe; Johnson, C.; Johnson, D.; Johnson, M.; Johnston; Jones; Kading; Karls; Kasper; Keiser; Kempenich; Kiefert; Klemin; Koppelman, B.; Koppelman, K.; Kreidt; Laning; Lefor; Longmuir; Louser; Magrum; Marschall; Martinson; McWilliams; Meier; Monson; Nathe; Nelson,J.; O'Brien; Oliver; Owens; Paur; Pollert; Porter; Pyle; Roers Jones; Rohr; Ruby, D.; Ruby, M.; Sanford; Satrom; Schatz; Schmidt; Schobinger; Schreiber-Beck; Seibel; Simons; Steiner; Streyle; Sukut; Toman; Trottier; Vigesaa; Weisz; Westlind; Zubke; Speaker Bellew

HB 1401 failed.

Remember these Nay votes and hold them accountable for voting against working people. 

Waylon Hedegaard
President/Secretary Treasurer
North Dakota AFL-CIO
(701) 595-3334