Capitol Cronyism: Union Edition

Legislation introduced this week in the state House and Senate would provide taxpayer-funded pensions to private employees of a corporation. The proposal would change state law to identify private workers, who are not employed by the state in any way, shape, or form – as "state employees". But not just any employees, and not just any corporation: it is strictly for union organizers at the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), the largest union of state employees in Minnesota, representing about 13,000 workers.

The Senate bill (S.F. 280) was introduced Wednesday, authored by Senators Sandy Pappas, Jeff Hayden, Tom Saxhaug, Barb Goodwin, and Alice Johnson. Its companion bill in the House (H.F. 345) dropped Monday, sponsored by Representatives Michael Nelson, Mary Murphy, Will Morgan, John Lesch, and Linda Slocum. The proposed legislation would qualify these non-public union organizers for pension benefits from the underfunded Minnesota State Retirement System.

MAPE, which spent more than $360,000 to lobby legislators in 2011 and 2012, is a major funder of legislative campaigns and political causes. Between 2010 and 2012, MAPE’s PAC and political fund spent more than $800,000 to fund campaigns, party units, political funds, and independent expenditures. Virtually all of that money went to elect Democratic candidates. MAPE also gave $75,000 to the Dayton Recount Fund in 2010.

In 2011, the last year for which data are available, MAPE reported revenue of $4.7 million, almost all of which came from union dues, and net assets of $6.5 million. Yet apparently they are unable or unwilling to fund their own employees’ retirement.

Luckily it seems the legislature is generously offering to give these non-public political organizers state pensions. And did we mention, the legislature is preparing to ratify a new MAPE contract with an across-the-board pay hike?

Contracts, cash, and cronyism. It’s going to be a long session.

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