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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL)

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PUBLIC EMPLOYEES ARE NOT THE ENEMY

Friday, February 25, 2011
One of my constituents recently sent a letter to the editor to the Star Tribune. It was short, sweet, and its sarcasm was, in my opinion, spot on. It read: “It would be nice if snowplow drivers could hang signs from their trucks saying: ‘This road cleared by another lazy, bloodsucking public employee.’" Our public employees aren’t the enemy, and they’re not the reason why we face a record budget deficit. They’re our teachers, nurses, snowplow drivers, police officers and firefighters. They’ve already paid their fair share and then some. They work every day to make our state a better place to live in and deserve our respect. With all the protests and controversy in Wisconsin, it’s easy to forget the attacks on public employees happening right here in Minnesota — right in front of us. While Governor Walker is trying to push anti-labor measures through in one fell swoop in Wisconsin, Republicans in Minnesota are taking a piecemeal approach — aiming to freeze salaries, lay off workers, cut pensions, prohibit collective bargaining, and pass a right-to-work law one step at a time, hoping we won’t notice. We’ve certainly noticed and I’m proud to stand with Governor Dayton and other DFL legislators to stop the attacks on Minnesota’s public workers. Far too often, people simply take our public employees and their hard work for granted, but when you stop to think about it, their work touches our lives every day. When you wake up in the morning the water you drink is tested by a public employee to ensure it’s free of contaminants. You drive to work on roads plowed and salted by snowplow drivers employed by the state, cities, and counties, while your children sit in a classroom taught by a public school teacher. When you struggle to drive home through rush hour traffic, it’s the police officers and paramedics who work to quickly and safely clear a crash off the road so traffic can move again. We take these and many other examples for granted every single day. And if we continue to cut public employees and treat them like the enemy, then what happens? Does digging a city out from two feet of snow take weeks, instead of just a couple days? Does a quality education move out reach for anyone but the wealthiest Minnesotans? Do crime rates spike across the state? We need the services that public employees provide, so what do we do? Press random groups of people into service for a period of time? No. Do we entrust all these things to the private sector — where we’ve seen, time after time that business is only out for its bottom line and not to provide the best service for Minnesotans? That would be simply unacceptable to me. These are taxpaying citizens of Minnesota, who stay in Minnesota, raise their families in Minnesota, and spend their paychecks in Minnesota businesses; they’re not aliens from another planet. Public employees deserve our respect and appreciation and I will continue to fight against any attempts to unfairly punish public employees and labor. As always, please feel free to send me your suggestions, questions, comments or concerns. You can reach me by phone at (651) 296-3751, by email at rep.michael.nelson@house.mn, or by sending mail to my office: 229 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155. Michael Nelson State Representative District 46A