Labor Day parade at State Fair
FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. -- Hundreds of union members marched in the parade at the Minnesota State Fair, as part of an effort to call attention to organized labor's contributions to the economy.
Union members often find themselves being blamed for high prices of commodities and high taxes, but on a holiday that honors working people they took time out to defend the role they've played.
"We are just everyday folks, just trying to make a living," Shar Knutson, the president of AFL-CIO of Minnesota, told KARE.
"We happen to have a union card, and that helps us make a good living and allows us to retire in dignity."
The AFL-CIO is the umbrella group of 300,000 union members in Minnesota. That's roughly 15 percent of the work force, compared to 40 percent during the peak of the organized labor movement.
The state's unions have found themselves in some real battles at the State Capitol since Republicans gained control of the Legislature in 2011. Lawmakers attempted to pass a so-called right-to-work amendment, exempting workers from joining unions at companies that unionized.
Other legislation that made it through the hopper at the Capitol included bills that would strip teachers and other government workers of collective bargaining rights. Another bill would force state workers to compete with private contractors for the right to do their jobs.
Those were efforts to control the cost of labor and health care, a major priority for those working to shrink the size of state government or slow the spending trajectory.
But unionized government workers lobbied against the bills, saying they felt devalued by the GOP lawmakers who offered the bills.
"Everyone should be able to have that collective voice to make sure that their work place is safe, and that they can live on their own means and not have to rely on public assistance," Knutson said.
Those who stopped by the Labor Pavilion at the State Fair were invited to vote with red marbles on the toughest issues they encounter on the job. Working America, a community organizing group, set up the survey at a booth under the title, "Losing your marbles at work?"
More than 2,000 visitors picked up three marbles and dropped them into glass jars with labels that included work hours, work load, pay, paid leave, job security, health care and bad boss
"We've had a great response to this," Bree Halverson of Working America told KARE. "It really has people thinking about their jobs, and how things have changed for them in this economy."
The categories that drew the most marbles? Pay, health care and bad bosses.
Employment numbers have lagged behind profits during the recovery from the 2007 - 2009 recession because companies have found ways to increase productivity without hiring more people.
That has led to more job stress in many American work places, according to more scientific surveys.
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