Do the Teamsters have too much power at the Minnesota Capitol?

The logo for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. (AP)

“A bill that would allow limited Sunday sales of alcohol in Minnesota is in jeopardy.

“Backers of a bill that would allow liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sundays have been rebuffed at the State Capitol for years. So this year, they considered it a victory that even a tiny Sunday sales provision was included in the overall liquor bill.

“The measure, which would allow craft beer taprooms to sell growlers (refillable containers that hold half a gallon) on Sundays, sailed through legislative committees. But the bill has stalled in the Senate Tax Committee. The roadblock? The powerful Teamsters Union,” writes MPR News reporter Tom Scheck.

Teamster’s Union political director Ed Reynoso said the union started lobbying against Sunday growler sales after he learned a company that distributes alcohol and employs members of the union suggested the law would allow them to reopen their labor contracts because of it. He said the union wants to avoid that because it could mean wages, benefits and work hours could all be back on the table.

“As soon as we had an employer raise the potential that they were going to ask for a reopener, I reached out to leadership, I reached out to the Senate Committee chair,” Reynoso said. “I notified them of our objections and our concerns.”

Reynoso said he showed the contracts to DFL leaders to highlight the importance of removing the Sunday growler sales provision from the bill. He declined to identify the business that requested the negotiations. (MPR News)

Today’s Question: Do the Teamsters have too much power at the Minnesota Capitol?

  • Sue de Nim

    Or maybe employers have too much power, if they can use a minor change in the liquor laws as an excuse to abrogate a union contract.

    • Rick

      But we don’t know for sure that is the case! Without naming the business or showing us the language of said contract they are simply fear mongering. It’s a cheap trick put forth by cowards who have no other means to defend their position. We need to see facts, not innuendo.

  • Jennifer Parrish

    Yes! Our elected representatives are there to represent us, their constituents, not union bosses. There is strong public support for this bill, yet a union can hold up it’s passage? There’s a big problem with that! Time to elect a legislature and Governor that work for the people, not special interest groups like unions.

  • PaulJ

    Nope, unions are the only thing that makes us different than cheap Chinese labor (as much as we are for now). More power to them.

  • George

    They likely have less power than the Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association, which is the group what really is the roadblock here. Or the Chamber of Commerce or any number of pro-business lobbies walking around the capitol looking for legislators in need of money and affection. Not defending the union, but they are just a small player in this big game, which is rigged.

    Back to this particular story … when will some bright reporter dig further to find out the name of the company threatening the union contract? C’mon, journalists, do some work.

    • Do you see a role for the Teamsters to be transparent and disclose that fact? The question has been asked, they aren’t sharing the information at this point.

      • George

        Then dig, ask around, that is what journalists do. That is why power is held in check by journalists.

    • Javier Rodriguez

      The only transparency the union is obligated to is to it’s members? If they disclose the employer, what difference does it make? If they show the language to us, I know I wouldn’t understand what the intent of the language would be unless I was at the negotiation table. Furthermore, I know I don’t have a law degree that specializes in labor.

      This is just nonsense because people can’t seem to plan better. Most people in Minnesota have been able to operate and drink all of the alcohol they want without buying it on Sunday. The union owes me, you and others nothing unless you are a dues paying member.

  • Jamison S.

    Yes. This is an issue that has very little concern for them. I’m assuming that they’re just being used by the anti-Sunday sales lobby, coming up with excuses to stall progress.

  • whitedoggie44

    Yes, as do all unions. In the U.S. they represent less than 6% of the workforce but Richard Trumpka has been to see Obama 460 times in past 5 years. Then there are the public employee untions who would rather bankrupt cities, counties and states than give a penny back on their pensions or health care. Reagan was right, they should all be fired as they do not live in the real world.

  • Javier Rodriguez

    I don’t think it’s as much about power, but more so about the fact that the union must have a compelling argument that seems to be resonating with legislators. Last I checked, the teamsters don’t have any more influence than the Chamber of Commerce or any other lobbying voice.

    As a person that is somewhat a middle of the road voter, the tact of the proponents leaves much to be desired. Why they believe that the union should disclose the employer and expose it to the same disrespect and badgering they are experiencing is preposterous. Finally, last I checked private collective bargaining agreements are not required to be made public. The union owes them no explanation or proof as they are not the ones they represent, it’s the members.

    Lastly, this is not a DFL or GOP issue as it went down in flames 21-105 last session, and would likely go down again by the same margin.

  • Rick

    Is that a rhetorical question?

  • Tom Hauwiller

    Blue laws are an anachronism. Contracts are put in place with existing law respected. When existing law needs to go, so do contracts referring to them.

  • This issue is not about Blue Laws, morality or chemical dependency. It is about power over the lives and fortunes of others by the elite. Our forefathers knew about abuse of power and the damage it can cause. That vivid reflection of its abuse and consequences to the people urged them to write our US Constitution with that facet of human nature in mind. Power is managed with three things:
    1. Separation of power
    2. Balance of power, and
    3. Limits of power.
    Unfortunately, the Union leaders have forgotten their roots.

  • CharlieQuimby

    As several have noted, the union is being blamed (credited?) with stopping the Sunday growler sales provision because it has made no secret of its opposition—made necessary by the action of a company that is using the measure as an excuse to hurt the union.

    It seems to me the real power at the legislature is that which gets its way by fanning fears and strong-arming others without getting its hands dirty.

    Framing this as a matter of Union Power aids the big business narrative.

  • MNBeerActivists

    Powerful Teamsters, or weak legislators?

  • Javier Rodriguez

    Mr. Schmidt, as I mentioned in my previous comment, your lack of tact is what is hurting your movement. Why on earth would any of these legislators look to help you when all you and your group does is insult them and threaten them? Yea, my guess is your going to have legislators falling at your feet after you just referred to them as “weak.”

    At this point, you and your group have been simply outmatched not by money or influence, but by simple tact. The teamsters plain and simple have a much more compelling argument that has trumped your desire to have another beer. By the way, from the looks of your picture in the MPR article, my suggestion is that you should consider cutting back on beer and concentrating on some physical activity.

    Sorry, but after learning more about this issue I’m with the teamsters on this one. You guys lost me as I’m sure you’ve lost others.

    • Mark2309

      “your lack of tact is what is hurting your movement,” says the guy who just took a cheap shot based on someone’s appearance. Thank you for keeping this forum classy Mr. Javier Rodriquez.

  • Maximas Gladiator

    At 63 years old, A Viet name era vet, that pays 5 digit taxes every year (To the left of the decimal point) “Who the H” is the Union, legislature, church or whom ever telling me when and where I can buy and drink a beer of my choice?, “Move to China or Russia if you need that type of control! Anything unclear about that position on this subject?

  • MNBeerActivists

    Should they be listening to voters or special interests?

  • chimayniac

    What do the Teamsters have to do with growlers? Customers buy growlers and then drive (or walk, bike, etc.) home. No trucks required!

    • Jamie

      That’s exactly why they’re concerned.

  • Gus Froemke

    The Teamsters Union is an organization that represents folks in the liquor industry, the freight industry, the construction and building trades in addition to the men and women of law enforcement. The Teamsters Union is truly representative of most crafts and trades. It has issues the span the political spectrum from liquor sales to public education. If the Union has power it’s because it has such a diverse and large membership. Even then Unions are usually on the losing side of politics i.e. Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. Everything the Union fights to protect or preserve is a struggle and this is no different.

  • Maximas Gladiator

    Do Teamster goals take precedent over personal rights & freedoms? Guess what guys you are making a pro-union guy “Anti-union” is that the new teamster goal? You are messing with gods gift to the poor man “A Cold Beer” You really don’t want to go there.

  • Mark2309

    In addition to moving beer, the Teamsters also move liquor and wine from distributor warehouses to liquor stores and bars. If the Teamsters argument that allowing producers to sell their product directly to consumers (i.e. brewery growler sales) on Sundays would result in the reopening of labor contracts held water, then how do they explain why wine producers in Minnesota being able to sell their product directly to consumers from their vineyards on Sundays didn’t result in the same consequences? The answer is because there is no correlation. Politically speaking there have been three major special interest groups who oppose any changes to Sunday liquor sale laws 1) the Teamsters, 2) the Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association and 3) the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, I think it is far more likely that the current Teamsters opposition has to do with them representing the political agendas of these three groups and has absolutely nothing to do with the reopening of labor contracts.

  • benlee

    Unions spend millions of dollars to elect democrat candidates (like Marx
    Dayton), with the expected result that there will be further increases
    in the power of the unions once their candidate is elected.
    The union elected democrats then willingly cave to the whims of the
    unions that elected them. They impose higher taxes and hardships upon
    tax payers and businesses in order to pay larger union benefits – which
    also result in larger union dues, which ultimately result in more money
    and more votes for democrats.
    It’s a good ol’ boy network of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’.

    • NHGoodman

      Dear benlee,
      My feelings are hurt. Every time, EVERY TIME some right wing guy gets up to argue an issue, s/he ALWAYS gets the name of my political party wrong. Just like Tea Party does not like “tea-baggers,” we do not like “democrat” when you really mean “Democratic.” When you sink to this level of aggression, you damage your right to your rights; you lose credibility. Are you incapable of according dignity to a loyal political opponent who has been around since the beginning? And really, if some good ol’ boy wants to scratch my back, I can handle that — I feel secure in my sexuality. And finally, you do realize that if someone takes a photo of you, your soul is still intact, where is your picture, searching for freeeeedom? Don’t be such a slave, or a lover thereof.

      • JDan

        So you are offended when someone uses the name of your political party, but question why people are offended when you call them a sexual act?

  • NHGoodman

    I grew up in NYC, moved around and have finally settled here in Portland, Oregon. I am a former union member (OPEU). It seems to me that if the Teamsters say it is going to jeopardize their contract to allow Sunday “growler” sales, then someone should look at the legislation and protect the rights of the union members, period. This country has for too long played the ridiculously stupid game of politics with hard working men and women getting the short end of the stick. Enough with big biz forcing us onto our knees for a cold drink!
    And as a second point, in the 21st Century, why the hell does anyone care what day liquor can be sold on? Blue laws that discriminate for or against something are illegal — What’s with Minnesota anyway? The world is NOT Christian Fundamentalist, got it?

    • Mark2309

      Actually, one of the main reasons Minnesota continues to have Blue Laws limiting full Sunday liquor sales on the books is due to the Teamsters continued opposition to any liquor law changes.

      • NHGoodman

        Don’t be so smart. I did not know this, point well taken, but blue laws are still wrong, no matter their origin, and my beloved (former) union members would be better served by better serving themselves – so-to-speak.

  • NHGoodman

    Please see my reply to Mark2309, below. Hey, where is the sechel in the great state, anyway? Has it gotten UP and gone away? Please, this debate is NOT worthy of the parties, really?

  • Jeff

    Yes all the unions have too much power, the police union is working Dayton like puppet to keep marijuana for medical purposes illegal despite legislative and public support.

  • bob hicks

    I think the car dealer and liquor lobbies have too much power. Let’s have off-sale on Sundays and open car lots on Sundays!!

  • JDan

    The Teamsters have paid lots of money for their current power at the capital.