State workers ratify new contracts, await lawmaker approval

Members of Minnesota’s two big public employee unions have voted overwhelmingly to ratify new two-year contracts with the state.

The tentative agreements with the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees and AFSCME Council 5 still need legislative approval.

Under the contracts, more than 30,000 state workers would receive raises of 2 percent this year and 2.25 percent next year. There are also step increases each year and a six-week parental leave benefit.

Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Council 5, said it’s a fair contract.

“You know, every contract involves give and take,” Seide said. “We certainly didn’t get everything we wanted. The state didn’t get everything it wanted, and that usually the sign of a fair contract. These raises are very modest. They’re below the average in the private sector at this point.”

The contracts will soon go before the Subcommittee on Employee Relations, which will make a recommendation to the full Legislature on whether to approve or reject the contracts. The panel can also vote to approve the contracts on an interim basis.

One member of the subcommittee is already raising concerns.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said he thinks the raises are too big and not in line with the private sector. Drazkowski is also concerned about the impact of the contracts on state finances at a time when revenues are behind projections.

“When you look at them all collectively, we need to look at what does this mean for the people paying the bill,” Drazkowski said. “Is it something that’s budgeted for? Is it something that we can afford? If the answer is no under the current environment, what part of government are we going to cut to make this happen?”