This is “my” state Senator, Mike Goggin.  He’s pushing SF 899, a bill that would exempt employers from paying overtime to H2A workers who work more than 48 hours a week.  WHAT?!?!

Contact Sen. Mike Goggin!

I’ve been keeping an eye on him because he’s our latest “Senator from Xcel,” following Sen. Steve Murphy (January 5, 1993 – January 3, 2011).  And with reason… he’d been carrying water for Xcel Energy, sponsoring a bill to allow Xcel, his employer, to circumvent the Certificate of Need requirement, that a utility prove up “need” and that it is least cost, before building.  Alan Muller wrote a letter which the STrib printed that was published on February 7:

A pair of bills oozing their way through the Legislature are a giveaway to Xcel Energy:

HF113/SF85 would (1) authorize Xcel to build a new power plant without getting a Certificate of Need from the Public Utilities Commission; (2) require the PUC to make Xcel customers pay for it, and (3) establish a scheme for an inflated rate of return for the plant.

The point of a Certificate of Need is to ensure that ratepayers don’t pay for unjustified capital projects. For Xcel to use its political clout in this way suggests the company knows the project cannot be justified except to inflate its “rate base” and thereby its profits.

These bills are discreditable to all the legislators involved, but especially concerning is that one of the Senate authors, Mike Goggin, who represents my district (21), is an Xcel manager.

Sen. Goggin’s authorship of a bill so flagrantly benefiting his employer at the expense of his constituents should be considered an ethics violation.

Alan Muller, Red Wing, Minn.

On January 19th, the House amended the companion bill, HF113, to include language making Xcel Energy’s gas plant subject to some scrutiny, and then turned around and took it OUT on the floor February 9.  Goggin withdrew as an author on February 16, 2017 (p. 645).  Governor Dayton signed it on February 28, 2017.

So on to SF 899.

Only two Senate authors listed, Senators Goggin and Weber.  Goggin moved that it be pulled it from Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Finance and forwarded to Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Policy, which passed.  On March 2, it was removed from that Committee agenda, and then labeled as “PENDING REFERRAL.”   It seems to have stalled out.  ???

So on the House side, it’s HF 1032.  Only two authors here too, McDonald and Anderson, P.    From the minutes, “Representative Pierson renewed his motion that HF1032 be re-referred to the committee on Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance. THE MOTION PREVAILED.”  Listen to the House committee hearing  starting at 27:06 to 1:14:50 (my comments in parens).  This has been re-referred to Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance.

  • $12.75 an hour average (and employer pays transportation from country of origin to site, housing, meals or kitchen facilities) – tape at 28:06
  • about a year and a half ago, farmers raised question as to whether overtime rule applies and found it does apply – tape at 28:40
  • a worker cannot provide enough produce in an hour to justify overtime, produce left in the fields – tape at 28:50
  • “This bill was up a couple years ago”  hmmmmmmmm, it didn’t pass  tape at 37:55
  • Adding up the transportation, housing, meals/kitchenette, that comes to average of $17-19/hour, add the overtime and we just can’t afford that – tape at 43:40
  • What is the behavior in the broader field?  Grievances brought, settlement, year or two ago, maybe longer – tape at 45.38
  • We don’t have enough people in Minnesota that will do this kind of work (at these long hours!?!) – tape at 49:18
  • For $17-19/hour, I think people would show up, wondering about efforts done, have you tried to offer that kind of wage, attract local Minnesotans?  It’s seasonal employment… – tape at 52:24
  • “those workers don’t pay taxes, while they’re here” (is that true? Yes, but, or no, but, here’s the scoop) tape at 54:15
  • We’ll hire you if you can walk or breathe, that’s how short we are – tape at 56:07
  • We’re obligated under federal rules to advertise at $12.75 (not limited to $12.75, but must advertise at least $12.75, and could but don’t advertise for $17-19) – tape at 56:19
  • Do any of these workers have other jobs?  We’re not allowed to allow them to work at any other place by the statute they’re committed to working under the contract they’ve signed with us as an employer (and they can’t therefore just quit, this is NOT “at will” employment where they have the option to quit, they’re stuck) – tape at 1:10:25
  • They’re just trying to be in compliance with the federal law (?!?) – tape at 1:13:21

How is this not a case where the market has spoken and the employers must pay the freight rather than exploit the workers?  To get H2A visa workers, they must demonstrate that they cannot find US workers to hire.  Do they offer that $17-19/hour to local/US workers?  Given the “fight for $15” minimum wage campaign across the nation, methinks that they wages they’re offering generally are not even close.

What to do?  Contact House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance.  Ask that they reject HF1032, that this is not in the public interest, workers deserve overtime pay, and pick and chose from reasons above, listen to the tape if you have time, to get a feel for the issues.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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