When it comes to political endorsements, unions overwhelmingly lean liberal. So it may come as a surprise that the Minneapolis police union is endorsing conservative Tim Pawlenty for governor.
Union President Bob Kroll gets the confusion.
“For many, many years, the DFL has represented unions,” he says. His union endorsed Governor Mark Dayton for both his terms.
But these days, Kroll’s membership is feeling left behind, even betrayed, by Democrats. He says they seem “more concerned with the rights of illegal aliens” than the needs of the police. That, and the party’s seeming tendency to blame police for violent, sometimes fatal interactions with black and brown residents, has turned members off.
“They’re not in line with what we see as the working people’s views,” he says.
Pawlenty is more in line with what he describes as the union’s “way of thinking” on undocumented immigrants and policing issues. It endorsed him during his previous campaigns in 2002 and 2006. Sure, he may be conservative, but so are a lot of union members.
“We back who supports us,” Kroll says. “In this case, it’s Tim Pawlenty.”
But Pawlenty has made his feelings on unions -- particularly public employee unions -- abundantly clear. He wrote a 2010 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal accusing them of being “exploiters” and a drain on “working families.”
“The moral case for unions -- protecting working families from exploitation -- does not apply to public employment,” he wrote. “Government employees today are among the most protected, well-paid employees in the country.”
In 2008, Pawlenty vetoed the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have given workers the right to unionize without their employers forcing them into a second, often hotly contested, vote. He claimed it was “one-sided legislation” that could “encourage more employers to transfer jobs, particularly manufacturing jobs, overseas.”
In 2009, he pushed public employee unions to take a two-year salary freeze as a government belt-tightening measure, reserving the right to place state workers on unpaid leave if necessary.
"One of the main cost drivers for local units of government, particularly school districts, is increases in salaries and benefits for their employees,” Pawlenty said. That same year, he shifted 73 percent of school aid into the following year to stanch his bleeding budget, leaving them with only 27 percent in the meantime. It forced a third of Minnesota school districts to borrow money in order to stay afloat.
He had a knock-down, drag-out battle with teachers unions in 2010 over education reform, calling them America’s “education cartel” and “an indulgence we can no longer afford.” He later told the Miami Herald that he wished he’d been tougher on them.
Minneapolis police may be one union that endorses Pawlenty, but the record shows that he likely isn’t ready to do the cops any favors. As he told his fellow Republican governors at a San Diego conference in 2010:
"Frankly, the public employee unions would stick a shiv in all of us if they could."