Winkler Karaoke: “Making Bipartisanship Out Of Nothing At All”

Ryan Winkler (DFL St. Louis Park) is beating the bushes around Minnesota to try to gin up a push for a massive hike in the minimum wage (and cobble together some positive name recognition to try to rescue his rumored ambition to run for Secretary of State after the avalanche of negative publicity he got by calling Justice Clarence Thomas an “Uncle Tom” over the summer).

Now, Winkler is from a solid blue district.  He can demand a minimum wage of $20 an hour, and the voters in Saint Louis Park and most of CD5 will applaud and stomp their feet and send him back to Saint Paul with 20 point margins of victory.  Such is life. 


But outstate?  In parts of Minnesota with functioning two-party systems, where the majority don’t work for government?  Especially in parts of the state represented by extremely weak DFLers like Ben Lien?

Winkler, one of the most extreme demigogues in the entire Legislature, needs to try to appear “bipartisan”.

This video was shot by a Winkler staffer at a town hall in Moorhead recently.

So at the start, he says the support for his $9/50/hour minimum wage proposal from a House Select Committee on the minimum wage  is “bipartisan”.

Around the 90 second mark, a Town Hall attendee presses Winkler on the support his proposal is receiving – and whether the Republican members of the Select Committee on the Minimum Wage actually signed off on his presentation.

Winkler quickly answers “no” before moving right along.

No wonder why.  Here’s the presentation Winkler’s making:

Rep Winkler’s Living Wage Presentation


That it’s full of lefty puffery and junk stats about the minimum wage is no surprise.

But forget about the actual facts for a moment. 

Why would Winkler claim “bipartisan support?”  This would lmean the Republicans on the Select Committee –  Representatives Jenifer Loon, Pat Garofalo and Andrea Kieffer – supported his stance, and the points on his presentation.

Sources say Winkler’s repeating the claim at other town hall meetings where – unlike the Moorhead meeting in the video – nobody’s pressing him on the claim.

Pat Garofalo has spoken against Winkler’s proposal in the House.  I talked with Rep. Garofalo – he opposes the $9.50 minimum wage, and has not changed his mind one iota. 

And a source close to Representative Loon tells me that not only does Loon not support the $9.50 minimum wage, but that the DFL, possibly including some DFL members of the Select Committee, might not entirely support Winkler. 

Finally, I talked with Representative Kieffer.  She does not support Winkler’s proposal, and does not approve of the points in the presentation. She’s even written an op-ed on the subject, which has circulated to some local newspapers around the state; it’s below the jump.  It flenses Winkler’s claims about the minimum wage in general.

But here’s the money quote from Kieffer in re the “bipartisanship” of Winkler’s support:

First and foremost, the implication that there is “bipartisan” support for his presentation is disingenuous. During meetings that I attend, I consistently voice my concerns to the data presented, ask for more specifics, and maintain that the committee is focusing on the wrong part of the economic picture.

And Kieffer is right.

So why is Ryan Winkler misrepresenting the Select Committee’s position as “bipartisan” support for his proposal around greater Minnesota, when not only are the Republicans not on board, but even the DFL has qualms?

It’s not bipartisan.  It’s not even entirely monopartisan! 


Here’s the full text of Rep. Kieffer’s op-ed:

Good Wages Come from Good Opportunities

Rep. Andrea Kieffer (R-Woodbury)

Last week, the House Committee on Living Wage Jobs held a “town hall” in Willmar. Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley), the Chair of the group, was the only elected official to attend the forum. His agenda: to gain public support for a significant increase in the state’s minimum wage.

I take serious issue with some of the comments by Rep. Winkler during the last meeting, which is why I’m writing this opinion piece.

First and foremost, the implication that there is “bipartisan” support for his presentation is disingenuous. During meetings that I attend, I consistently voice my concerns to the data presented, ask for more specifics, and maintain that the committee is focusing on the wrong part of the economic picture.

Minimum wage was never intended to be a “living wage” and find it concerning that this committee chair is wasting time and taxpayer dollars traveling the state with a one-sided message. The bill to raise the minimum wage will not cure the “good paying jobs” problem that Minnesota is currently experiencing.

In order for families to thrive with better paying jobs we need two things: an attractive business climate and an educated workforce.

Neither of these ideas is ever discussed as an option to solve the income gap for the working poor. What’s worse, raising the minimum wage will most likely harm the very people it is intended to help.

A 2011 report from the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) found that some of Winkler’s assertions  aren’t accurate. For example, he cited adults who lost high-paying industrial jobs during the recession are now working several part-time, minimum wage jobs. In fact, most Minnesotans working for minimum wage are under age 24 and work in the restaurant or retail trade.

A federal wage conformity bill raising our wage to $7.25, backed by the Department of Labor and Industry, was introduced this year in the Jobs and Economic Development committee. This would have been a good bill, but my DFL colleagues dismissed the idea, and ultimately no wage bill was passed. Winkler’s plan for minimum wage will put Minnesota near the top in the nation and make us 31% higher than our neighboring states. Combining higher tax rates (passed this session) with more regulation and new wage mandates is a recipe for economic disaster. If you think the employers (especially on the borders) won’t make adjustments to their business model, you are kidding yourself.

Consider this: according to the U.S. Department of Labor, states where the wages are higher than the federal minimum have higher teen unemployment rates, and minority populations are hardest hit. Nearly all the top wage states in the U.S. have higher unemployment than we do.

In 2010 the Itasca project warned that Minnesota is already an outlier with wage demands, making the state a less business-friendly place to grow. From service providers and non-profits, to restaurants owners and retail managers, many are worried that increasing the cost of doing business will make it impossible to retain jobs. This is very disturbing to me. Let’s make sure we use facts to guide our policies and strongly consider what unintended consequences would likely result if we follow Rep. Winkler’s economic advice.

Comments welcome at Shot In The Dark.