What happened in Minnesota: A coda

Donald Trump narrowly lost to Hillary Clinton in the contest at the top of the ticket in Minnesota this year, but in other respects Republicans had an astoundingly good year. They amplified their majority in the Minnesota House to an unprecedented number in a presidential election cycle, when the turnout advantage usually accrues to Democrats, and took the majority in the Minnesota Senate. Republicans haven’t held a majority in the state Senate in a long time. As reporter Patrick Coolican put it in the Star Tribune: “Senate Republicans have endured the indignities of minority status for all but two of the past 44 years[.]” I took a look at the results in “What happened in Minnesota” (part 2 here, part 3 here).

It was a bad year for Democrats in Minnesota. They didn’t see it coming.

How bad was it? Democratic legislative staffers on the losing end of the 2016 election have banded together to seek benefits under Minnesota’s Dislocated Workers Program.

The Dislocated Workers Program is aimed at mass layoffs or plant closings affecting 50 or more workers. The program is administered by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, which produced the educational video below to explain it. In the video, one laid-off employee explains: “I felt humiliated to lose a job, even though I had nothing to do with it. I was very frightened. How was I going to live? How was I going to support myself?”

That’s what Minnesota Dems who lost jobs at the state legislature are saying to themselves as they claim benefits under the program. Pat Kessler reports for WCCO News: “Some 50 to 60 DFL campaign staffers lost their jobs after the election – something that’s not uncommon. But for the first time they’ve banded together to earn special status as victims of a mass layoff.”

I must confess that it’s not clear to me what benefits are at issue here. The definitions applicable to the program are set forth here. Taking a quick look, I find that the program seems to extend certain services over and above unemployment compensation to employees who lose their jobs in a “plant closing” or “substantial layoff” as defined.

A “substantial layoff” is defined as “a permanent reduction in the workforce, which is not a result of a plant closing, and which results in an employment loss at a single site of employment during any 30-day period for at least 50 employees excluding those employees that work less than 20 hours per week.” Well, let’s hope that this particular reduction in the workforce is permanent. This is one “substantial layoff” behind which men of good will can unite.

Kessler notes that there a question has been raised about the applicability of the program in this case:

Republican State Rep. Kelly Fenton, of Woodbury, a veteran political organizer who’s helped run campaigns herself, says there are no job guarantees in political work, and staffers know that going in.

“At the end of the campaign, there is a win or a loss,” Fenton said. “But there is no job security whatsoever.”

The Dislocated Worker Program is for mass layoffs of 50 workers or more at places like iron mines or manufacturing plants. It’s never been used for political workers.

The Democrats’ friends at the department respectfully disagree:

Top officials at the Department of Employment and Economic Development say political campaign workers fit the legal definition of an employee who’s part of a mass layoff, like construction workers.

“We don’t discriminate against different employers or employees, and so if a Minnesotan is eligible for these services, we will offer them to them,” said Shane Delany, of DEED.

By all means, let’s help these Democrats find another line of work.

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