Member and State Rep Keeps Union Message in Front of Lawmakers

The Brotherhood supports people, not parties. But it’s fair to say that Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party is right in tune with Carpenter values. Local 851 member of the North Central States Regional Council and state Representative Michael Nelson proves the point.

Nelson was an active member and local officer when he began attending DFL caucuses in his Brooklyn Park neighborhood. He volunteered for years. When a longtime House member passed away in 2002, Nelson was asked to enter the special election. With just 28 days to campaign, the first-time candidate lost by just 410 votes, but he won the full term that fall.

“In my very first term, I took part in a debate on a misclassification bill,” Nelson said. “We just wanted agencies to talk to each other, and I was able to provide a union perspective."

Since then, Nelson has brought the worker’s viewpoint to many statehouse debates. He now is chair of the Government Operations Committee.

“Government Operations are part of every law and regulation. I can bring my labor background to issues that matter to all Minnesotans. For example, in pushing for a daycare and personal care policy that can help seniors stay at home, I worked with the SEIU and AFSCME to make sure that our Medicare workers have the right to unionize,” he said.

“When prevailing wages or PLAs come up, [Senate Majority Leader and UBC member] Tom Bakk and I can explain and make the case why they’re valuable—and win or lose, I always bring up jobs and wages.”

In 2012, Nelson retired as a business agent, but not from politics. Looking back on his grass-roots start, he tells other members: “You can be as involved as you want. But we need members in politics so we can explain our point of view intelligently and try to make things go the right way. It’s up to us to make sure they’re not cutting out the little guys.”
Minn. Rep. Michael Nelson stands before the statehouse bust of Hubert H. Humphrey, revered friend of American workers and founder of the state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor party.
Nelson has brought the worker’s viewpoint to many statehouse debates. He now is chair of the Government Operations Committee.