Bill to ban state purchases from Jennie-O won't go far; Juhnke says bill concerns him little, it will not be heard
WILLMAR -- A bill that would prohibit the state from buying any product made by Jennie-O Turkey Store isn't expected to go far this legislative session.
"It will not be heard and it will not be considered," according to Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar.
"It's meaningless at this point. I'm not concerned," Juhnke said.
Rep. Frank Hornstein introduced a bill Friday that would ban state departments and agencies from purchasing products from Jennie-O or its subsidiaries until all past and present "alleged unfair labor practices" cease.
Hornstein, a DFL'er from Minneapolis, is a strong union ad-vocate in the Legislature.
He cited labor relations problems, in-cluding th-warted ef-forts by the United Food and Commercial Workers' union to represent Jennie-O workers.
Jennie-O has its corporate office in Willmar.
"I'm surprised by Rep. Hornstein's legislation. We don't have any connection to him," said Pat Solheid, vice president of human resources and administration at Jennie-O.
There are no Jennie-O plants in Hornstein's district.
She said Jennie-O is a "good employer and adheres to high ethical standards in our labor practices."
When asked if there had been any labor relations complaints filed, Solheid said it's Jennie-O's practice not to discuss litigation.
Juhnke said he wasn't even aware of the bill until it was filed. "It's not a bill I would've introduced," said Juhnke.
He said he believes Hornstein introduced the bill on behalf of a union and to send a message.
But Juhnke said he's "not sure who Frank is sending (the message) to."
Hornstein acknowledged that his bill has little chance of passing this year, since it was introduced five days before a deadline for it to pass through committees.
But, he said, he will be back with the bill next year.
"We want to get the conversation going," Hornstein said.
Juhnke said he takes the position that the Legislature shouldn't meddle with union and business issues.
House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said Hornstein's bill is a bad idea.
"It's a bad bill anyway, but it's especially a bad bill considering the economic times we're in," said Seifert.
"I would as minority leader advise the governor to veto this bill if it were to rear its head anywhere along the line."
The bill is HF 2031
-- Don Davis and Susan Lunneborg contributed to this story.