MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Striking state employees hope to build momentum before negotiations resume Thursday with a series of "solidarity rallies" across the state.
"We want to send a signal to the governor and his bargaining team that we are determined," said Peter Benner, executive director of Council 6 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The rallies began Tuesday night in Mankato and will continue in St. Paul, Duluth and Brainerd Wednesday, and in St. Cloud and Willmar on Thursday.
The rally scheduled for Wednesday at the state Capital will include speakers from New York City public employee unions. The workers were expected to say a strike after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is appropriate.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jesse Ventura, who was a guest on a call-in show for Minnesota Public Radio on Tuesday, said that he is glad that state and union negotiators are "gonna get back to the table."
Ventura and his aides have said that the state has already made its best offer, but they haven't completely ruled out offering more money to break an impasse.
However, he said if he meets the unions' demands he will have to raise taxes or cut government. "What it comes down to, the very people who are striking, some of the people standing next to them might not have jobs," Ventura said.
The difference between the state's latest offer and the unions' latest demand comes to about $142 million.
After Ventura left the radio studio, his spokesman, John Wodele, said that the governor's statements shouldn't be interpreted as opening the door to an offer that includes more money.
"His stand has been that we've put our best offer on the table. I don't think there's an expectation that he will put more money on the table right now," Wodele said.
All sides seemed to think that the latest round of negotiations would extend into the weekend.
On the radio show, Ventura challenged union leaders to show him how their demands could be met without raising taxes or slashing existing jobs and services. He said he keeps hearing that money can be found to satisfy the workers' needs, but hasn't been shown specifically where that money might be.
Jim Monroe, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, the second largest striking union, said the state could start by examining about $650 million it has in its current budget for contracts with private companies.
Union leaders have complained for years that the state is wasting money by hiring private vendors to do consulting and other kinds of work that state employees could do.
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