Joining Together!

2019 has been a busy year for our Local and all AFSCME Locals at Hennepin County. We are working collectively to address issues that affect workers in every department, in every building, and in every local. In January, we fought the Employer for refusing to give workers with their review in the last week of December 2018 their proper step increase. Instead of Locals trying to go it alone we joined forces to file a class action grievance against the County and build political support from Commissioners to aid in our fight. We lost this fight in arbitration but the AFSCME Locals learned important lessons in building a collective fight, lessons we’ve already put into practice.

This April when the County announced the end of PTO/Vacation run out before retirement, our Union was ready to fight back. Under the initial proposal, the County said they would not allow workers running out their time to accrue additional leave hours. If you didn’t already know, you accrue sick/vacation or PTO hours while you are out using your leave hours. This was a clear violation of our contract and the Employer quickly changed its position. The Employer also acknowledged it is a subject of bargaining and we will be discussing the continuation of the practice in our 2021 contract negotiations. The practice will continue as is until 2022.

But it’s not just AFSCME Locals joining forces. This year, for the first time in many years, AFSCME is joining with other Unions that represent workers at Hennepin County to fight against increases to our healthcare. In this issue you’ll find a joint letter explaining our healthcare decision-making and how our plan is in excellent financial health.

And whatever you think of our current U.S. President, he is not a friend of labor. In the past two years we have seen tremendous attacks on working people, especially unions. The County, while not outright anti-union, is taking this hostile moment for workers as an opening to start chipping away at our rights and benefits. We saw it in their attack on our steps. We see it as they increase our healthcare costs, increase our workload and short change the residents we serve.

But despite these obstacles we are joining together to fight! There have been more strikes in the past two years than in recent memory, with teachers leading the way. Our Union is already in the process of creating a strategic plan for contract negotiations in 2021. AFSCME Locals and HC Unions are joining together, and our strength is in our numbers and in our people.

The more stewards and activists we have the more we can do and the more we can defend ourselves. There are plenty of ways to get involved: you can hand out a newsletter to your coworkers, join our Education Engagement and Outreach Committee, help us reserve a conference room for a union pizza lunch at your worksite, attend a Know Your Rights Training. To those who have joined us, thank you! To those still thinking, join us!