Can't Win if you Don't Fight

One Strong, United Voice for Workers

Established in April 1950, AFSCME Local 34 represents over 2000 Social Service employees of Hennepin County


  Newsletter (July, 2017)

  President's blog (July, 2017)



Why Millennials Should Lead the Next Labor Movement

I grew up in a household that neatly displayed its affiliations in the bathroom magazine rack. There were copies of Ebony, Essence and Jet that my dad brought home from work so that we could be in touch with our blackness in magazine form, and the union newsletters that explained why his job was worth having.

He worked on the assembly line at a car plant in southern Wisconsin, work that regularly sent him to the hospital for surgeries to drain extra fluid from his knees. But those procedures were covered by union-negotiated medical insurance, and the time he had to miss work for them was handled by union-negotiated contractual provisions. Each time he healed, he could go right back to the job he loved in order to provide for our family.

Memories of my dad’s union job feel like they belong in a museum, and that’s only partly because I’m talking about the long-gone 1980s and ’90s. Many jobs added to the American economy these days not only come without unions but also don’t even provide full-time employment. The lack of unionization has sent the bottom flying out of the middle class.

Workers are being deprived of the advantages my dad’s labor union negotiated for my family: wages that helped us save for a down payment on a house after years of moving from apartment to apartment; health care that covered, in addition to Dad’s knee surgeries, treatment for my sister’s asthma, my brother’s autism, my mother’s high blood pressure and Dad’s early-onset prostate cancer.

After years of studying our bathroom’s stack of union publications, I grew enthralled with the existence of union negotiator guys who looked just like my dad, dressed in the Midwestern anti-fashion of workboots and fleeces to guard against our seemingly eternal winters. Though they dressed like my dad, they had knowledge he didn’t, until they shared it with him: how to negotiate fair wages for his physically challenging job and how to avoid illegal and unreasonable work hours and conditions.

Belonging to a union is a form of education that the current national political regime opposes and that states have been working to weaken so that we are unable to be fairly compensated for our work. The dangers of not being able to receive information about wages, hours and working conditions or the bargaining power that unions provide are legion.

As just one example, back in my native state of Wisconsin, after Gov. Scott Walker passed an anti-collective-bargaining law that sharply curtailed unions’ right to fight on behalf of their workers, he was able to pass another law a few months later that eliminated Wisconsin factory and retail workers’ right to weekends off. That doesn’t mean only that thousands of Wisconsinites have lost the right to relax on Saturdays and Sundays; it means also that their employers have gained the right to force people to “volunteer” to work seven days a week or risk being let go. Zero guaranteed days off a week isn’t a system that has been shown to increase either productivity or workplace morale; it just makes people miserable.

I belong to a union myself these days: the Writers Guild of America East, which recently avoided a strike and negotiated more favorable health care coverage for its members. That success was a particularly noteworthy accomplishment in this era when millions of people — many with employer-based plans — are rightly afraid of losing their health coverage.  

At a time when the government wants to disembowel public and private health care and when wages are on the decline, our best recourse to these threats is to join existing unions or unionize ourselves.

The last big boom for American unions came during a period that resembles the present one: The Great Depression, like the ’08 recession, left workers deeply unsatisfied with wages and working conditions. Thanks to the New Deal’s favorable collective bargaining legislation, Americans felt free to organize unions and petition their employers for labor rights; there were 12 million labor union members by the end of World War II.

People like me, who have mental museums filled with memories of the stability that came with our parents’ union jobs, could be the perfect leaders of the next labor union renaissance. We millennials, many of whom entered the work force during the last recession, have borne the brunt of the country’s recent decline in employment quality, with lower wages, diminishing benefits and the presence of noncompete clauses that hurt even entry-level employees from finding subsequent jobs. We show higher support for unions than previous generations, and with good reason: Unionized employees typically enjoy better benefits and have made about 27 percent more than their non-unionized counterparts for roughly the last 15 years.

The union newsletters my father kept in our bathroom magazine rack may have faded, but their message — about the value of jobs that provide a fair wage, reasonable conditions and the ability to care for a family — is as timely now as it ever was.

~ Kashana Cauley (7/13/2017), New Your Times OP ED Contributor


  Newsletter (July, 2017)

  President's blog (July, 2017)

AFSCME has made a commitment to getting back to organizing basics, building power at the grassroots level and hearing the unique concerns of every public service worker in one-on-one conversations. As a union, we will never quit fighting for the respect and opportunity public service workers deserve, because public service workers never quit on our communities.~ AFSCME 

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Local 34 Contract  

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Council 5 Advocates for excellence in public services, dignity in the workplace, and opportunity and prosperity for all workers.

AFSCME Local 34 Facebook is a closed group - Email Amanda Abell for an invite. 

AFSCME women make up close to 60% of the union’s membership.

Workday Minnesota is a project of the Labor Education Service at the University of Minnesota. 

We All Benefit From Unions 

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Action Update

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AFSCME Congressional Reports

Labor History in 2:00

Union Songs



     AFSCME Local 34                   Updated 7/17/2017

“A lie never lives to be old.” ~ Sophocles





Local 34 Vice President resignation: Kathy Kelly has submitted her resignation as Vice President of Local 34 effective 7/5/17. That resignation has been accepted. This means that the Executive Board will fill that position with a special election at our August 16, 2017 meeting. That meeting is held at HSB 917 at 5:30 PM. Any dues paying member in good standing is eligible to put their name forward for that election. If you would like to know more about what the duties and responsibilities the position are please contact President Jean diesderich. If you are interested in being a candidate for the position please contact Jean by no later than August 14, 2017. Please join us in thanking Kathy for her service to the local over the years.

Congratulations to Michael LaCoste: Please join us in congratulating our Field Representative, Michael LaCoste, on his promotion to Acting Organizing Director for AFSCME Council 5. His promotion was effective June 20, 2017. We will miss his presence at our meetings and his words of advice to our officers and stewards and his very even keeled approach to the myriad of issues that crop up in our work lives. However, our loss is our gain as he will be working with the Organizing staff at the Council to bring more employees into our AFSCME ranks. The more members we have the stronger we are when we are advocating for better working conditions or negotiating our contracts.

New Local 34 Field Representative: A new Field Representative has been assigned to AFSCME Local 34 as a result of the promotion of Michael Lacoste to the position of Director of Organizing at AFSCME Council 5. Our new staff person is Jolene Catudio. She may be reached by phone at 651-287-0527or at  Michael will be available to her to make the transition go smoothly. Welcome Jolene! 

Crisis Line to Remain Open for a While Longer: A day before it was set to shut down, a statewide hot line for Minnesotans suffering from mental health crises has been rescued by the state Health Department. In a last-minute move, the agency agreed late Thursday to provide enough funding, $139,000, to keep the crisis hot line open until late September...“With Minnesota facing historically high suicide rates and an opioid addiction epidemic, we were concerned about losing this lifesaving resource that serves tens of thousands of Minnesotans every year,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, state health commissioner. “This is not a permanent fix, but it will keep the suicide prevention line open for people in crisis and provide time to find a lasting solution.”...State health officials said they are in discussions with other state and federal agencies, as well as nonprofit agencies, about creating a long-term plan for a sustainable network of crisis mental health lines. NOTE: This year, state lawmakers declined to set aside the $1.4 million requested to fund the hotline.

Netroots Nation: We have four members who will be attending this event in Atlanta, Georgia in August. Two of the members elected, Dawn Coburn-Paden and Fatuma Kassim, stepped down due to conflicts that cropped up after the election at the May 2017 General Assembly. Folks ask why we rank alternates when we hold an election and this is the reason. The first and second ranked alternates, Christina Eichorn and Tamika Hannah, are now able to join Paul Madison and Grace Baltich as our representatives to this busy event. We look forward to hearing their reports when they return from this event as there is so much to do that is new every year.

Union bulletin boards: Per the terms of our contract we should have a bulletin board on every floor where we work for posting of our union news, our newsletters and announcements of union activities. Could all of you please take the time to look around your work area and let President Jean Diederich know if there is a bulletin board dedicated to our union information? We want to find out which areas do not have one so that we can get one installed. Our hope is to be able to get the same pieces of information out across the county to every work site in a timely fashion. Thank you in advance for your assistance on this piece of member education.

Labor/Management HealthCare Committee and consensus based bargaining: Two representatives from each of the 17 bargaining units will meet with representatives from Benefits and Labor Relations starting July 13th to begin the consensus based bargaining process for our 2018 health insurance. As we did last year, we will look at the report from Milliman summarizing our actual usage and projecting possible trend costs for 2018. We use that report along with the information we receive on a monthly basis as we explore what changes, if any, could be made to the premium costs and plan design. Kathy Kelly and Jean Diederich will represent our local in this process. Your comments shared last year helped us during the process so we ask that you again share your comments about the health insurance plans with us now. Having your concerns in front of us when we discuss those concerns with other members of the committee is extremely helpful.  

Good & Welfare Committee: Donna Ronning and Robert Warmboe have been appointed to serve as our Good & Welfare folks. They join Amanda Abell in providing recognition of important life events to our members. Please join us in thanking them for stepping forward and taking on this task. You should send your request to the three of them.

Volunteer at the 2017 State Fair:

  • Volunteer at the 2017 MN State Fair with AFSCME Council 5

  • The fair runs from Thursday, August 27th until Labor Day, Monday, September 4th.

  • Shifts are: 9 a.m.—12:30 p.m., 12:30 p.m.—4 p.m., and 4 p.m.—7:30 p.m.

  • Perks: Council 5 pays for your admission and provides a free T-shirt for volunteers.

  • Contact: Lynette Kalsnes, Communications Coordinator with Council 5,

AFSCME Summer Picnic: Save the date - Sunday, August 20, 2017 - for the AFSCME Family Picnic. It will be held from 1:00- 5:00 PM at Battle Creek Regional Park in Maplewood. All members and their families are welcome to attend. Burgers, hot dogs and soft drinks will be provided. The first 100 kids will receive free Water Park tickets. Please bring other foods and desserts to share. Volunteers are needed to help with the various activities and duties. Please contact Duane Gatzke at 651-472-2787 or if you have questions or are able to volunteer. He would love to hear from you!  

Look at your calendar: We have the AFSCME Council 5 Convention coming up October 5-7, 2017. Last year we could have sent 86 members as our delegation. That number might be higher this year. We have already had some discussion on sending our full complement this year for several reasons – all the anti-worker initiatives coming from different corners of the country and the 2018 political races. One of this year’s convention events will be a gubernatorial candidate forum with the candidates answering questions from our members. It will the first opportunity many of our convention delegates have to hear what the candidates have to say about issues important to us as working people such as living wages, health insurance, transportation, pensions, etc. We will have an announcement of delegate elections for this convention once we receive the official convention call.  

AFSCME Organizing Days

Who: All are welcome! Anyone who wants to learn more about or get a feel for union organizing or get more involved in our union.

When: One day in the months of February, March, May, June, August, September, November

How: Let Deb Konechne know. Ask for the day off, take Special Leave Without Pay (SLWOP) and our union pays your day’s wages.

Upcoming Dates/Locations:  

  • August 16 (All Day Event) - West Hub

  • September 14 - North Hub / Northpoint

  • November - South Hub

Local 34 will continue our efforts to develop Member Action Teams (MAT) during 2017. The structure is aimed at fostering communication, networking and organizing for our members. Our goal is to have 80 MAT leaders by the end of 2017. Contact Deb Konechne, Local 34 Membership Secretary for more information and to express your interest in becoming a MAT leader. Contact Deb at or or call her at 612-816-4321.  




John Herzog - WEB Developer

AFSCME Local 34, P.O. Box 15222, Commerce Station, Mpls., Mn. 55415

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