"Remarks" – Eliot Seide – AFSCME Council 5 Director

Hennepin County Contract Kickoff Rally – 9/18/2007

Good afternoon, sisters and brothers! 

Your theme says it all. AFSCME members do the work that makes Hennepin an excellent full service county for its residents. Wave your signs in the air so your bosses can see. 

It’s good to see so many locals working together for a better contract. By bargaining together we’ve fused our fingers into a mighty fist. That paid off last time when we earned our best contract in 17 years. Once again, the solidarity of 5,000 workers will put us all in a much stronger position. Each and every one of us makes a difference to our union and to the people of Hennepin County.   

Hennepin County works because county employees do. All of you are dedicated to delivering world-class services. There are awards displayed throughout the Government Center to prove it. In fact, your employer brags about Hennepin County’s national reputation for excellence. Now we need to remind the boss that it’s the frontline workers who produce that excellence.   

The county has invested in stadiums and other buildings. Now it’s time to invest in frontline workers. It’s our time for affordable health care and a raise that keeps up with inflation. 

You protect the public. You improve our health. You staff our libraries. You connect clients with lifeline services. That’s important work. 

You’re attorneys, corrections officers, probation officers, and parole officers. You’re hospital employees, social workers, and human services staff.   

You’re librarians, maintenance workers, and clerical support.

You’re important people who make a huge difference.    

We are the frontline, not the bottom line. We deliver the services that make this county a great place to live, work and do business. We deserve quality compensation for the quality service we provide. 

Our paychecks are shrinking while our health care costs are skyrocketing and our workloads are increasing. That’s why we deserve a raise.  

I want to share a few examples of AFSCME members who are dedicated to their work. Probation and parole officers voluntarily work weekends without pay to catch up with their caseloads. That’s because they’re dedicated to public safety. Librarians voluntarily work split shifts without pay so they can catch up on reference work in the morning and provide programs to customers in the evenings. That’s because they’re dedicated to helping minds soar. 

So, why is it our time for a fair contract? We’re working harder and doing more with less. Our wages are falling behind inflation. Like most Minnesotans, our wallets are empty after a trip to the gas station and pharmacy. And the high cost of benefits may be increasing compensation, but not take-home pay. 

We must maintain our health care benefits. For family coverage, we’re paying $345 a month. We can’t afford to pay more for less coverage. Today, the county pays 100% of single coverage and we’ll need to fight to protect that. 

We do the work that makes Hennepin an excellent full service county for its residents. Let me hear your voice…who does the work? 

I promise you that AFSCME will fight to help you keep your head above water. 

Your local presidents are an awesome team:

How many folks are here from Human Services?

How many folks are here from Probation and Parole?

Denne Nelson from Local 1726, and

Karen Koppy from Local 2474

How many folks are here from HCMC?

How many folks are here from Adult Corrections?

How many clerical workers are here?

Are there any librarians on the plaza?

Is anyone here from the County Attorney’s Office? 

The business agents who are working with you are experienced and know how to deliver – Steve Marincel, Jeff Dains and Matt Nelson.   

Be proud of the work you do. It matters to this community.   

You are the union and your energy makes it strong.

You do the work that makes Hennepin an excellent full service county.