Member Stories

AFSCME Day on the Hill 2009

"This was my first DOTH (Day on the Hill) experience. I didn't know what to expect. I thought that we'd be just sitting there listening to our Senator/Representative speak on the current issues without much interaction with us common folk. Well, let's just say I was wrong. I know when our union members come to anything, you KNOW we bring it! The training sessions were very helpful. I took a class on "Building the contract campaign in the worksite one member at a time". The guest speakers were from Local #3142. I picked this workshop because I have had experience with being a New Membership Secretary and conducting a New Employee Orientation. It really does take time to help a non-member (non-dues paying) and some members to fully understand the importance of being an AFSCME union member. At times we all want instant gratification. The real satisfaction of being a union member is the strength (number of members=strength for negotiating for our contracts) we have going into negotiations every 2 years. I wanted to find a way inside to innovatively speak to potential members about joining the union. Even though their local was small and spread out, each officer committed themselves to keeping their members informed at each and every worksite. I had a great time and learned a lot of information about Senator Patricia Torres-Ray. Our group formulated questions and concerns that we have in our community. Senator Torres-Ray was very welcoming. One of the main concerns was the Minnesota deficit fiasco and how she plans to help resolve it. She gave us information that she thought was useful to incorporate into the reduction of the deficit in different possible formats. After our brief discussion, we gave her the "common good card" that talks about Fair Taxes and how we could raise $1 billion to save our vital services that Minnesota wants and needs during these times of crisis. Senator Torres-Ray was very interested in accepting the card. Lastly, the highlight was marching to Governor Pawlenty's office with plenty of signatures that represented the union members and locals in attendance for DOTH. We began to walk to Pawlenty's office shouting "WHO ARE WE?, AFSCME!"  When a security guard spotted us marching to the Governor's office, he said "Hey!, only the people holding the sign will go in". So me, I put my thumb and my index finger around the poster and marched right on in. It was a very good and educational experience and can't wait until next time to attend." ~ Kela Williams, HSR III


"It was a pleasure to have accompanied Local 34 to the Day on the Hill. I really learned a great deal about Local 34 and AFSCME as a whole. I also learned a great deal about the upcoming state budget and how all the funds are broken down. The break-out sessions were also very educational. I will use the skills I learned during the break off sessions in future endeavors, for example when negotiating with administration staff on my job and public figures in my voting district. As a matter of fact I was actually inspired to eventually presume a public office (e.g., school board, city council women, etc.) and of course to get more active in Local 34. I plan to start the process as I take office as a Member-at-Large on the Executive Board and help the stewards at NorthPoint. Hat's Off to AFSCME Local 34!" ~ Jacqueline Coleman

"When I signed up for “Day on the Hill,” I was not sure what to expect. I was unprepared for the planful, well thought out events of day two. Just like at a regular convention, I received my name tag and materials which were clearly laid out and had an easy to follow agenda designed to encourage my participation. I had some apprehension about being there by myself and instead was greeted warmly by my union brothers and sisters at Local 34. It was also wonderful meeting new members of my union family who are also my neighbors as we shared a feeling of camaraderie when we went to see our elected officials. The whole experience was empowering and gave me a feeling of the strength that is possible when we stick together." ~ Elena Izaksonas


"March 11, 2009 marked the first Day on the Hill that I've attended. I received a call from one of my co-workers inviting me to attend, but I declined as I am forever short of vacation leave. However, Jean gave me a call and let me know about the Union would be able to reimburse me for lost time should I take the day off from work without pay. This enabled me to take advantage of the opportunity to show my support for the Union, and to inform lawmakers about our important work for Hennepin County on behalf of the community. I was surprised by how well organized the DOTH was; very comforting since I had never participated before. Despite the large number of AFSCME members from all over the state, the event appeared to run smoothly, and I was always clear on where I was to be, at what time. It was interesting to see AFSCME members from all over in attendance; this really reinforced for me the sense that, as a union member, I am part of something larger. The presentations and planning time that were part of the day allowed me to think about what exactly I would say when I met my legislators. I think my favorite part of the day was when union members divided up by our home districts, and met with the legislators representing our neighborhoods regarding union concerns. This helped me better understand the issues with which our representatives are currently struggling. I hope that the legislators similarly gained some insights from us as to what public employees and the communities we serve are now facing. These meetings certainly also reinforced my sense of how approachable our government here is MN really is; when I again met the State Representative whom I visited on DOTH a few days later, on primary day, he remembered me and, I assume, the message that we delivered to him that day. The day finished up with a nice buffet and a time to socialize." ~ Brenda R. Louise


"AFSCME Council 5's Day on the Hill, March 10- 11, 2009 was a huge success. We had over 1100 AFSCME members from around the state attend the event - more than we had anticipated. The first day was geared towards workshops and the second day towards legislative lobbying. The rally at the Capitol on Day Two was especially impressive with a wall of green on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors of the rotunda. We really rocked the building with our chant of "Who are we? AFSCME!"  The speeches by members in the trenched were very moving. Robin Madsen from the St Paul library spoke of how delivery of services has been reduced due to the lack of local government aid. Carmen Brown from HCMC spoke to the cuts in medical services that have happened due to the lack of funding and the impact those cuts have had on staff and patients. Carroll "Bird" Partridge from MnSCU talked about the effects of the shortfalls in education funding have had on their ability to maintain services in the school system. Renae McArthur from the Courts shared her story of what happened when the Courts had to close the offices one afternoon a week because of having too much work and not enough people to do it. All of their comments highlighted the fact that the work that we do is for the common good of the residents of Minnesota. Local 34 had a good showing with close to 40 of our members attending one or both days of this event.  Join me in thanking Ibrahim Adam, Angel Alexander, Gary Armstead, Jacqueline Coleman, Rhonda Conley-Shirley, Andre Davis, Chalmers Davis, Kathleen Farber, Diane Fossen, Maureen Glover, Alexander Gordon, Karen Gray, Phillip Gray, Rhonda Griffin, John Herzog, Mara Hill, Elena Izaksonas, Fatuma Kassim, Ester Killion, Lisa Kuebelbeck, Ed Kusleika, Andrea Lazo-Rice, Sheila Lipsco, Brenda Louise, Alice McGuiggan, Jeffrey Meyer, Vicki Moore, Betty Pharr, Patrick Regan, Shawnice Reid, Clifford Robinson, Lindsay Schwab, Laurie Simon, Bob Velez, Vern Wagner, and Kela Williams (I apologize if I’ve overlooked anyone's name) for representing you in St. Paul. They served as your Local 34 representatives lobbying for all of us at the Capitol, and did so well. They voiced their concerns about the need to raise the public's awareness of the work that we do and how cuts in the services we provide will impact the communities in which we live. They shouted their support for the speakers at the rally and for adequate funding to protect the people we serve. They spoke plainly with their senators and representatives about the need to raise revenue and to restore local government aid. It was plain from the looks on their faces that our members were enthused about the work they did that day. Following are impressions from three of our members who were first time attendees." ~ Jean Diederich