From the Desk of the President (June, 2017)


Congratulations to our newly elected officers who took their oath of office at the May 3, 2017 General Assembly. They are Grace Baltich, 1st Vice President; David X. Yang, Recording Secretary; Deb Konechne, Membership Secretary; Kenneth G. Garnier, Senior Chief Steward; Angel Alexander & Kim Jorgensen, Members-at-Large. They will serve May 1, 2017 - April 30, 2019. The stewards in attendance also joined in taking the oath of office after being appointed/reappointed for May 1, 2017 - April 30, 2108.

I have been asked why our stewards take the oath of office when they are not officers of our local. The reason is this: our stewards hold a very important role in our local. Our stewards are our front line. They are often the first person our members talk to when they have questions about the union and our contract. In my humble opinion, they are the most important face of our local on a day to day basis. We recognize and respect the importance of their role in our un-ion and the work that they do by having them take that oath of office.

The Minnesota Union Leadership Program (MULP) is taking applications for the 2017 - 2018 class. This program is coordinated by Labor Education Services (LES) and is offered in cooperation with the Minnesota AFL-CIO. Staff from LES lead the training which has experienced speakers from the labor movement and allied community. Participants in the program gain and develop leadership skills as they build relationships and network with their classmates. The course consists of six days of classes beginning with a two day session in October 2017 followed by four one day sessions between December 2017 and May 2018.

Local 34 will once again sponsor members to be part of the 2017 - 2018 series if their application is accepted by LES. You must complete the application which can be found at If your application is approved, LES will then contact our local to see if we will support your participation in the program. That support consists of covering the $1500.00 tuition as well as lost time, mileage and parking to attend all six sessions of the program.

Local 34's request is that any member who submits an application make a firm commitment to attend & fully participate in all six days of the program AND make a firm commitment to participate in Local 34 un-ion activities.

Three of our members - Christina Eichorn, MiKayla Handley and Tamika Hannah - just graduated from the 2016 - 2017 program. They gave a wonderful speech about their experience and what they are bringing with them from the program as part of their graduation ceremony. Please talk to them if you have questions about the program. They are all very enthusiastic about their participation and are very willing to share their insights.

The Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation (RLF) will host a Minneapolis Mayoral Candidate Meet & Greet on Wednesday, June 14, 2017 after the RLF meeting. The event will be held 6:15 - 7:30 PM at the Minneapolis Labor Center, 312 Central Ave SE in Room 218. It is open to union members, family and community members. Food will be served. Please contact Casey Hudek at 612-913-6743 or if you plan to attend. If you live in Minneapolis this is a great opportunity to meet the candidates and ask questions about city issues that are important to you.

2017 Day on the Hill was well attended by Council 5 members. We had over 1200 participants this year with Local 34 sending over 60 of our folks. We spent the morning learning about the lobbying issues we would talk about when we met with our legislators. We broke into our legislative districts over the lunch break so that we could meet fellow members who live be us. A member in each group "volunteered" to ask the questions about our issues of each legislator and another member "volunteered" to be the note taker. We then headed up to the Capitol to meet with our respective Representatives and Senators. We also had a rally with speakers - rank & file members - telling us why the issues - safety in the workplace, good transportation, adequate staffing, funding for the services we provide, good pension - were important to them personally and to all of us collectively. Their heartfelt testimony was moving and illustrated why we continue to lobby on behalf of all our members as well as all working people in our state. Thank you to all our members who were of part of this year's event. You helped us to be heard. Mark your calendars for next year - March 20, 2018!!

Council 5 Executive Director, Eliot Seide, has announced his intent to retire after serving our labor movement for the past 38 years. He intends to continue serving in his position until a new director is hired and will be part of the transition period once we have a new person in place. The Council 5 Executive Board, by terms of our Council 5 Constitution, is the hiring entity for this position. President Judy Wahlberg will head up the Hiring Committee which is comprised of the four Chair Officers - President Wahlberg, Vice President Mike Lindholt, Secretary Mary Falk & Treasurer Nickson Nyankabaria - plus ten Executive Board members - Jeff Couillard, Gerald Firkus, Dennis Frazier, Pat Guernsey, Jennifer Guertin, Eric Hesse, Cherrene Horazuk, Delphine Steiner, Jacqueline Terry and me. The job will be posted nationally. We have a series of meetings scheduled between now and September to work on the hiring process, review applications and con-duct initial interviews of applicants. The final interview of candidates will be conducted by the full Council 5 Executive Board in September. This will be a daunting process as we look to find some-one to fill the HUGE shoes being vacated by Director Seide. He helped to guide us through our merger into Council 5 over 11 years ago and has served as our mentor, guide, lodestone, leader, spokesperson, cheerleader, role model, chief cook & bottle washer over that time as we grew into the strong, effective Council that we are today.

Congratulations to Asia Yang, child of Sirynoise Yang from our local, winner of a 2017 AFSCME Family Scholarship. Asia is graduating from Roseville Area High School this year. If we obtain permission to do so we will run Asia's essay in next month's newsletter.

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!

Thank you to Leah Hicks, Tequia Brown and Wes Volkenant for their service to our local. They have promoted to a job class out of our bargaining unit. Leah served as one of our Good & Welfare contacts. Tequia served as a steward. Wes served as a Membership Secretary, Vice President and Newsletter Editor. We are grateful for their hard work on our behalf over the course of their years as members of our local. Please join me thanking them for that service and wishing them well with their new job classification.

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) Convention - Angel Alexander, Andrea Lazo-Rice, Dawn Coburn-Paden and MiKayla Hand-ley were elected to attend this event held in New Orleans May 24 - 30, 2017. This convention is packed with activities and events from beginning to end so we will expect a report from them at the June 7, 2017 General Assembly.

Kaposia Days held in South St Paul June 23 - 25, 2107 will see a new sponsor this year - AFSCME Council 5. The Executive Board voted to participate in the event as our offices are in South St Paul and we are part of this community. If you are interested in joining the Council 5 contingent in the parade on June 23rd please let me know. The hope is to have our members who live in South St Paul be a part of the group who march to show your pride in being both a resident of South St Paul and an AFSCME member.

We have some tough issues facing us this year. Right to work looms on the horizon with lawsuits lining up to be heard by the Supreme Court. Anti-worker organizations are funding the lawsuits aimed at killing off unions. The one that will most likely be heard first is called Janus versus AFSCME Council 31. A fee payer named Mark Janus feels that he is entitled to all of the benefits of representation by the union without having to pay for that representation via a fair share of the dues that members pay. An anti-union organization called the Liberty Justice Center is footing the bill for the Janus side and seeks to end this practice. See for a statement from AFSCME President Lee Saunders on this lawsuit. from Council 5 Executive Director Eliot Seide spells out our Council 5 approach to addressing this issue. In short, regard-less of the outcome of this lawsuit, unions have always had to fight to flourish and we will continue that fight for our ability to form unions, organize members and collectively bargain for our working conditions, a voice in the workplace, wages and pensions.

Legislators at both the federal and state level have worked on bills that drastically cut funding for the services we provide. If passed, the loss of funding will hurt the people we serve - children, elderly, disabled, veterans, students, working families, etc. We all deserve better than this from those elected to represent us. Instead of looking to better the daily lives of the residents of this country or state they have been bickering over how many cuts they can make so that the richest people can have tax breaks they do not need. This has to stop but it will take hard work on all out parts to give them a "pink slip" next November at the voting booth.

I ask that you become an active part of facing these issues head on. Deb Konechne, our Membership Secretary, is responsible for on-going organizing within our local. She and an other Local 34 members have been conducting AFSCME Strong events at various work sites each month. They engage in one-on-one conversations with our members about things that matter to us as well as share information we feel is important for all of us to have. Deb is always looking for more members to become involved in this process. The local covers lost time and mileage/parking if needed for our members who work with Deb on the AFSCME Strong events. If you would like more information on what the time involvement will be or what the daysí activities are please contact her at 612-816-4321 or via email at or It takes many of doing our part to keep our local healthy and thriving.

The month of May ended with the Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day is set aside to honor those people who died while serving in our country's armed forces while in service to our country ( I have very vivid memories of making sure that my Girl Scout uniform was clean and neatly pressed so that I would represent my family and community with honor in the annual Memorial Day parade. The parade ended at the city cemetery where we heard short speeches from the Commanders of the VFW and American Legion, a prayer by one of the clergyman and then the solo trumpeter playing Taps before a very loud twenty-one gun salute. Many of our fathers had fought in World War Two so the loss of friends and family was still very close to them. The Gold Star mothers who had lost sons were held in high respect by the com-munity. It was a somber ceremony with the lessons learned still deeply ingrained in those of us who participated in those proceedings. Let us give thanks to all who gave their lives as we observe this day set aside to honor their sacrifice so that we might enjoy our freedoms.

Thank you,