News Releases

AFSCME releases number of corrections workers needed; renews Appleton prison objection


Questions? Contact AFSCME communications coordinator Lynette Kalsnes

Correctional officers and workers represented by AFSCME Council 5 demanded Thursday that lawmakers provide funding to hire 327 corrections officers and 75 to 100 other employees to keep workers, institutions and communities safe.

AFSCME also renewed its objection to reopening the privately owned Appleton prison. Reopening a vacant prison is not the solution to creating a safer environment for correctional officers and workers. Two independent reports have found that buying and fixing the CoreCivic facility would cost nearly $200 million, not including staff costs. The state hasn’t been able to keep up with staffing needs in existing prisons; reopening Appleton would stretch our correctional staffing even thinner and make safety issues worse.

Two correctional officers already have died in Minnesota’s prisons this year and dozens more have been assaulted by inmates. Corrections Officer Joseph Gomm was killed by an inmate at the Stillwater Correctional Facility in July, and CO Joseph Parise died in late September shortly after helping to stop an inmate attack on a corrections officer at Oak Park Heights Correctional Facility.

AFSCME members have repeatedly asked legislators to fund adequate staffing. Union local leaders from each prison have worked hard to assess how much additional staffing each facility needs to ensure safety and security.

AFSCME members shared that number with the Department of Corrections Thursday. This coming legislative session, we will demand funding to hire 327 additional corrections officers and 75 to 100 other staff, including LPNs and food service, clerical and maintenance workers, based on existing inmate populations.

“Our union, AFSCME Council 5, has asked the Legislature for years for additional staff,” said Council 5 associate director Tim Henderson. “Every prison is dealing with staffing shortages that have put workers in danger. Hiring these additional workers will provide additional safety and security for our staff and the public, which is one of our most fundamental responsibilities.”

“We and the Department both recognize we need adequate staffing for security and programming to guarantee a safer and more positive work environment,” said Local 915 president Jeff Vars, a corrections officer at Oak Park Heights Correctional Facility.

AFSCME members will keep talking to legislators and candidates right up until the election, vote on Nov. 6, and then continue showing up in force at the Capitol during the legislative session.

“Even though we have a staffing number, we realize the work isn’t over,” Vars said. “We’re not going to wait until the legislative session starts. We’re going to jump on it.”

AFSCME Council 5 represents 43,000 workers across the state of Minnesota, including 2,500 corrections officers and workers.

AFSCME Council 5 responds to death of correctional brother


For immediate release Sept. 24, 2018

AFSCME Council 5 responds to death of correctional brother

AFSCME Council 5 is deeply saddened by the death of one of our correctional brothers, Joseph Parise, after he responded to a staff assault by an inmate at Oak Park Heights Correctional Facility.

The inmate repeatedly punched a corrections officer in the face at noon Monday, and workers including Parise and a caseworker rushed to help. Corrections officers were able to restrain the inmate. Then Parise experienced a medical emergency and was taken to Regions Hospital, where he passed away Monday. He had worked for the Department of Corrections for four years. He was 37.

Two other correctional workers were injured in the attack, and were treated and released.

AFSCME joins in mourning with our correctional brothers and sisters. We grieve with the family of our AFSCME member. We offer our deepest respects to our fallen brother for his courage and his service.

Corrections Officer Derek Magle, the vice president of AFSCME Local 915 at Oak Park Heights, said Parise was a U.S. Navy veteran who served on the OPH honor guard, and a loving husband and father. Magle described Parise as a very caring man.

“He’s always fun, charismatic, positive,” Magle said. “He always worried about other staff before he worried about himself. When you were having issues, he would reach out to try to help.”

Corrections Officer Jeff Vars, the president of Local 915, said he talked to Parise on Saturday. Parise said he was considering transferring to Stillwater Correctional Facility, where an inmate recently murdered CO Joe Gomm. Parise said he thought he could better aid his fellow COs by helping provide more staff at Stillwater.

The Department of Corrections is investigating the attack and says the cause of death hasn’t been determined yet for CO Parise. DOC is offering support services to staff at Oak Park Heights.

Oak Park Heights’ correctional officers have set up a GoFundMe account to help his family:

AFSCME Endorses Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan


The AFSCME Council 5 Executive Board Thursday unanimously endorsed Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan for Governor and Lieutenant Governor in the November election, along with a slate of other highly qualified candidates for state and federal office.

The Executive Board is made up of members and elected by members.

“Tim and Peggy have strong track records of supporting the rights of workers, allowing us to make life better for ourselves, our families and our communities,” says Council 5 executive director John P. Westmoreland. “We are confident they will stand up to the billionaires and other powerful corporate interests trying to take away our rights and silence our powerful, united voice.”

“As a former teacher and member of the National Guard, Tim respects public workers and understands the importance of quality public services,” says Council 5 president Judy Wahlberg. “We are thrilled to endorse lawmakers like Tim and Peggy who will represent workers, not just the 1 percent.”

“I’m proud to be endorsed by, and stand with, my union sisters and brothers of AFSCME Council 5 to protect workers' rights,” says Tim Walz. “As a lifelong educator and proud public sector union member, I understand how important unions are to ensure workers' and their families' rights are protected. This is even more important after the Supreme Court’s Janus decision earlier this summer. As your next Governor, I will stand with you and fight every day to ensure our unions stay strong in Minnesota." 

The Executive Board also proudly endorsed:

  • Ilhan Omar for U.S. Representative, Fifth Congressional District
  • Joe Radinovich for U.S Representative, Eighth Congressional District
  • Keith Ellison for Minnesota Attorney General

AFSCME Council 5 is a union representing more than 40,000 public-sector and non-profit workers across Minnesota. We advocate for excellence in services for the public, dignity in the workplace, and opportunity and prosperity for all working families.

AFSCME condemns attack on correctional officer


A sergeant at Minnesota Correctional Facility-St. Cloud was treated and released after being assaulted by an inmate Wednesday. AFSCME Council 5 condemns any assault on our correctional workers. Members will continue reaching out to and working with public officials to make sure workers can be safe while serving the public.

AFSCME Correctional Policy Committee’s response to DOC Commissioner Roy’s press conference July 27



Statement from AFSCME Council 5’s Corrections Policy Committee:

We and our 2,000 correctional brothers and sisters from across Minnesota have spent the past week and a half mourning the loss of our fallen brother, correctional officer Joseph Gomm. We send our condolences to his mother, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and friends. We will hold Joe and his wicked sense of humor, his great sense of integrity and his commitment to our mission close in our hearts.

We want to thank all of the correctional workers, other law enforcement officers and the communities who helped us through this past week. We greatly appreciate the outpouring of love and support for Joe and our correctional family.

We will not let Joseph Gomm die in vain. We want to ensure that every person who works in corrections can come home safely, and that we can keep our institutions and communities safe.

Although the Department of Corrections has communicated during this time of mourning, they have not communicated with us about the safety measures presented today nor given us an opportunity to work with them to find solutions.

We have several policy issues that we will be demanding get resolved. We have dangerously low numbers of correctional officers, levels that are far worse than the statistics reported by DOC today. This is unacceptable.

Officers are not given all the equipment they need to safely do their jobs, and that also must be addressed.

After years of asking legislators for enough funding to do our jobs safely, we are demanding bipartisan support, communication and collaboration from the Department and all levels of state government to provide us with the adequate level of correctional officers, tools, resources and policies we need to do our job and to keep our institutions and the public safe.

John C. Hillyard, president

Jeff Vars

Dan Gorman

Sam Marks

Sam Moore

Anthony Pietrzak

Cami Basta

Jim Barbo

Glenn Lisowy

Chris Bengston

Rick Neyssen

Gerald Firkus

Tim Danger

Derek Magle

Chris Wendover

Anna Koktan

Tim Matson

Eric Jacobson

A Tragic Loss



CONTACT: Lynette Kalsnes, 651-287-0537                    

Stillwater, MN — AFSCME Council 5 grieves the loss of corrections worker Joseph Gromm

We are grieving the tragic loss of Brother Joseph Gomm. Our hearts are heavy for his family, friends and co-workers.

We offer our deepest sympathy and unconditional support to all who were touched by this wonderful man.

We ask that everyone cherish their lives every day.

UPDATE: July 19, 2018, 1:18 PM

AFSCME Council 5 recognizes short staffing in our correctional facilities.

We have lobbied the Legislature for increased staffing and funding to help alleviate these shortages only to have them voted down by politicians who do not support the safety and security of our Correctional Staff.

We will continue to advocate for more staff to ensure the safety of our members and the public.

AFSCME Council 5 president Judy Wahlberg
AFSCME Council 5 president Judy Wahlberg

Statement: America Needs Unions Now More than Ever


The Supreme Court decision on Janus v. AFSCME is a rallying point to unrig the economy.

AFSCME Endorses Tina Smith for U.S. Senator


“Tina is a proven champion for working families."

AFSCME Endorses Erin Murphy for Governor


One of the state’s largest and most politically active unions – AFSCME Minnesota Council 5 – today announced its endorsement of state Rep. Erin Murphy as its candidate for Governor.

After holding months of one-on-one conversations with members to find out what qualities they most want in a Governor, the AFSCME Council 5 Executive Board on April 19 interviewed three well-qualified candidates to become our next Governor: state Rep. Erin Murphy, State Auditor Rebecca Otto and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.

The Board representing Council 5 members on Thursday endorsed Erin as the candidate who most shares our values, and has the best plan to win in November.

“Erin Murphy has a strong record of supporting workers, our families and our rights,” says AFSCME executive director John P. Westmoreland. “We’re confident Erin will stand up to the billionaires and corporate CEOs trying to take away our freedom to negotiate a fair return on our work and trying to silence the power of workers’ collective voices.”

 “Erin believes in public service and knows that workers are the ones who make our cities, counties and state run well and provide our great quality of life here in Minnesota,” says AFSCME Council 5 president Judy Wahlberg. “She will listen to workers and make sure our crucial public services are funded, rather than focus on giving tax breaks to the rich and to big corporations who are trying to take away workers’ rights.”

"The people of AFSCME are working hard every day to build Minnesota's future," Erin Murphy says. "To have earned the support of this mighty force is testament to our belief in one another and what we can accomplish when we stand together and fight for working people. To me, as a person of labor, it is deeply satisfying, and I am ready to fight for all of us."

AFSCME Council 5 endorsed Erin after an intensive process of gathering input from members. AFSCME spent two months meeting with union locals across the state to determine what traits and values are most important in a Governor; had one-on-one conversations with members; and gave members a chance to meet informally with candidates in small groups in several cities. These conversations informed the candidates’ questionnaire and AFSCME’s legislative priorities this session, and they ultimately guided the Board’s endorsement decision.

State Rep. Erin Murphy is a nurse and former lobbyist, organizer and executive director of the Minnesota Nurses Association. She serves on the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, and the Ways and Means Committee. She’s former Majority Leader of the Minnesota House.

AFSCME Council 5 is a union of 43,000 workers who advocate for excellence in services for the public, dignity in the workplace, and opportunity and prosperity for all workers. 

Hennepin County Workers to Rally at Government Center May 7



Hundreds of Hennepin County workers will rally at the Government Center Monday, May 7, to kick off their contract negotiations.

Together, members of these Council 5 locals represent more than 4,200 AFSCME members who provide services impacting every resident of Hennepin County. The county workers make up Minnesota’s second-largest AFSCME group.

What’s so unusual and so powerful about their bargaining process is that six AFSCME locals in Hennepin County bargain together: Locals 34, 552, 1719, 2822, 2864 and 2938. The combined strength of their voices helps amplify their ability to improve wages and working conditions.

“Hennepin County has always wanted to be the employer of choice,” says Patrick Guernsey, president of Local 552 and head of the Hennepin County Policy Committee. “There are many ways we can work together to maintain that.”

Changes the county could make to ensure it keeps attracting new workers include offering the same amount of paid parental leave as the state and private sector, moving from three weeks to six weeks, Guernsey says. Another change is allowing newer workers who initially opted for PTO (paid time off) to switch to earning separate sick and vacation time. Workers in three locals that have AFSCME dental plans want to ensure they keep them.

Workers will rally right after presenting their first contract proposal to administrators on Monday,
May 7. Expect to see lots of AFSCME green swarming the plaza, presenting great opportunities for B-roll and sound.

WHAT: AFSCME Council 5 members rally to kick off their contract campaign with the theme, “United We Bargain, Divided We Beg!”

WHO: Hundreds of workers who are members of six different AFSCME Council 5 locals

WHEN: Monday, May 7, from noon to 1 p.m.

WHERE: Hennepin County Government Center, North Plaza, 300 S. 6th St., Minneapolis