AFSCME Welcomes a New Local whose Members Make Our Parks Happen

David Garmany and Diane Moe are Minneapolis park directors who are president and secretary, respectively, of one of AFSCME’s newest locals.
David Garmany and Diane Moe are Minneapolis park directors who are president and secretary, respectively, of one of AFSCME’s newest locals.

Workers who make sure parks in Minneapolis are filled with sports, activities and fun year-round are among Council 5’s newest members.

The group that includes park directors, athletic directors, youth program specialists, IT, and event, volunteer and natural resources coordinators for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board are now AFSCME Local 3279.

We’re the public face of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation division,” says local president David Garmany, the Windom Park director. “We’re the people the public engages with most directly.

“If you think of it from our baseball teams for youth to adult broomball leagues on our hockey rinks, it’s the oversight and administration of all things recreational for everybody of all ages,” he says.

The workers had been part of the Minnesota Professional Employees Association for 25 years, but learned the MPEA board planned to kick them out after they voted for a different board president candidate, Garmany says. He adds that there also was resistance to giving the park workers an additional seat on the board that their membership size entitled them to.

Local vice president Eric Cherland, director of Pearl Park, says their contract had expired, and workers worried whether it would be honored if they lost representation.

The Minneapolis parks workers decided to transfer their membership to a different union and auditioned several, including AFSCME. They also considered going out on their own. In the end, the vote to join AFSCME was unanimous, Garmany says.

“Sometimes the things that seem to goof you up can be an opportunity,” says Diane Moe, Pershing Park director and Local 3279 secretary. “It turned out to be a good thing.”

Up until that point, “We were in survival mode,” Garmany says. “We were hoping to actually have some form of union representation. In the short-term, we just wanted to find a safe harbor. We chose the best harbor available to us.

“On every front, from a disciplinary situation to an arbitration AFSCME has taken over, to contract negotiations, we have been amazed at the support and professionalism that we are deriving,” Garmany says.

The local is coming out of several tumultuous years that included the Great Recession, three different reorganizations, changing districts and service areas, and a big reclassification. Garmany himself had eight supervisors in eight years.

“Currently we’re very active because we’ve had eight years of long, hard fights and frustrations,” he says.

The highly engaged local has 83 members and is at more than 90 percent full membership. Nearly half routinely turn out at general membership meetings.

Now they’re negotiating their first contract as an AFSCME local.

“The tone and tenor, I’ve gone through four or five different contract negotiations,” Garmany says. “This is the first time I’ve seen passion. This is the first time I’ve seen the person representing us speak with authority and challenge management, to the point where in our second meeting they were yelling at each other, which I thought was great. It’s great somebody gets to yell at management and it doesn’t have to be one of us because we still have to be in a relationship.

Cherland says they also hope to regain some stability.

“We’ve got a strong voice and support from our union to negotiate contracts, help resolve disputes like grievances and tackle other work-related issues,” Cherland says.

What all three are just starting to realize is how big of a family they’ve joined with AFSCME, and the kind of support they can count on in the future from fellow members, too.