Don't forget to vote, volunteer

Denna Thurmond is urging fellow AFSCME members to vote.
Denna Thurmond is urging fellow AFSCME members to vote.

It may seem each time election season rolls around, you'll hear people saying that this is the most crucial election ever. But when it comes to the Aug. 14 primary, and even more importantly Election Day on Nov. 6, that’s especially true for union members this year.

Over the past eight years, we’ve watched as Gov. Mark Dayton turned former Gov. Pawlenty’s $6.5 billion deficit into years of surpluses. Dayton restored $2 billion that Pawlenty “borrowed” from our schools, and he restored the public services that Pawlenty cut. Dayton has been a true friend to the labor movement and workers at every turn.

But Dayton is leaving office after eight years, and it’s impossible to exaggerate how much rides on picking a successor who shares our values as much as Dayton does. It’s not about being a Democrat or Republican: It’s about putting workers first, not billionaires and big business.

Unfortunately, over the last two years, Republicans in control of the state House and Senate gave big tax breaks to the rich and big corporations. They also gave a tax break that only benefitted the wealthiest 1,000 estates – not a lot of farmers or workers in that category. These legislators went so far with these tax breaks, our state risked going into deficit late last year. Deficits could quickly loom again if lawmakers pass policies that favor the super rich and the super powerful rather than giving back to workers and funding essential public programs.

As soon as Republicans in Wisconsin (led by Scott Walker) and in Iowa gained control, they did everything they could to gut unions. The way Iowa union members are fighting back is truly inspirational. But to prevent that fight from being necessary here, we need to elect worker-friendly candidates across the board – for governor, House, Senate and local offices.

As you vote, please think about the true values of various candidates and how their actions help – or hurt – workers, our families and our communities.

What AFSCME members are looking for in candidates:

Denna Thurmond, PERA, Local 2829 Executive Board

“I want to make sure we back candidates who share our interests and our values, who will fight for us as public workers in the workplace so we keep our collective bargaining. That’s very important to me.

I can’t believe people don’t vote!  When we get candidates you don’t want in office, think about the fact you didn’t vote. If you don’t vote, you don’t have a voice. You won’t be included in the process. If you’re not going to be part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Denise Bickford, Central Lakes College maintenance worker, Local 4001 Executive Board

“I think we need an honest governor for the people. I want somebody that supports my job, my livelihood, and that’s labor friendly. That’s what I want.

When I retire, I need my pension. I don’t want it to go into a 401(k). I’ve worked for the state for 20-plus years so that’s important to me. I think we should have dignity.

If you don’t vote, you’re not going to be heard.”

Mike West, Minnesota Correctional Facility St. Cloud, Local 599

“It’s not important that we think alike. It’s important that we think together. Our union is nothing but the members themselves.”

Christina St. Germaine, Minnesota
Sex Offender Program security counselor, Local 1092 Executive Board

“I want a person that has family values, who looks out for the average American, working families, people who have children, people who are elderly. I want a governor for everybody, not just the wealthiest 3 percent, someone who will protect workers’ rights to be able to have our union, to negotiate for fair wages, benefits, to know they won’t be starving in retirement, to make sure we continue to have a safety net, real family values.

The everyday struggles people deal with when government cuts funding for programs, the people at the top don’t feel it. They need to wake up and realize there are a lot of people who depend on services. Everybody depends on the streets being plowed:  Without public sector dollars and Local Government Aid, how are people getting to work?
When they cut public services, everybody suffers. Everybody is affected by cuts to Local Government Aid, funding from the federal government. States and counties and cities suffer.”

Rick Frauendienst, St. Cloud MnDOT, Local 604 vice president

“Honesty is one of the core values we have to look for in candidates. In my opinion, that’s number one. Respect would be number two, and a vision for the future, cooperation, caring and compassion.

By respect, I mean respect for other people’s positions in life, not thumbing their nose at people because they have a different job or look different or have a different belief system. People who come from other countries have the right to provide food, shelter and clothing for their families just like I do, and they have the same wants and needs and deserve the same respect that I do.”

What can you do?


AFSCME members met to interview and endorse candidates who will support labor and workers.  You can find their endorsements for the Aug. 14 primary at

Just before the General Election on Nov. 6, watch for your Stepping Up Voters’ Guide in the mail and online at


Want to volunteer for a campaign? AFSCME political organizers can help connect you with one. Email or call 651-238-5334.

Not sure where to vote?

Find out how to early vote and check polling places at