Hennepin County Workers Show Strength, Unity

More than 250 AFSCME members who work in Hennepin County rallied for a fair contract Monday.

The six AFSCME locals who bargain together presented their first proposal to management before Monday’s rally. Together, Hennepin County Locals 34, 552, 1719, 2822, 2864 and 2938 make up Minnesota’s second-largest AFSCME group.

Standing outside the Hennepin County Government Center, they chanted “Workers, united, will never be defeated!” And “Who has the power? We have the power!” They were joined by members of AFSCME Local 3800 and Teamsters Local 320.

"We need to make sure we're a united front," said Grace Baltich, the newly elected president of Local 34.
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We need to make sure we’re a united front,” said Grace Baltich, the newly elected president of Local 34. “We need to let the public know the only reason Hennepin County works is because we do, and we deserve respect and dignity in the workplace.”

Workers should not have to fear retaliation or even job loss for standing up for union rights, Baltich said. They should get fair wages for their hard work.

“When we come with a united voice, management has to listen,” said Local 2822 president Ali Fuhrman. “(The county) doesn’t function without us.”

Fuhrman asked workers, Who among them had been disrespected by a manager? Many hands went up. Who had to work two to three jobs to take care of their family? Many hands went up. And who felt they were paid what they deserved? No hands went up.

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“We need raises that represent the work we do, that represent the cost of living and its increases,” Fuhrman said. No one should have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, she said. All workers should be able to afford to pay their insurance premium so they can get health care and prescription drugs.

“We need protections for our union,” she said. “We have nothing without our union.”

Other unified contract demands include expanded paid parental leave and union rights, shift differentials, overtime protection, anti-sexual harassment language and respect and dignity in the workplace.

These six AFSCME locals represent more than 4,200 members who provide services impacting every resident of Hennepin County. The theme of their campaign is “United we bargain, divided we beg!”