Voting Starts on State Contract

Local 2829 members Jennifer Holstad, Barb Olafson and Andrea Ebner (left to right) line up to vote on their proposed state contract Monday at the DNR building in Saint Paul. All three work for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
Local 2829 members Jennifer Holstad, Barb Olafson and Andrea Ebner (left to right) line up to vote on their proposed state contract Monday at the DNR building in Saint Paul. All three work for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

AFSCME members are turning out across Minnesota to vote on their proposed state contract, and they’re urging fellow members to do the same in big numbers.

“It’s important to send a strong message to the legislators that this is a fair contract for both the workers and the state of Minnesota, and that legislators need to ratify the contract,” says Local 2829 vice president Mel Preczewski, who served on the state master bargaining team.

“Nothing was given to us – the state agreed to this because they are having trouble retaining people,” she adds. “They know these changes need to be made to have a strong workforce and attract the best and brightest. This wasn’t a contract just for us workers: This is a contract that benefits all the people in the state of Minnesota.”

Eric Pascal, acting president of Local 1465 and Council 5 Executive Board member, casts his ballot at the DNR on Monday.
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The tentative agreement for workers in the state’s executive branch includes pay raises and holds the line on the employee’s share of health insurance premiums. It would improve medical and dental benefits, guarantee six weeks of paid parental leave, offer open enrollment for short-term disability and boost the amount of injured-on-duty pay. Find more highlights here.

Voting takes place this week across the state, from Monday through Friday. Members can vote at whichever site is most convenient, at any of these times and locations.

Only members can vote. Fee payers can sign a membership card at a voting site to become members and cast a ballot.

Local 1465 member Sharon Ketelsen, who works at the Department of Natural Resources, says there’s strength in numbers.

“It’s always important to be a participant in our union,” she says. “That way, you get what you want.”

Given the current political climate, Ketelsen says she didn’t expect a contract this strong for workers, and she wholeheartedly supports it.

Vivian Dixon of Local 2181 believes in voting and union membership.
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Vivian Dixon of Local 2181, who works at MinnesotaCare, says voting and union membership are rights she practices and values.

“I know that a lot of people have sacrificed for our rights,” she says. “I don’t know if people realize how much unions are needed. Things are changing. People have had so many good things happen, they don’t realize how bad things can get – in life and with our rights. We just take it for granted.”

Local 2181 member Bryon Miller shares Dixon’s belief in the importance of voting. The DHS machine inserter operator says he came out to vote Monday both because he feels it’s a duty, and because it’s a good contract.

“We’d get a good wage increase, and health care costs would stay the same,” he says. “It’s a good union.”

The proposed contract covers 15,504 AFSCME workers in Unit 2 (craft and maintenance), Unit 3 (service), Unit 4 (health care), Unit 6 (clerical) and Unit 7 (technical) of the executive branch. Units 8 (corrections) and 25 (radio communications), who negotiate separately, will vote later. Watch afscmemn.org for details.

Voting continues through Friday. Click here to find a convenient time and place to vote.