President's Blog  


2016-18 Contract



Wisconsin income inequality near depression levels

MADISON, Wis. – Nearly $1 out of every $6 of income in Wisconsin wound up in the bank accounts of the top 1 percent of earners, according to the Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) and the Wisconsin Budget Project. 

report put out by the two groups says this means the income disparity between the haves and have nots rivals the separation at the time of the Great Depression. 

Laura Dresser, COWS’ associate director, says this poses a danger for a lot of Wisconsinites.

"Instead of having broadly shared prosperity, we have some who are gaining from the rewards of growth and many who are being left behind, and that makes making ends meet for those whose wages aren't going up much harder to do,” she states. “It stresses communities and the schools. It's hard for families."

The report says between 1979 and 2013, the average income of the top 1 percent in Wisconsin grew by almost 120 percent, while the average income of the remaining 99 percent grew by only 4 percent.

Dresser says the gap continues to grow, but it's not really a case of the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer.

"Well here what we find, I think, is that the poor are holding steady and the rich are getting a lot, a lot, a lot richer, and the closer you are to the very top of the income distribution the more that that's true," she states.

With the top 1 percent in Wisconsin having an average income of $888,000 a year, that translates to 19 times the average income of the remaining 99 percent.

According to Dresser, policy makers need to adopt a new way of thinking about things to improve the situation.

"Thinking about strong education systems, thinking about strong policies in support of people's access to good training and good jobs,” she stresses. “That takes some public infrastructure. It takes some willingness to raise the minimum wage. It takes some attention to the way people are paying taxes." ~ Public News Service


After successful petition drive, Minneapolis workers call for vote on $15 minimum wage

Activists will deliver a petition to City Hall tomorrow with signatures from about 20,000 registered voters who support amending the city’s charter to guarantee workers a $15 minimum wage.

The move, organizers with 15 Now Minnesota said, puts the amendment on track to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot. If approved, Minneapolis would join more than 30 cities nationwide with strong minimum-wage ordinances, including Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

“If they get it, why can’t we get it?” McDonald’s worker Steven Suffridge, a member of the low-wage worker center CTUL, said during a conference call with reporters yesterday. The outpouring of support for the petition drive, he added, shows “people are coming to the realization that yes, we are worth $15 an hour.”

Indeed, 15 Now volunteers collected nearly three times the number of signatures required to compel a vote. Several unions supported the petition drive, including the Communications Workers, the Machinists, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59, the Minnesota Nurses Association, the Letter Carriers and Teamsters Local 320.

15 Now supporters, led by fast-food workers who are organizing with CTUL, plan a rally tomorrow at the McDonald’s at 210 E. Lake St., before marching to City Hall to deliver the petitions.

Anticipating pushback from corporations and other special interests, 15 Now Minnesota released a legal memo yesterday detailing the legal basis for their ballot initiative.

Laura Huizar, an attorney with the National Employment Law Project who analyzed the legal landscape in Minneapolis, said a minimum-wage ordinance would fall under the city’s “broad powers to address the health, safety and well being of its citizens,” similar to ordinances regulating liquor sales or the number of hours workers can log at a job in one day.

Karen Marty, a former city attorney in Minneapolis, said the city is required to put a proposed charter amendment on the ballot as long as it meets the signature threshold and does not include language in conflict with state or local law.

“The charter doesn’t limit what citizens can offer as amendments,” Marty said. “Minneapolis can adopt a law or a charter provision on any topic that’s not prohibited, which would include a $15 minimum wage.”

When courts around the country have considered whether a city can enact a local minimum wage, the attorneys added, most have upheld those local laws – as long as they don’t conflict with state law. Minnesota law does not currently preclude a local minimum wage, although Republican lawmakers are plotting ways to roll back local control over employment standards.

“We determined that the city has the power to enact a local wage, and we also concluded that this can, in fact, be done by a charter amendment proposed by voters on the November ballot,” Huizar said.

For the city’s low-wage workers, who include a disproportionate number of women and people of color, the pay raise can’t come too soon. It’s estimated 38 percent of people who work in Minneapolis would see their wages increase with a $15 minimum wage, and supporters say it would mark a big step forward in efforts to address racial inequities in the Twin Cities that are among the worst in the U.S.

“Currently, more and more people have to work ridiculous hours at multiple jobs which in many cases leaves no guarantee they will even have enough to get by,” said Marcellina Reis, a restaurant server and member of the community group Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. “It also doesn’t allow them time to function like human beings. Having little to no time to build family, community and find happiness creates physical and mental health damage and brings our society down, not only affecting those struggling to live but everyone in Minneapolis.” ~Union Advocate



  AFSCME Local 34             Updated 6/28/2016




The White House has announced the designation of the Stonewall National Monument at the Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of the modern LGBT rights movement.

“I’m designating the Stonewall National Monument as the newest addition to America’s national parks system. Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights. I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country – the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us. That we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one. This new monument is a testament to the diversity, inclusiveness, and individual freedom that make America great.” ~ President Barack Obama

On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn, one of the most frequented LGBT bars in the city, was raided by the New York City Police Department to enforce a law that made it illegal to sell alcoholic drinks to “homosexuals.” Customers and their allies resisted the police by refusing to show identification or go into a bathroom so that a police officer could verify their sex, and a crowd gathered outside. As word spread, the gathering grew in size and a riot ultimately ensued. Within days, Stonewall seemed to galvanize LGBT communities across the country, with LGBT activists organizing demonstrations to show support for LGBT rights in several cities. These events, which are now often referred to as the Stonewall Uprising, are widely considered to be a watershed moment when the LGBT community across the nation demonstrated its power to join together and demand equality and respect.

Although the LGBT civil rights movement has made significant progress in the pursuit of equal rights and protections under the law, there is still more work to do. As seen two weeks ago in Orlando, FL, LGBT Americans continue to face acts of violence, discrimination, and hate. LGBT people of color are especially at risk. The Administration is committed to continuing the fight for dignity, acceptance and equal rights for all Americans — no matter who they are or who they love.

Dayton calls White Earth Nation's McKeig to state's high court

Anne McKeig becomes the first American Indian on the Minnesota Supreme Court, bringing a different background than other justices. “I grew up in rural Minnesota in challenging circumstances surrounded by poverty,” McKeig wrote to Gov. Mark Dayton before he interviewed her, and two others, for the job. “The lessons I learned as a young woman from Federal Dam, Minn., planted in me a strong desire to make a difference for my community. My passion for public service comes from ... seeing the enormous needs of my community." In a tear-filled speech after Dayton announced her appointment Tuesday, the 49-year-old justice-to-be said: "Today is a historic day, not only for myself and for my family, but for all native persons."

McKeig has been a Hennepin County district court judge as well as presiding family court judge. She will take a high court seat that opens on Aug. 31. She has dealt with many American Indian issues, particularly child welfare. A White Earth Nation descendant from northwestern Minnesota, McKeig was raised in Federal Dam, a small community southeast of Bemidji. She described her hometown of Federal Dam as "population 110, two bars, two stop signs, a lot of fishermen." McKeig said she hopes that people in "the Federal Dams" of Minnesota realize that with her appointment "in Minnesota the Supreme Court and all courts give access to everyone." Dayton admitted he had to look on a map to find Federal Dam.

McKeig said Robert Blaeser, now chief White Earth tribal judge, was her mentor.  Blaeser, a Concordia College, Moorhead, graduate was the first American Indian state district court judge in the Twin Cities when appointed in 1995. Seeing him reach the court inspired her, McKeig said, her eyes filled with tears. He was in the audience when Dayton announced her appointment and was one of many in the room she hugged. Her mother, who attended the announcement, was a Fulbright scholar raised in Bemidji and her father was "the blue collar, union man," McKeig said. He died of diabetes at age 61. Her new appointment means there will be four women and three men on the high court. ~ excerps from Inforum


United Labor Center, 

 312 Central Ave. SE

Third Friday of the month, 6:00 pm 

Room 356 or 467

Snacks, beer and soda will be available during the films. Donations appreciated!

Labor Movie Night Full Calendar



Child protection workers are ‘angels’

When you look at everything our child protection workers do in the course of a week, the math becomes a bit staggering. Theoretically, social workers in Hennepin County and across the state work 40 hours a week. But in reality, that number is often much higher.

An average week can include: 

  1. Performing a home visit for every family that’s part of a worker’s caseload, up to three times a month, lasting an hour each trip plus travel time.

  2. Attending anywhere from one to six court hearings a week, each requiring a few hours of waiting time and about four hours to complete a pre-hearing report.

  3. Driving children to supervised visits with their parents and monitoring them, roughly three hours per visit.

  4. Setting up doctor and dentist appointments, which can involve driving the children and waiting for them, too.

  5. Spending four hours a week referring families to services such as counseling or drug treatment.

  6. Spending 1-2 hours a week setting up chemical dependency assessments.

  7. Acting as the coordinator between agencies who helps children and families, including police, the courts and other social services.

Consider that workers in Hennepin County handle up to 18 cases each, and you have to multiply those numbers many times over. 

Even after working 60 hours, I wonder how I accomplished everything I did, but I still have a to-do list of 35 to 40 things,” says child protection social worker Sara Crotteau. “It’s like a constant cycle. You can’t be successful in this job if you can’t be OK with that. You’re never going to leave at the end of the day feeling like there’s nothing left to do.” 

Workers see kids and parents at their most vulnerable in the worst of circumstances. They see children who are left alone, who don’t have enough food, who have addicted parents, who are physically or sexually abused. 

Like many Minnesota counties, Hennepin is experiencing high turnover from rising numbers of abuse and neglect reports, overwhelmed workers and increased demand for more paperwork on top of it all.  

“We have workers who will never admit it, but they are online doing their documentation at 2 in the morning,” says AFSCME Local 34 president Jean Diederich. “We have workers who don’t have a life. They are losing their vacation time: They’re afraid if they take it, something will fall through the cracks. They’re so afraid of something bad happening to a kid on their watch. They live under that constant fear. 

“It takes such a special person,” Diederich says. “They’re all angels. They may not have wings we can see, but anyone who does this as a livelihood, they’re doing this to keep kids safe.”  Read more

Related Articles:

Rally to support child protection social workers

Spike in abuse reports overwhelms Hennepin County child protection system

Child protection staffing expands to 24/7 in Hennepin County





We advocate for excellence in public services, dignity in the workplace, and opportunity and prosperity for all workers.

Established in April 1950, AFSCME Local 34 represents over 2000 Social Service employees of Hennepin County. As a member, you become a supporter in our efforts to maintain and improve working conditions for everyone. AFSCME will keep fighting for an America that works for all people.  

AFSCME women make up close to 60% of the union’s membership.

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