AFSCME members defend public service during Council 5’s Day on Hill rally

David Ruth, a mental health worker in Cambridge, calls for safe staffing levels at the state's hospitals and group homes during AFSCME Council 5's Day on the Hill rally.

David Ruth, a mental health worker in Cambridge, calls for safe staffing levels at the state’s hospitals and group homes during AFSCME Council 5’s Day on the Hill rally.

 

“Everyone in this room is an expert in public service,” AFSCME Council 5 Executive Director Eliot Seide told nearly 1,000 members of the union during its Day on the Hill rally yesterday. “You’ve forgotten more than (politicians) will ever know.”

After the rally, held at a downtown St. Paul hotel, union members bused to the Capitol, where they met with their legislators to pitch the union’s priorities this session, including:

New revenue for a long-term, comprehensive investment in the state’s roads, bridges and transit options.

AFSCME members, MnDOT worker John Gaither said, see the disrepair of the state’s infrastructure every day. “We’re here to tell you the need is urgent,” Gaither said.

Staffing up for safety at state-run prisons and mental health facilities.

David Ruth, who works at a state facility in Cambridge, listed the injuries AFSCME members have suffered on the job, from sexual assault to being stabbed in the eye with a pen. “We as staff expect some level of danger at our jobs, but we are not willing to risk our lives,” Gaither said.

AFSCME members get fired up during Council 5's Day on the Hill rally.

AFSCME members get fired up during Council 5’s Day on the Hill rally.

Other priorities include reinvesting in public services to support Minnesota’s quality of life, protecting retirement security and defined-benefit pensions and passing the Working Parents Act.

The rally’s theme – “Minnesota Rising!” – played to the difference between Minnesota, where Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL legislators have expanded collective bargaining rights and raised taxes on the wealthiest to protect public services, and other Midwestern states. Any mention of Wisconsin, where Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker recently signed Right to Work into law, drew jeers from the crowd.

AFSCME Local 8 President Angela Marlow, a child support agent, told members she used to work in Wisconsin; now she works for Ramsey County.

“Remember that bumper sticker that read ‘Escape to Wisconsin?'” Marlow asked. “Well I escaped from Wisconsin to work in Minnesota.”

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