With support from more unions, St. Paul labor federation gains strength

Working people gain a stronger, more powerful voice when they join together in unions. That’s the basis of collective bargaining and a core principle of the labor movement.

But solidarity works for unions, too. By joining together in coalitions and federations, unions build important bonds that amplify the voice of all working people and advocate for our common interests.

Faced with a relentless wave of corporate attacks on unions and collective bargaining, unions won’t survive unless they stick together.

Three local unions – Bakery Workers Local 22, Teamsters Local 320, and Office and Professional Employees Local 12 – pledged to do just that last month, affiliating with the east metro’s largest labor organization, the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

“We’re excited and honored to welcome these three local unions into our labor family,” St. Paul Regional Labor Federation President Bobby Kasper said. “There is strength in numbers, and we need to be as strong as possible heading into election season.”

The St. Paul RLF works year round to support its affiliates’ contract, organizing and issue-based campaigns. The federation also recruits, trains and deploys volunteers for Labor 2018, the campaign to elect union-endorsed candidates, in four east-metro counties: Ramsey, Dakota, Washington and Chisago.

OPEIU Local 12

Local 12 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union represents more than 2,500 people working in health care operations, credit unions, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, local union offices and other workplaces in Minnesota.

The local’s largest bargaining unit is at HealthPartners, and women make up roughly 80 percent of the union’s total membership.

Ryan Mortensen, Local 12’s business manager, said the political atmosphere for organized labor drove his union’s decision to affiliate with the RLF.

“We alone cannot take this on,” he said. “By affiliating with the St. Paul labor federation, we gain more voice, more power to get our message out across the state and, hopefully, the nation.”

BCTGM Local 22

Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 22’s history in St. Paul dates back to 1886, when it was just the Bakers and Confectioners Union. The founding charter still hangs in Local 22’s offices in Minneapolis.

Today, Local 22 represents about 1,800 workers in Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, including people working at Pearson’s Candy and Baldinger Bakery in St. Paul.

Union President Bruce Peglow noted the St. Paul RLF provided assistance to Local 22 even before the union affiliated. The RLF stepped up in support of workers at Franklin Street Bakery, whose attempt to form a union has been met with harsh – and sometimes illegal – pushback from management.

“We appreciated that help, and we wanted to help out others in the labor movement as we are able to,” Peglow said. “We’re all stronger when we’re all together. None of us can afford to be an island unto ourselves.”

Teamsters Local 320

Teamsters Local 320 represents 11,500 public employees in all 87 Minnesota counties. They serve cities, townships, counties, school boards and other municipalities in a wide variety of jobs: maintenance workers, lawyers, food service aides, doctors, police and corrections officers, airport workers and more.

Brian Aldes, secretary-treasurer and principal officer, considers Local 320’s diversity to be among its greatest strengths.

“No matter what the member’s craft is, we all have something in common, and that’s being public employees who serve the taxpayers,” Aldes said. “We all understand how important what all of us do is for the public and for our communities.”

Local 320 members also know the importance of electing people to local, state and national office who value the work public employees do. That was among the reasons, Aldes said, the union’s political board voted to affiliate with the RLF.

“We live and die by who we elect to serve in public office,” Aldes said. “We saw what can happen when we don’t have a positive outcome in our presidential elections when the most recent Supreme Court nominee tipped the scales in the Janus case. Now we have nationwide right to work in the public sector.”

Closer to home, Local 320 saw the power of building relationships with elected officials during a difficult round of negotiations with the St. Paul Public Schools over cafeteria workers’ contract.

“We reached out to the St. Paul labor federation and Bobby Kasper, and I’ll tell you, it was an incredible resource to have,” Aldes said. “Whether it’s connections in community-based organizations, school boards, city councils or county boards, the work the labor federation does – and its ability to reach so many households with our message – we just knew we had to be a part of this.

“We’re stronger together.”

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