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AFSCME members help deliver major wins for working Minnesotans

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AFSCME members help deliver major wins for working Minnesotans
By AFSCME Staff ·

In 2022, AFSCME members in Minnesota worked hard to elect politicians who respect public service workers.

That hard work paid off, as AFSCME members were able to secure major victories for Minnesotans this year — banning private prisons, securing unemployment benefits for school workers, getting paid leave for working Minnesotans, obtaining robust state funding for public services, and so much more.

Members of AFSCME Council 5 and Council 65 from every corner of the state got involved in this year’s legislative session. They lobbied, testified, rallied, called, wrote letters, met with legislators and talked to the governor to get pro-worker legislation across the finish line.

“The Minnesota Legislature just passed a long list of once-in-a-generation improvements for working families across our state,” said Shannon Douvier, executive director of Council 65 and an AFSCME vice president.

“Every AFSCME member, Minnesotan, and their families will benefit from things like Paid Family and Medical Leave. Our school workers will finally be eligible for unemployment insurance like every other worker. All of this is a direct result of the thousands of doors knocked and calls made by AFSCME members to elect a pro-worker trifecta in Minnesota,” she added.

Council 5 Executive Director Julie Bleyhl echoed those sentiments.

“The 2023 legislative session in Minnesota was historic for working people and retirees to live more dignified lives in economic and retirement security. These victories were only possible due to the enormous work of AFSCME members,” Bleyhl said.

“During the 2022 election, AFSCME members knocked on doors, made phone calls, and talked to their co-workers, loved ones and neighbors to elect pro-worker, pro-AFSCME candidates up and down the ballot. Then members held them accountable every step of the way with legislative testimony, a huge lobby day, weekly visits to the Capitol, and thousands of letters, phone calls and conversation. This historic session belongs to AFSCME members,” Bleyhl added.

Private prisons banned

Council 5 corrections officers testified in favor of a bill banning private prisons and helped make it state law. The state Department of Corrections and local sheriffs cannot allow inmates to be housed in facilities that are not owned and operated by state or local governments.

Council 5 Corrections Officer Jeff Vars said, “As public service workers, we put public safety above all else, while private prison corporations put public safety last, and profit first.”

For more information on why private prisons are bad for communities, go here.

Unemployment benefits for school workers

Powerful testimony from AFSCME members drove legislation granting thousands of school workers access to unemployment insurance for the first time.

Council 65 member Christine Elliot, a paraprofessional, told a Senate committee on Feb. 16 she loves helping students with disabilities but find it hard to continue her important career.

“I want my students to know someone in their lives cares about them,” Elliot said, “but working in education has come at a steep price for me.”

She testified that she works three jobs during the school year and more than 70 hours a week to make ends meet during the long summer months. Elliot’s story, along with dozens of others from AFSCME members, propelled the landmark bill, which will transform the lives of school workers across the state.

Paid family medical leave for working Minnesotans

AFSCME members, alongside a diverse coalition of partners and thousands of working Minnesotans, helped pass a groundbreaking family medical leave bill. Beginning in 2026, Minnesota workers will receive two-thirds of their regular wages for 12 weeks to care for themselves or loved ones in times of medical need.

Council 5 member Anne Thayer, a worker at the Minnesota Historical Society, told lawmakers, “Nobody should have to choose between their health or that of their loved ones and a paycheck.”

Thayer said she had been putting off knee surgery, adding, “I have been worried that if I use my accruals and (the federal Family Medical Leave Act) to care for myself, I might not have anything to use so I can care for my mother.”

Full funding for public services. 

The passage of the Gov. Tim Walz’s “One Minnesota” budget is a massive win for working people. The budget pours money into public services and public works, including $312 million for environmental stewardship, $250 million to fight homelessness and for housing projects, $222 million for water system investments, $252 million for roads and bridge maintenance, and more.

Minnesotans win

Other wins for Minnesotans AFSCME members helped secure include passing expanded child tax credits; creating a new nursing home workforce standards board; enacting new worker safety protections; providing free breakfast and lunch for all K-12 students; expanding voting rights; giving paid sick days to virtually all Minnesotans; and closing tax loopholes for corporations.

Click here for more information.

Public service workers win, too

Public service workers also won key victories for themselves during the legislative session, which ended on May 22, according to Council 5 and Council 65. These include:

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