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Union difference: Raises, bonuses for 2,300 workers in Ramsey County, Minnesota

Photo credit: St. Paul Regional Labor Federation.
By Ezra Kane-Salafia ·

Public service workers in Ramsey County, Minnesota, are celebrating a strong new contract they fought hard to secure.  

In January, after weeks of escalating actions and intense bargaining sessions, nine AFSCME locals representing more than 2,300 workers in Ramsey County voted to accept a proposed three-year contract that delivered raises of 1.5%, 2.25% and 2.25%, $500-$1,000 bonuses for workers, expanded paid leave program eligibility, expanded bereavement leave, and more.

The wins didn’t come easily, though. Ramsey County was initially considering a full wage freeze, despite inflation, American Rescue Plan funding, and the heroic work AFSCME members have done on the front lines of the pandemic for two years.

Members staged informational pickets, even rallying with over 200 members and allies in the bitter cold of a Minnesota snowstorm outside the Ramsey County Courthouse.

AFSCME Council 5 Executive Director Julie Bleyhl attributed the gains to the solidarity and action taken by the members.

“The historic level of activism they showed in the form of calling and emailing county commissioners, signing petitions, attending an informational picket during a snowstorm, talking to co-workers and voting on their next contract were critical to this victory,” Blehyl said.

They may be celebrating their hard-won gains, but it doesn’t mean the locals are letting their guard down or ending their solidarity.

As public health nurse and bargaining team member Douangta Vang-Sitcler told Workday Minnesota: “We represent workers from multiple job classes and salary ranges across the county, and we recognize that today’s inflationary market may impact each family’s economics and budgets differently. Ultimately, our (tentative agreement) was recommended … with the realization we will continue our collective efforts to push back on any future harmful proposals.”

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