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They Showed the Green – AFSCME Green

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By Clyde Weiss Good and Welfare Labor Movement Public Service
St. Patrick's Day parade
St. Patrick's Day paradegoers
Members of AFSCME Council 59 in Sioux Falls, S.D., show the AFSCME Green – and their pride – in this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. (Photos courtesy Council 59)

AFSCME is known as the Green Machine, but as St. Patrick’s Day approached, enthusiastic members of AFSCME Council 59 in South Dakota decided to celebrate in an entirely different way: They built and entered a float in their city’s annual parade. 

“We were trying to increase our visibility,” said Janelle Songstad, vice president of Sioux Falls Municipal Employees Association Local 519, representing the city’s municipal employees. “A lot of people probably don’t know that we exist.”

Songstad, who works as a parking patrol officer, said that members of Local 519 joined with members of Sioux Falls School Employees Local 1025 (also Council 59) to develop an idea for a float. They wanted to show their pride – and their AFSCME Green – after months of hard work helping to defeat anti-collective bargaining legislation.

They ordered supplies, including paper and letters to spell out AFSCME, and got together one night shortly before the parade to build their float on a car trailer about 18 feet long. Its decorations illustrated various jobs the public service workers do, such as plowing snow and caring for the city’s baseball field. Some posters read, “AFSCME – We Make America Happen.”

On parade day, the float rolled down the street accompanied by more than 60 AFSCME members and their families, including children who carried signs stating, “My dad drives a snow plow.” Applause greeted a young boy carrying a sign reading, “My grandpa makes the parks awesome.”

People took note. “One guy started clapping and said, ‘Good job, guys,’” recalled Songstad.