WHY WOULD BEING A UNION MEMBER MATTER AT MNDOT DISTRICT ONE?

All employees deserve fair pay, dignity, respect in their job and most share common interests in job security, pay progression and in maintaining stable means for employees and their dependents to reach worthwhile goals in life. These things can come easier, or quicker, when many workers form a consensus that at times they should participate together, rather than separately, to amplify their concerns with extra synergy that comes from cooperative and unified solidarity.

HOW DOES A MNDOT WORKER BECOME A UNION MEMBER?

Membership is official once recognized by AFSCME International in Washington, D.C. Sign-up cards are available from Council 5 field reps and Local officers and at new employee orientations. On-line sign-up is possible anytime once credentialled for Council 5’s MemberLink web page. In some Teamster union locals, membership is only granted after a very clear understanding all members are expected to participate in protecting union interests when necessary, but AFSCME has no such prerequisite. Membership is a voluntary, personal choice. Each member decides if or when they will become a full member, but waiting to sign a card sends the message that better wages, benefits, and working conditions that would affect all coworkers are of low priority to that individual.

DOES BEING “PRO-UNION” MEAN THAT YOU ARE ANTI-EMPLOYER? 

It is not ungrateful or disloyal to want a voice in the workplace. When there isn’t a union, and even if there is one, of course any appointing authority (management) is going to insist on gatekeeping what workplace matters get discussed. What employer wouldn't claim that right?  Any matters deserving time and attention are already being addressed confidentially in grievances or arbitrations, which can only occur in private consultation behind closed doors. The Statewide AFSCME contract only mentions Labor and Management can meet, at least within a minimal schedule, but that implies agreement on what matters deserve meeting about.  Minutes of open forum meetings do reflect how seldom the union succeeds in proposing agenda items. If circumstances require changes in pay, pensions, health care, severance, vacations, and holidays, union consent and participation of proposed changes is what accomplishes this legitmately within Minnesota's public sector collective bargaining framework, where duly informed members decide for or against proposed changes.

DOES UNION MEMBERSHIP MEAN BOSSES ARE THE ENEMY?

Having a union ensures that rules are followed and that rules are developed in negotiations or in consultation with the staff they affect. Unfortunately, some of us do not have skilled supervisors, and instead are treated disrespectfully, are discriminated against, or are bullied. Being a part of a union gives us protection from arbitrary supervisory actions relating to unfair performance evaluations, discipline and dismissals. In addition, our contract includes a problem-solving mechanism that addresses workplace issues before they become bigger problems. This allows us to highlight best practices of good supervisors and ensure that we all have a respectful workplace. 

WHAT HAS “THE UNION” DONE FOR ME?

Perhaps the all time most frequently asked union question that implies unions do not arise natively in workplaces but only exist as "spurious, hired outside third parties" paid to do a very limited business serving as troubleshooter valets carrying water for members handled exclusively at the level of separate individuals, often to police perceived wrongs inflicted by other members.  In most workplaces, productive business results are closely tied to effectively functioning work groups or teams cooperating together.  This question carries the sentiment unions as "outsider others" are not "us" and are unnecessary in well-run outfits with human resources staff to resolve or remedy issues. If you are a member who belongs to a union, you actually are “the union” personified and incarnate.  Internally active collective bargaining power and momentum, not personnel professionalism or canny outside operators hired for the job, is what delivers the influence to win affordable health care, wage increases, job security, sick and vacation days, representation in investigatory and disciplinary meetings, and seniority.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MEMBER AND A NON-MEMBER?

By becoming a member, you’re saying that your wages, benefits and working conditions are important. Signing a membership card signals that you care about your job and contract shows your co-workers that you stand together with them. ONLY MEMBERS CAN: Attend union meetings, vote on the contract, have a say in the priorities of the union, hold office or elect leadership, etc. Only AFSCME members can vote in union elections. These include determining leadership – Officers, Executive Board members and Negotiating Committee members – and determining whether to ratify contracts or strike.
Scholarships, Discounts and Other Services: AFSCME members and their families have exclusive access to scholarships; insurance, credit counseling and legal services; and discounts on wireless phone services, health clubs, car rentals, restaurants, and many other products. 

WHERE THE HECK DO DUES GO?

Dues collected from 695 members divide among three bodies:
• 30% to AFSCME International
• 60% to MN Council 5
• Only 10% goes to Local

Nearly everything goes to “servicing the contract” – negotiations, contract enforcement with grievances and educating membership about their rights and responsibilities for following contractual terms conditions at work. As a subordinate body, AFSCME 695 democratically determines, through discussions in executive board and voted motions at membership meetings, what is best to do with 695's10% by way of spending motions. The Local constitution does specify dues, but constitutional changes members approve always fall subject to approval from superior bodies receiving most of the dues collected. These bodies understandably will not be in any hurry to kill gooses which lay their golden eggs. Post-COVID, approvals of dues-affecting changes in a Local constitution have been taking an extra-long time. Constitutional dues clause changing can hang if some other, non-dues clause is not approved.

WHO RUNS THE UNION?

AFSCME 695 is a member-run, member-powered Local built on having a voice both on the job at MnDOT, as well as within AFSCME. Even without a President, the Local constitution gives the E-board full authority to run things. Ultimately, Members, not some mythic, all-powerful "union boss" autocrat, are the topmost level to make decisions and member participation is the key to success. Members decide collectively what our focus should be in contract negotiations, what we spend our dues money on, what position our union is going to take on the important issues of the day, and what organizations in our communities we are going to work with and support. Commitment to democratic and transparent decision making is what sets AFSCME apart from many other unions. Only members can vote on accepting or rejecting contracts, on electing union leadership – like President, Executive Board and Negotiating Committee Representatives, or whether to accept or reject a proposed contract. To have a voice and be part of the decision-making process simply be a member of AFSCME Local 695. Each of the officers and executive board members of our local work at MnDOT and are elected by the membership. Any member who has been in good standing for one year or more may run and hold an elected position in our union. Our active members direct the activities of our union through their involvement at membership, area meetings and committee work. This is one of the most critical parts of being a union member. 

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