Building Our Union for the Future!

Over two days, more than 100 enthusiastic AFSCME Council 5 Presidents and local leaders gathered together for our highly anticipated AFSCME Council 5 AFSCME Strong Leadership Conference. Our goal is simple: Develop robust and transformative plans to educate, organize, and mobilize our members!

This dynamic conference, held at the Doubletree Downtown in St. Paul, brought together members from various sectors, including state and local government, education, transportation, human services, and healthcare, and all workplaces with a public service focus, to learn, share, and strategize for the future. Members from every corner of our state!

The conference kicked off with an opening speech by AFSCME Council 5 Executive Director Julie Bleyhl, who emphasized the importance of standing together as a union and the incredible impact that collective bargaining and organizing have on the lives of working people. Bleyhl said, "Our AFSCME Strong conference is about coming together, sharing experiences, and building solidarity among our members. It's about empowering our union leaders with the tools they need to continue fighting for the rights and dignity of all workers. And it's about growing and building our union for the future!"

AFSCME Council 5 President Eric Hesse started off our conference with a rallying chant and messages of hope and action that is at the center of our AFSCME Strong culture within our union family. Hesse said, "Today, we face challenges that require us to be even more united, even more organized, and even more committed to our cause. We are living in a time when the rights of workers are under attack when our wages are stagnant, and when our working conditions are deteriorating. But we are not going to sit back and let this happen. We are going to rise up, and we are going to fight back. And to do that, we need to be stronger than ever before."

One of the highlights of the conference was the inspiring stories shared by more than a dozen union members who have successfully advocated for legislative victories and organized successful campaigns to sign up non-members to join our union, telling stories of massive member-led informational pickets to call attention to contract campaigns and hold employers accountable. Attendees heard firsthand accounts of how these victories were achieved through strategic organizing, growing union membership, utilizing effective New Member Orientation techniques, and tapping into the abundant resources provided by AFSCME Council 5, including trainings, tools to best communicate with our members directly, and more. 

One union member, Rochelle, who works in the St. Paul Public Schools, shared her experience of helping to lead our fight to expand unemployment insurance to hourly K-12 and higher education workers. She highlighted how she and her fellow union members utilized grassroots organizing, engaged in strategic mobilization efforts at the Capitol, and leveraged the support of the broader community to achieve their goals through effective storytelling. "It was empowering to see the collective power of our union in action," Rochelle said. "Through solidarity and determination, we are confident we will get this legislation across the finish line and support all hourly K-12 and higher education workers who get laid off every summer."

Another member, Kenneth Garnier of Local 34, who works as a Social Worker in Hennepon County, shared his success story of signing up non-members to join our union through established New Member Orientation processes. He emphasized the importance of building relationships, engaging in meaningful conversations, and utilizing the resources and training provided within our union family to effectively communicate the benefits of union membership. "It's not just about signing up members, but also about building a strong and inclusive union that represents the diverse needs and interests of all workers," Kenneth stated.

The conference also featured a series of workshops, member panel discussions, and presentations on various topics, including organizing strategies, leadership development, Member Action Team training, legislative advocacy tips and best practices, and communications tools at members' disposal to best aid in AFSCME Strong organizing. Members had ample opportunity to engage in interactive discussions, share best practices, and learn from others who have successfully navigated challenges and achieved victories in their respective local unions and workplaces.

As the conference came to a close, AFSCME Council 5 President Eric Hesse expressed his gratitude and pride in the accomplishments of the attendees. He stated, "Our AFSCME Strong Leadership Conference was a resounding success, and it's a testament to the dedication, resilience, and solidarity of our union members. Moving forward, we will continue to stand strong together, fight for our rights, and make positive changes in our workplaces and communities."

The AFSCME Council 5 AFSCME Strong Leadership Conference was a powerful and motivating event that showcased the collective power of union members and the incredible impact that organized labor can have on improving the lives of workers. This conference was developed to broaden the list of leaders within our local unions and ensure we all are on the same page that the need to grow union membership is key to stronger and fairer contracts, greater advocacy in the halls of power for working people, and improve our workplaces. 

Through engaging stories, informative workshops, compelling storytelling, and abundant resources, attendees left the conference inspired and equipped with the tools to continue advocating for their rights and building a strong and inclusive union that represents the interests of working people. 

AFSCME Strong and growing union membership isn't a program, it's our way of life. Keep up the good fight!