Willie Snyder: Compassionate Public Service

AFSCME Council 5 proudly represents over 43,000 workers, many of whom are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. They work in group homes, long term care facilities, prisons and secure facilities, K-12 public schools and higher education institutions and hospitals. Many of our members plow our roads to keep us all safe, protect vulnerable children, adults, and the elderly from abuse and neglect and process crucial paperwork to keep our state functioning. Minnesotans need the services AFSCME members provide now more than ever before. "We Make Minnesota Happen" isn't just the slogan of AFSCME Council 5, it is our members' way of life -their very mission is to put others above self, they care for and protect our most vulnerable, and make our communities stronger and safer.

Willie Snyder of AFSCME Local 707 has worked at Ramsey County's Lake Owasso Residence (LOR) for nearly 42 years and perfectly embodies the heart and soul public service workers put into the work they do every single day. Willie seeks to improve the lives of some of our state's most vulnerable population -those with developmental disabilities. Willie said, "Working here for almost 42 years gives me a unique perspective on the cycle of life and the need for stable, consistent housing and programming so our clients can live a dignified life."

Snyder mentioned that it's his clients that keep him going strong, loving his work, and wants his clients to have the very best services available to improve their lives. One client who has lived at Lake Owasso Residence for many years often says "thank you" while Willie tucks him into bed, dispenses his pills, cuts up his hot dogs, or takes the bone out of his pork chop. Willie said, "It's those moments that make it crystal clear to me that I am doing the work I was meant to do, even when some days are very stressful."

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the workplaces of all AFSCME members and Lake Owasso Residence was no exception. For three and a half hours each shift while dawning his mask, gloves and face shield, Willie diligently sanitizes and cleans the group home of the 8 clients he cares for to protect them from the COVID-19 virus. Willie and his co-workers ensure the home is healthy and safe, and provides an environment that fosters their clients' growth, independence, and care.

Despite the incredible dedication and decades of compassionate care for the clients at Lake Owasso Residence, every few years there is a renewed push to close these group homes and turn it over to the private, for-profit industry. Willie has been on the front lines to save Lake Owasso Residence for decades and concluded, "Privatized group homes often have lower standards simply because they have a profit motive. The clients lives are better here under our care model because the staff at LOR appreciate and adore them and provide the best care possible. It is at times a difficult job without many thanks by the clients due to their emotional state of being, but we know they love us. They show us. I will always fight to make sure Lake Owasso Residence provides the best care and nurturing environment for those we serve every day."

Front line workers and high-risk Minnesotans are currently first in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine; however, still too many worker have concerns with the vaccine. They ask: Will I get hurt? Will it be effective? These questions are important and are answered by current medical research that shows you are very unlikely to experience negative health consequences after receiving the vaccine and the vaccine is over 95%+ effective. Medical professionals and scientists continue to monitor the current vaccine's efficacy on various new strains that have appeared. So far, research shows the vaccine does work against these additional strains.

"It is upon all of us who have received a vaccine to tell our story and share why it matters that we receive the vaccine," Willie said. "It is up to all of us to not only take the vaccine to protect ourselves, but to protect our clients, family, and friends. That is why I showed up to receive my second vaccine dose with my sleeve gladly rolled up."