Sam Gutierrez, Co-Chief Steward, HSPHD
In May 2017, Hennepin County Administrator David Hough presented the 2016 Workforce Data at his Countywide Manager and Supervisor Meeting. The data contained statistics broken down by generation, retirement eligibility, race, leaders, and Union membership. What was missing from this presentation were the termination data. Based upon our grievance hearings, we have experienced disciplines which fit into the following categories: Workers of Color, Women Workers, and Long-Term Workers. Often, we see these demographics compound. For example, in our grievance hearings we experience that long-term women workers, long-term women workers of color, and workers of color reach out to our Union for assistance in discipline and termination grievance hearings at extremely high rates.
This evidence is anecdotal and the employer will be quick to point this out. But it is important to remember that your Union AFSCME 2822 has collectively brought this forward to Human Resources, Labor Relations, the Non-Discrimination Respectful Workplace Complaint Committee, and David Hough. Also, this does not include individual actions that our Union members have taken to try and resolve similar concerns. However, we as workers and Union members haven’t been taken seriously. We know that our experience doesn’t represent all of the Hennepin County workforce and that not every worker who is disciplined, retaliated against, forced or coerced to resign, or terminated contacts the Union. This experience is not unique but part of a larger problem at Hennepin County.
We want the numbers. Why, when other workforce data was shared at the Supervisor/Manager meeting, weren't the termination statistics? What does the County have to hide? Based on our experience, we want to know if workers from certain groups are being targeted for discipline and termination. Where then does that leave our Union? What can we do?
We as AFSCME 2822 Union Members will find these answers. Our Union Defense Committee has been meeting for the past few months to devise a strategy to fight against discrimination and the targeting of our workers. In August, we began distributing posters and flyers asking folks to tell us about their experiences in the workplace. Our Defense Committee is continuing to organize and strategize to win our demands for all workers.
We are demanding the data of involuntary terminations. We are demanding a review of the terminations of workers of color, older workers, and female workers for the past year and previous years. And we are demanding an end to the attacks on workers. We must persist until we all receive the respect we are owed.
This is a fight that will take all of us. This is a fight that will take courage: courage from those who are targeted, courage from those who see injustice, to step forward and speak out! WE ARE MANY AND WE ARE READY! JOIN US! Fill out our survey, have your coworkers fill it out, and come organize with us! Email firstname.lastname@example.org