The Potluck

Hennepin County reaches tentative agreement with social service and clerical workers

By: - January 27, 2022 8:18 pm

Hennepin County social services and clerical workers picket outside the South Service Center on Lake Street in Minneapolis on Jan. 19, 2022 after filing an intent to strike. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Hennepin County and union leaders representing some 3,500 social service and clerical workers announced on Thursday they reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract, averting a strike that would have affected health clinics, libraries, the medical examiner’s office, and other services.

The tentative agreement includes 2.5% annual raises plus the possibility of an additional 3% raise for workers with satisfactory performance reviews who have not reached the top of the pay scale.

Workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Locals 34 and 2822 had been pushing for higher annual raises along with temporary stipends for working through the pandemic.

Union leaders backed off those demands but touted another victory: Workers who took more paid time off than they accrued won’t have to pay back those hours.

Many workers ran out of paid time off during the pandemic due to furloughs, school closures and getting COVID, said Ali Fuhrman, president of AFSCME Local 2822 and a clerical worker in the downtown Minneapolis library.

The county allowed workers to borrow more paid time off with the requirement that workers pay it back over time. Social service and clerical workers with “negative leave balances” will see that debt eliminated should they accept the tentative agreement.

“We are really, really pleased with negative leave balances (being wiped out),” Fuhrman said. “Shutting down services to the community during the pandemic is a very serious thing, and this is a deal we do think our members will accept.”

Besides the negative leave balance provision, the tentative agreement matches the contract the county called its “Last Best and Final Offer,” which has already been ratified by workers in five other AFSCME bargaining units.

In a statement announcing the agreement, county spokeswoman Carolyn Marinan wrote “Hennepin County is thankful for the hard work and good faith demonstrated by employees on both sides of the bargaining table. We are hopeful that Local 34 and Local 2822 will ratify this recommended Mediated Settlement Proposal.”

Workers will vote on the proposal Feb. 2-9.

*This story has been updated with the correct dates that workers will be voting on the proposal.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.