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County Manager Column from Aug. 31, 2021
Celebrating Labor Day at a unique time for honoring our workers
Even as we’re looking ahead to the celebration of Labor Day next Monday (Sept. 6), we recognize it will be a second year of uncertainty as we mark this national holiday. In Ramsey County and around Minnesota, families and friends will spend time together, attend the State Fair or participate in other traditions – but these again look different as we continue adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For several months, it appeared as if our employees who have been working off-site would be coming back to their workspaces next week. As you know, we’re now looking at a phased plan with Nov. 1 as the earliest date these employees could be returning. I was especially looking forward to a planned in-person all-employee recognition event scheduled around Labor Day to honor all your efforts over the past year-and-a-half, but we’ve chosen to push that back to next spring as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread. Stay tuned though – we will be rolling out other recognition efforts in the weeks ahead.
For many of our employees – such as many of those in the Sheriff’s Office or Emergency Call Center – next Monday will look like a regular workday serving our communities. I’d like to give a special shout out to all our employees who have adapted to changes that COVID-19 has imposed on us as they’ve continued to serve in our workspaces and communities. Wherever and however you spend Labor Day, it's an opportunity to reflect on its meaning and appreciate that – especially during challenging times like this pandemic – today’s work environments and employee protections were shaped by the workers who came before us.
For more than 120 years, throughout the United States we’ve celebrated the achievements of our workers in all industries, fields and trades on the first Monday in September. The origins of Labor Day date back to street parades and festivals organized by labor unions in New York City in the 1880s. The U.S. Department of Labor provides historical resources on its website.
Union representation is a major component of our workforce here at Ramsey County. Approximately eight in 10 of our employees are represented by a labor union. In total we have six unions with a total of 23 bargaining units representing employees in Ramsey County, with the remainder of our employees (approximately 20% not represented by a labor union.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) represents the largest share – more than 2,300 – at Ramsey County. AFSCME’s bargaining units represent many types of professions including attorneys, nurses and nursing assistants, employment guidance counselors, residential counselors, parks and arena staff, clerical, technical, professional, maintenance and many other staff working in every county department.
Law Enforcement Labor Services represents approximately 150 employees who are Deputy Sheriff-Sergeants and Commanders in the Sheriff’s Office as well as dispatchers/telecommunicators and shift supervisors from the Emergency Communications Center.
The newly-formed Ramsey County Deputies' Federation represents approximately 165 Deputy Sheriffs who work in the Sheriff’s Office.
Local 49 and Local 70 of the International Union of Operating Engineers represent about 60 employees in Public Works and at the Care Center, including maintenance and mechanical staff and boiler operators. In addition, nearly 20 engineering technicians are represented by the Technical Employees Association.
Counties are unique due to the diversity of industries clustered within one organization and there is a job for virtually every skill and type of individual within Ramsey County. Moreover, the makeup of our workforce (PDF) highlights the racial, gender and ethnic diversity of our employees within the various disciplines, trades and professions represented in Ramsey County. As the most diverse governmental organization in Minnesota serving the state’s most diverse county, we demonstrate every day that there is an important role for all of us to play in shaping the collective future of our community.
Labor Day provides us with an opportunity to step back, recognize and celebrate all of our hard-working employees – whether on the front lines or providing support – and the value we all provide our residents, businesses, visitors and each other through our work together. This is especially true as we continue to work together to endure, adjust and overcome this once-in-a-century challenge.
Thank you all for your commitment to this community and this organization. We are stronger because of you and the thousands of others standing beside you that together make this a county of excellence. I hope that you’re able to enjoy this upcoming holiday made possible thanks to the efforts of generations of workers committed to making all of our lives better.