New initiative supports unemployed union members


The Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation is taking part in a new initiative to reach out to unemployed union members, help provide them with support, and engage them in advocacy efforts. MRLF’s partners in the initiative, “Minnesota Wants to Work,” include the Minnesota AFL-CIO, the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, and Working America.

“We’re seeing more and more unemployment and longer periods of unemployment for union members. People are out of work for one year, two years,” reported Doug Flateau, who directs Working Partnerships, the community services arm of the MRLF. “We only see a small fraction of unemployed union members in our office,” he added.

After time, he said, “they drift away from any connection with their union.”

“Minnesota Wants to Work” will provide the MRLF with additional staff to work with unemployed union members and help connect them with financial assistance and other supportive services.

“The project is a good opportunity to ask unemployed workers what they need directly,” Flateau said. The project also hopes to engage unemployed union members in advocacy efforts to seek government action to create jobs.

“There’s nothing more powerful than an unemployed worker who is able to speak to a jobs bill,” Flateau said.

The Minnesota effort is one of several pilot projects funded by the national AFL-CIO, which is funding similar work in four other cities: Albuquerque; Denver; Pittsburgh; and Portland, Oregon.

Flateau and Betsy Hunter, community services liaison for Working Partnerships, have begun visiting local unions and apprentice programs to get the word out about “Minnesota Wants to Work.”

“The project is about meeting unemployed workers where they’re at,” said David Wehde, regional director for Working America, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO. “If they need help, we can point them in the right direction… If they want to take action, they can join us and we can get them involved in holding politicians accountable to create good jobs for everyone.”

For more information, contact Doug Flateau at 612-379-8133.

Steve Share edits The Labor Review, the official publication of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation. Learn more at