I believe in the value of being a union member and being a part of AFSCME.  Union membership is about working together to improve conditions in the workplace, having a voice in the workplace, and building community in the workplace.  It is about talking to management about problems, coming up with solutions together, and encouraging management and employees to work together for the betterment of all in the workplace.

I hold an open house on the second Wednesday of each month at Kristin’s Riverwalk in Stevens Point from 5:15 to 6 pm.  You are welcome to come and talk to me about the union and about workplace issues.

It is through collective action that we protect the wages and benefits we have.  We can represent dues-paying members in matters of discipline, and we can promote worker-friendly policy development through collective actions and contact with policy-makers.

There are many benefits available to union members, including discounts for travel, cell phone and internet, legal help, and free college courses.

In Portage County, AFSCME was successful in obtaining a wage increase for highway workers and getting them included in the wage study.  AFSCME has successfully fought the privatization of the Portage County Health Care Center, and will continue to be involved in that issue.  AFSCME is involved with the issues at King’s Veterans Home to ensure that quality care for our veterans continues.

More than just having positive influence in the workplace, AFSCME membership is about the greater community.  AFSCME believes in working with community groups and faith communities to make positive changes in the community and to help others in the community.  It’s about helping people, whether that is putting together a team to rake leaves, shoveling snow for neighbors, working to overcome hunger issues within the community, or working to educate legislators on issues important to all working families.

I believe that true family values include providing jobs that pay a living wage, with benefits, that allow workers and families the opportunity to spend more time together and less time working multiple jobs to support themselves and/or their families.  AFSCME is committed to working to bring living wages and benefits to all workers.

I believe that the civil rights that have been fought for and won in the past decades are worth protecting.  I believe that it is only by working to protect the civil rights of even those with whom we disagree can we truly make America work and move forward.  AFSCME is committed to protecting and fighting for civil rights.

I believe that every person has a right to food, safe and affordable housing, affordable health care, and quality education.  I believe that these rights are best guaranteed and protected through laws and government action, non-profit organizations, and the faith community, and not by relying on for-profit institutions.  Education is critical in helping people to find sustainable work, and to protecting our future through the education of our children.  AFSCME is committed to these ideals and to working to promote these ideals.

It is through our voices and our actions that change is accomplished.  We are stronger together, and it has always been through collective action that changes are made.  As a union member, you have the ability to provide direction to your union, and to influence what changes we work toward in the workplace and the greater community.

As a union leader, it is my pledge to continue to work for the ideals expressed above and to listen to the members.  I invite you to join me as a member of AFSCME as we work together to accomplish these things.

Collene Ottum

President AFSCME Local 348

Executive Board Member, AFSCME Council 32




The strength of any group is not measured in laws granted by politicians.  The strength of any group is measured in the dedication and participation of it’s members.  For too long Organized Labor in the United States has relied upon privileges granted by politicians, instead of creating well trained selfless leaders who can organize and motivate their members.  Collective bargaining rights or not, Unionism is not defined by laws, it is defined by members willing to make sacrifices to improve their workplace and communities.  Sitting on our hands and hiding behind laws leads to apathy and self-centered members who ask, “what’s in it for me?”.  When the real question is; “how do we improve working conditions for everyone?”.

Standing-together is the most important theme of a remaining organized.  It is often preached, but seldom practiced, even by Labor leaders.  Standing-together means, as a group, we define what code of ethics we work to preserve in our workplace.  When we approach local politics, we do it as a whole, not by the opinions of just one or two members.  Standing together isn’t just something that’s said, it’s the fabric that binds us together, it’s the foundation from which we strengthen our Locals.  When we learn what it means to believe in our Local’s, we learn how to defend it from non-believers.

Right-to-Work-for-less is spreading like wildfire across the United States.  The first Locals to fall are always the ones with weak leadership.  The current generation of leaders and members do not fully understand what Standing-together means.  In Wisconsin when ACT 10 became law, many Local executive boards simply turned in their memberships and treasuries, never looking back.  They had no idea how an organization could be called a “union” without certain laws, these leaders did not have the basic understanding of “standing-together”.

So how do we save Organized Labor?  First and foremost, stop looking at collective bargaining as Unionism!  By definition a Union is the coming together of employees to improve their working environment.  Once you realize that collective bargaining doesn’t define your Union, you must create and maintain a code of ethics, that every member can agree to preserve in their workplace and communities.  Local members must agree to stand up for one another, defending each other in the face of poor management decisions can be more powerful than a well written grievance.  Members cannot be afraid to voice their opinions when action is needed, a single voice can be cast aside, but a well organized group is hard to ignore.

The lesson that was learned in 2011 throughout the United States is that any pubic employee Local who wishes to survive, needs to be involved with local politics.  Our founding members operated in a hostile environment, they changed laws by changing the minds and faces of those who governed at the local level.  Working conditions were not improved by simply bargaining a deal.  Today members in every walk of life need to go back to what was effective for our founding members.  Locals need to make contact with politicians, not just during bargaining or when there is trouble.  Make phone calls, plan meetings just to get to know your local politicians, get involved with their campaigns.

As members of a your Local understand what it truly means to be Union, they are less likely to step away.  Members are better prepared to defend themselves from non-members.  Employers develop a certain level of respect, even if they angrily deny it.

Unionism is not defined by politicians, it’s defined by individual human beings willing to stand shoulder to shoulder and defend what they believe is fair and right.

Dan Bemowski, President, Local 311

Portage County Highway Employees,

AFSCME Council 32




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