AFSCME Council 65 - 2023 Member Awards

Every years we recognize some of the amazing efforts by local members building their union. Without thes leaders our union would not be as strong and effective as we are today. These members have lead by example talking to coworkers, fighting for what's right, and committing to strength through solidarity.

To nominate an AFSCME 65 member for an award, follow this link or complete the form at the bottom of this page.

Lifetime Achievement Awards:

Laurie Anderson, Local 1353 - Polk County

Laurie Anderson worked 45 years for Polk County and has been Chapter President of Local 1353 for more than 30 of those years. Laurie is a dedicated and positive advocate for our members, always fulfilling her role with kindness and grace. She stayed informed on the most recent changes and updates to labor issues. She attended many AFSCME 65 Conventions, AFSCME International Conventions and Lobby Days to advocate for our members and all workers.

One of Laurie’s many amazing attributes is her ability to listen and truly hear both sides of any issue. Her down-to-earth and commonsense style leadership guided us through many changes, grievances and educated us on our rights as union members. Laurie also recognizes the importance of training sessions and the need for others to become knowledgeable in union related matters. She encourages others to attend these sessions as she knows  just how important it is to invest in our local’s members. 

Joel Plienis Award, Treasurer of the Year:

Todd Larson, Local 559 - City of Willmar

Todd Larson is an exceptional union member and supporter. He is the Treasurer for
Local 559 and has consistently done a great job in that position. He attends every
meeting, stays involved with negotiations and issues that affect union members,
keeps his coworkers and Local 559 colleagues updated and involved in union matters,
and stands up for all workers' rights.

Todd's commitment to AFSCME doesn't end there. Todd has long served on the AFSCME Council 65 Executive Board where he advocates for the interestes of all members in our Council.  Whenever his union needs something, he is ready and willing to step up. 

Taylor/Morsching Award, Outstanding Union Member of the Year:

Debra Hanson-Sudbeck, Local 2922 - City of Mitchell, SD

Deb is starting her 46th year as a public servant in Mitchell (and is rumored to be the longest serving public employee in the state of South Dakota). She has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to advancing the rights and interests of workers in her local, despite living in a state with few protections for workers. As Vice President of Local 2922 she navigated a tense wage negotiations with an unpopular wage study. She has stood up to management in difficult moments, while being honest, transparent, and communicative with her members throughout the process.

Moreover, her commitment to fostering unity and empowerment within her local is evident to anyone attending the local meetings; Deb genuinely cares about her fellow union members and engages with them on every issue they bring to her. Deb's big heart and willingness to help others makes her a fierce advocate in her local; she works hard to find ways to give back to her members, and make sure their interests are represented at City Hall. 

Outstanding Leadership Awards:  

Betsy Whirley, Local 580 - Itasca County

Under Betsy's time as President of Local 580, our union has grown in solidarity and professionalism. Her positivity and hard work for members has renewed faith in what labor union means and what can be accomplished. She has shown many times that she has what it takes to bring workers together for purpose. Recently Betsy has lead members to testify on the importance of the amazing work done by IMCare. While we know there are fights ahead, we know we can fight with Betsy on the team. 

Michele Nelson, Local 81 - Nashwauk-Keewatin Schools

Michele has served her small AFCSME community as President for over 20 years. Her tireless dedication to our well-being has been noted by her small group of Local 81 members. When members live and work in such a close-knit community it takes a particularly devoted president to watch over their interest while building an effective working relationship with an employer and the community. Michele always sets aside her personal interests and relationships to focus on the rights and needs of other members. To Michele, fairness and solidarity always come first. 

Jessica Taylor, Local 207 -  Grand Rapids Schools

Since starting at Grand Rapids Schools, Jessica Taylor has been a leader that members can depend on. She was the driving force when the local sought AFSCME 65’s representation. As local secretary, she has shown leadership in fighting for the rights of all members and is passionate about providing the representation every worker deserves.  She took the time to research a vision of what her local could be, using her ambition and energy to make that vision a reality for our members. Standing in solidarity with striking Blandin Paper workers, she continues to show just what being a union member means. 

Peggy Kinzler, Local 2789 - Carver County

Peggy Kinzler is the current President and Chief Steward at our Local 2789, Carver County. She has held many leadership roles over the past 23 years including Vice-President. She is also Vice President of AFSCME Council 65 and keeps us informed on issues facing all workers in Minnesota and across the nation. She has guided and mentored our members, encouraged leadership skills and is available whenever we have questions. She never turns down an opportunity to speak with County Leadership, expressing concerns of our members. Recent victories include negotiating one of our best contracts in many years. However she never rests on past achievements.

With recent building safety concerns, she is actively requesting information and seeking ways to improve our environment to keep our members safe. She handles over 90% of Steward meetings representing our members. All through COVID, she kept members connected and informed through monthly online meetings. Currently, she is going onsite at our offsite buildings to have hybrid meetings to keep members connected. Other connections to engage members include inviting members and potential members to coffee and donuts while handing out contracts and organizing our yearly picnic gathering with members and their families. Peggy goes above and beyond for our AFSCME brothers and sisters. 

Thomas Rukavina Leadership in Labor Award: 

Minnesota Speaker of the House, Melissa Hortman

AFSCME Council 65 is proud to announce that Speaker of the Minnesota House, Melissa Hortman, is the recipient of this year's Thomas Rukavina Award for Leadership in Labor. For years, she has proven a strong ally for working families in Minnesota.  Following this year’s historic pro-worker legislative session, the labor movement has few champions like Speaker Hortman.

Throughout the 2022 election, she and her caucus campaigned proudly on topics important to workers in Minnesota. Things like Paid Family & Medical Leave, and access to Unemployment Insurance for school workers were front and center. Motivated by these issues, AFSCME members helped her deliver a pro-worker trifecta in Minnesota. 

Click Here to read more about Speaker Hortman's Leadership in 2023!