Planning Ahead: How I Will Prepare for January 2006

Editorial: (Taken from the February, 2004 Local 34 Newsletter)

by Wes Volkenant 

As I write, we’ve barely begun the new year 2004. We just finished a contract negotiations period the result of which was discouraging for some, yet managed to avoid even worse indignities that Labor Relations attempted to foist upon us. 

And the next two years will not get better as we enter the next negotiations just 18 months from now. The County Board elections will result in three Republican seats remaining Republican, and the County Board will still be controlled by Republican votes. The Governor and his tax-phobic stooges in the Administration and legislature will continue to hold all the power until at least January, 2007. No one in this climate is going to vote in favor of higher taxes. Instead, the Pawlenty team will focus on building privatized toll roads, further diminishing successful public school programs in favor of charter schools, state-administered school standards, and expensive “super-teachers”, and taking away the “Cadillac” benefits enjoyed by public employees like MTC drivers, U of M clerical staff, and state government professionals. Programs are going to continue to be stripped of necessary funding. Pressure will continue to be brought on local government agencies to find savings. More jobs will be lost. More of our valued work and the clients we serve will be placed in jeopardy. 

We were not ready to strike in 2003. We fought to maintain as best as possible in 2003. By 2005, we may be facing far more challenging times, and far more difficult negotiating circumstances. Let us not accept less than we deserve because we are not prepared in 2005. Now is the time for planning ahead. 

My wife and I have decided to place $50 per pay period into a “Strike Fund.” By January 2006, we will have enough saved to pay for a month’s mortgage, a month’s car payment, our heat-electric-phone bills, minimum payments on our credit cards, and groceries we will need that month. If our AFSCME Locals don’t get offered raises in 2005, and if our health insurance costs go up markedly, and if other benefits are again proposed to be eliminated, undoubtedly this Local will vote to strike in 2005. There may be a paycheck or two lost in January or February 2006 in that event. We plan to be ready.   

I encourage each of you to start preparing your own finances in order to manage the pain and impact of a walkout. Here’s my suggestion of a way to determine how much you might need to save in readiness. I’m including examples—no they’re not my monthly budget amounts—but speculative amounts for members living in the suburbs with small family budget concerns: 

1. Add up your normal (and anticipate higher amounts for 2006) monthly expense of each of the following:

House Mortgage/Monthly Rent                           1400.00

Car Payment                                                             300.00

Heating Bill                                                                150.00

Electric Bill                                                                 100.00

Phone Bill                                                                  120.00

Minimum Payment on Credit Card(s)                 200.00

Any Other Necessities that “Have” to be Paid 150.00

Modest Food/Grocery Expenses                         360.00


Total                                                                           2780.00

 This is the total amount anticipated to cover January or February 2006 expenses, in event of a strike. 

2. Divide the total by 48-52 pay periods depending on when you start this process. 

From the Example- using 50 pay periods = 55.60


3. Round off the total. This is the amount you should plan to set aside each pay period in preparation.

From the Example- any of these might be appropriate savings amounts:  $55, $56, $60 

Prepare yourselves for the worst case possible. These 2003 negotiations gave us a hint of things to come. Right now the best message we can give the Employer is that we won’t accept the same in 2005, and we will be prepared to deal with whatever difficulties we must endure in order to get our fair and just reward in that next round of negotiations.