From the Desk of the President (February, 2015)

 

Thank you to everyone for understanding the need to reschedule our General Assembly meeting from January 7th to the following Wednesday, January 14th because of the bitter cold and wind chills on the 7th. The health and well-being of our members was the primary concern of our Executive Board and the reason why we voted to reschedule the meeting. As hardy Minnesotans we all understand the importance of common sense and being home as early as possible that evening was the right thing to do.

This article is going to be a list of things to know so here we go:

1. If you work in HSB, you need to know that the 5th & 6th floors are being completely gutted as they are revamped to serve as the Central Hub. There is no access to the restrooms and all the meeting rooms will be gone. We are asked to stay off those floors as they are now hard hat only areas. So, for your own safety, please avoid those floors.

2. Beat the rush - get started on your 2016 health incentive wellness activities now. Check out the current offerings at http://www.hennepin.us/employees/wellness-activity-catalog/ - there is something for everyone. One option that was utilized by many units was to have a wellness activity at a unit meeting. Talk to your supervisor about this as it is really is a nifty way to earn one of your wellness credits.

3. Wellness Center – those of us who sit on the Labor Management HealthCare Committee had an opportunity to take a tour of the center. It is located on the 1st floor of the 701 Building on the corner of 7th Street and 4th Ave. I was impressed with the space – lots of it compared to the former quarters in the Government Center. There is a full pharmacy so, if you choose, you can get your prescriptions filled there. You can transfer existing prescriptions from other pharmacies too. You can make appointments to see a chiropractor or acupuncturist on Thursdays. Check out their website at http://hcmc.org/hennepincounty/Aboutthebewellclinic/index.htm for full details.

4.  Grace Baltich, Kenneth W. Garnier, John Herzog, Andrea Lazo-Rice, Lynn Lyons, Kay Powell, and Wes Volkenant were elected at the January 14th General Assembly to fill our seven MSSA delegate slots for 2015. Thank you to everyone who put their name forward to serve the local in this capacity.

5. Retirements and dental coverage is a timely topic. I have already attended four retirement parties in January and have two more on my calendar for this month so am thinking that this is a good time to remind those of you who are planning to retire that you have the ability to continue the union dental coverage when you leave us for the land of retirement.

6. The current monthly premium cost is $51.00 and will cover you, your spouse and any dependents. Once the County notifies the Council 5 office of your retirement, the Council notifies Cielo Star, which handles the retiree benefits. You will be sent an enrollment packet which you should complete immediately and return if you wish to continue that coverage. There is no time limit on the cover-age, so you can keep it in place for as long as you need it.

7. We have all seen a plethora of trainings coming at us and more are coming. Yes, they are annoying and yes, they take time away from our work. And yes, you do need to attend those trainings. For many of us, the work that we do correctly results in dollars coming to the County to keep funding our jobs or, if the work is not correct, it results in the loss of some of those dollars. The trainings provided give us the tools and resources we need to help us to do our work correctly. They also help us stay current on changes in the policies, procedures, rules and regulations that govern that work. Staying on top of the changes help all of us to be more effective. That being said, the time we spend on training should be reflected in our workload. If you have ideas on what that would look like, please share them with your supervisors, man-agers, coworkers or me so that we can have that recognition that training does take away from our ability to be at the 100% effectiveness level all of the time.

8. Opportunity to spend a day at the Capitol – Tim Adams, one of our Council 5 political staff, attended our January 14th General Assembly to introduce himself to us. He talked about the work ahead of us for the 2015 legislative year and asked us to spend a day at the Capitol visiting with our Senators and Representatives to talk about issues of concern to us such as local government aid, transportation, pensions, education, etc. He noted that issues affecting workers across the state are important to all of us. If you are interested in helping, please call Tim at 651-295-1677 and he will answer your questions and set a date for you to help.

9. The new mileage rate for 2015 set by the IRS is 57.5 cents per mile. Please use that figure when submitting any mileage expenses to our Treasurer, Patrick Regan, for Local 34 events

10. The Council 5 Day on the Hill this year will be held on Tuesday, March 24th. This event will be held at the Crowne Plaza in St Paul with a plenary session and work-shops in the morning and lobbying at the Capitol in the afternoon. The day is capped off with a reception in the evening. It is our opportunity to join our fellow AFSCME neighbors in talking to our legislators about our concerns and issues. A motion was passed to send up to 34 members with the local covering one day lost time, mileage, parking and registration costs with the election to be held at the February 4th General Assembly.

11. LES Minnesota Union Women’s Retreat will be held April 22 – 24, 2015 at Ruttger’s Bay Lodge near Brainerd, MN. This event is geared towards mobilizing women to improve their workplace, union and community. A motion was passed to send up to 6 members to this event with the local covering 3 days lost time, registration costs and mileage with the election to be held at the February 4th General Assembly.

12. Please plan to attend the meeting if you are interested in putting your name forward for either of the above two elections. This gives you an opportunity to let your fellow members know why you are interested in serving the local as a delegate to the event and what you will bring back to our local as a result of the event.

13. Netroots Nation will be held in Phoenix, Arizona July 16 -19, 2015. The central topic for this year is immigration and social media’s ability to effect change in the existing policies. A motion was passed to send up to 2 members with the local covering 3 days lost time, 4 nights lodging, round-trip airfare and registration costs with the dele-gates to be elected at the March 4th General Assembly. Please plan to attend that meeting to put your name forward and to let us know your plans for utilizing the experience and knowledge gained to help our local continue our growth.

14. Month of Service – Keeping the Dream Alive. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis in 1968 after marching with our fellow AFSCME members, the sanitation workers who were on strike as they fought to improve their lives by improving their working conditions. To commemorate the sacrifices of the sanitation workers and Dr. King, Council 5 is organizing a “month of service” this spring. The goal is a unified, statewide effort showing how we AF-SCME members improve lives in our communities when we are off the clock. The plan is for members to take part in a volunteer or community service activity where we work or live between March 25th and April 24th. We can do this with coworkers, families and friends and may be some-thing that we are already doing such as keeping our block clean, serving in a food kitchen, helping at your child’s school, etc. We will discuss this at the February 4th General Assembly. Please bring your suggestions for possible activities to the meeting.

15. As always, please contact me if you have any questions about the information above. Our February 4th meeting is held in HSB 110, 525 Portland Ave in Minneapolis at 5:30 PM.

Whew – there you have it! The year is off and running so we probably should keep up with it. Of course, we may be sloshing through some snow and ice but we will keep on going. The nice thing about February is that it is only an-other month til spring!  Jean