From the Desk of the President (4/2006)

Hello and Happy Spring. As I write this, it is just beginning to get dark after a rather nice 1st day of Spring.  I am a winter person but welcome spring this year.  Maybe it is because my family just celebrated two very spring-like events - the wedding of a nephew and the birth of a great-niece.  Both seem to be harbingers of sunshine and warmth, which is what spring usually, brings.   

I hope that many of you attended your precinct caucus last month and are also attending your legislative district, county and city conventions as delegates to spread the word about public employees and the work that we do.  This is going to be an extremely important year for those of us who work in the social services arena.  The funding for many of our job functions are being drastically cut back which will translate in the need to tighten economic belts across the board.  This will affect members at every level of public employment, directly or indirectly.  Holding our elected senators and representatives accountable for the bills passed by supporting - or not supporting - their bids for re-election and the endorsement of their political party is one tool that we have our fingertips.  If you are not happy with the work that they have done to date, please let them know that.  If your Senator or Representative has done an outstanding job, let her or him know that by showing your support at the conventions.  Wear your AFSCME green and be visible as a labor delegate to let folks know how important our work is to the community. 

We also have several important union conventions coming up this year. We have the state AFL-CIO convention and the International AFSCME convention, both being held the 2nd week of August.  We will need full delegations at both events.  The AFL-CIO convention is especially important this year as the President and Secretary/Treasurer positions are up for election.  The AFSCME Council 5 Executive Board moved to support the re-election of Ray Waldron as President and Steve Hunter, one of our own AFSCME members, as Secretary/Treasurer.  It appears that there might be a contested race for those positions.  Both Ray and Steve have been very supportive of AFSCME's goals regarding keeping our work in the public sector and to keep privatization to a minimum.  Please look for more information in future newsletters for announcements of delegate elections for both these events. 

The Executive Board of our Local will be holding discussions at the next several Executive Board meetings on the division of job duties based on the recently approved amendments to the Local's Constitution.  You should have noticed that we removed the Professional and Paraprofessional designations from the titles for Vice President, Chief Steward and Members-at-Large.  This should allow the Executive Board to better serve and represent Local 34 members wherever we work.  One of the roadblocks that I often bumped up against was that of being in a job class that was different from the member I was assisting.  My experience was that the resistance was not from our membership but from the supervisors and managers who indicated that they were used to dealing with folks from specific job classes.  I have seen less of that in the past year, which is a good sign, but it should not exist at all.   By us taking the lead in designating all officers as serving the entire membership, we are taking a huge step towards eradicating that barrier.   If you have ideas or suggestions on how you think we can better serve our Local, please let us know so that we can incorporate those ideas in our discussions.   

One last note before I go - as of March 22nd, I am located on the 9th floor of HSB.  My phone number remains the same, 348-0266, and, so far, the mail code is also the same, HSB (880).  The big change is that we have an access card reader, instead of a number pad, outside the doors so one needs that card in order to access the work area.  So, if you are coming to see me, you will either need to call me at my desk before you leave or call me from the phone in the waiting area on the 9th floor once you arrive there.   My only fear is that I will forget the access card and have to seek out the Security Guard for assistance.     

So, in the words of the great Helen Keller, "I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble." If I can remember the access card every day, that will be an accomplishment!

Jean