From the Desk of the President (4/2008)

ELECTIONS

Please remember to look for your office election ballot which will be coming out to you via US mail shortly after the first of April. Joe Weston, our Elections Chair, states that the instructions should be clearer this year. Last year was our first experience doing elections by mail and we learned what needed to change from that mailing. As one of those folks who counted the ballots, I can tell you that the instruction to print your name or use a return address label is there for a reason. I have had years of reading my mother's "chicken scratch" writing and I still could not make out some of your names from your handwriting. Since we want to be able to count everyone's ballot, please print or use that address label so that we can compare your name to the membership list. Te ballot counters thank you! 

MILEAGE GRIEVANCE

Thanks to all of you who responded to my request for your status for this mileage issue. There were far more of you than the three names that were provided to us by Labor Relations. Our Business Representative, Matt Nelson, has been working to get this issue resolved but the devil has been in the details. His most recent meeting has resulted in some clarification and a statement that there should be information spelling out what, per IRS regulations, constitutes a home office for those of you who do telecommute. Once that information is out on the County's intranet, we should be able to go forward to resolve this issue for those of our members who fit that criteria. Not everyone who used to get the mileage under the old process will qualify to receive it under this process but many of you who have been shorted will see some relief. We still need to address the issue of retroactivity as part of our grievance has been to "make whole" those of you who qualify to get that back mileage reimbursed. Stay tuned for more information. 

LOBBYING LEGISLATORS

By the time you read this, our members (Andrea Lazo-Rice, Angel Alexander, Betty Pharr, Catherine Rinaldo, Penny Wile, Chalmers Davis, Clifford Robinson, Diane Bourgeois, Ester Killion, Ibrahim Adam, Jean Diederich, John Herzog, Kathleen Farber, Laurie Simon, Miguel Salazar, Patrick Regan, Robert Velez, and Vicki Moore) elected to represent Local 34 will have already attended the April 1-2, 2008 Council 5 Day on the Hill event. I have been excited about the change from a one to two day event this year as it allows our members more time to familiarize themselves with the background of lobbying our state Senators and Representatives and the importance of doing it on a regular basis.  

If you had any doubts about that importance, all you need to do is go back and read the e-mails regarding the budget shortfalls the County is facing this year. Those shortfalls are a direct result of cuts in funding at both the Federal and State levels because those folks we elected to represent us have not had the ability to truly represent us and our needs. Instead, we have seen funding for the programs we provide to the most vulnerable members of our communities - families, children, elderly and disabled, cut and slashed by legislation from both federal and state legislation. The tide is beginning to change but it will do very slowly. The time for pussyfooting around the problem is long gone. Each and every one of us needs to take time from our lives to contact our legislators - state and federal - to encourage them to get a backbone and do the right thing - put money back in to those programs which allow us to provide quality services to our clients.  

The handwriting is on the wall. If we do not get some of those funds restored, the County is not going to be able to maintain the workforce as it currently exists. I am not a "doom and gloom" person but it is clear that layoffs will be on the horizon if our situation does not improve. Some of us who were contemplating retirement can no longer afford to do so, which means that attrition is not going to be the answer to the problem. So, if you have any creative suggestions for how we - yes, this is our problem, not just Management's - can address the money issues, please send those ideas to County Administrator, Richard Johnson, as he requested in his e-mail of late- March.  

I am looking forward to spring - see the ice melt away - watch the grass grow and the trees bud - listen to the birds warble their songs of spring - get out the magazines to plan flower gardens. It is a good time of the year to get out and enjoy life.

Jean Diederich, Local 34 President