From the Desk of the President (April, 2011)

A coworker offered a title, "If Jean Ran The World", for my monthly article that had me laughing. She said that I always have ideas on how situations could be resolved - think her tongue was firmly planted in her check as she said that as some of my ideas probably would not fly with our elected officials. As Wes noted via the exploding computer graphic in last month's newsletter, I was without a working computer so was unable to write an article. It all began innocently enough on February 10th - PRISM froze, then Lotus notes froze and then screen turned green while I was backing up files as IT was trying to figure out why the systems froze - the diagnosis was "crashed - switch it out for a new one". The laptop that I received as a replacement had issues from the moment it was put in my hands. It did not have the current version of Windows so the other systems did not work efficiently. Once Windows 8 was pushed through, all sorts of other problems cropped up. Lotus notes did not always save an e-mail so I had to redo it. PRISM would freeze while I was adding a case note so I would lose everything when rebooting. The three weeks spent dealing with the ongoing problems were the most frustrating, demoralizing, and humbling weeks of my over thirty years of employment with Hennepin County. It was extremely demoralizing to come in each day hoping that all would go right and then have it go wrong with a cycle of the system doing freeze-reboot- work for an hour-freeze-reboot-work for a few hours- repeat. After one day of that cycle, I was worn down. Two weeks of it was awful. Just so you know that I am human, I did cry more than once when going through this experience - not a good time at all. I also realize how dependent we are on technology in order to do our work. On the bright side, I did clean my desk and file cabinets - tossed some old, old stuff and found a few items I thought I had lost. I am lucky in that I have a supervisor who intervened when it became clear that the issues were beyond those that the Help Desk could deal with and kicked it up to the level. The IT staff were very helpful along the way - I am sure that they wanted the problems to be fixed al-most as much as I did. After all was said and done, the solution was twofold - needing a new docking station and finding that I had connections for two "mice" – a regular mouse and an ergonomic mouse - both were hooked up as, based on pain in my hand, I would switch back and forth. That created a huge problem with the laptop as it was confused - not sure which command to follow so it would loop. That caused the system freezing problems which caused the need to reboot.  

Here is where the "If Jean Ran The World" comes into play. My contention is that centralizing IT is all good and fine as a basis of consolidating resources and assets but moving all IT staff to one work site is not necessarily the ideal way to go. If an IT person had been on site, s/he could have run up to my desk when I began to experience the freeze-reboot issues and would most likely have seen the double mouse connection right away - something not diagnosed when IT remotely "took over" the computer - and "cured" this much more quickly, saving all of us a lot of time and frustration. Penny wise (centralizing IT) is nice but pound foolish (the loss of my efficiency and time) was not. Hopefully, none of you will go through this. We ought to be able to count on being given equipment that works - that comes to us with the current programs/systems already loaded so that we can work - especially since almost everything that most of us do now is on the computer. All of you are aware of what has been happening around the country, most notably with our neighbor to the east, Wisconsin, with anti-union and anti-worker legislation. The attacks that you have seen on public workers there are also happening here in the Minnesota House and Senate. It seems that every day another bill is introduced to do away with our pensions, to re-duce the level of health insurance benefits we have, to cut the number of public employees at every level of government, to do away with pay equity for women, to cut funding for education at every level. Bills are being introduced to slash funding for the services we provide or to privatize them. Please take the time to visit the Council 5 web site, afscmemn.org, and our web site, afscmelocal34.org, for updates. Then take some time to contact your legislators to voice your concerns about the bills. We all need to speak up and speak out. Talk to your family and friends and ask them to call, too. Working people need to stick together.  

When unions are attacked, the rights of all working people are in jeopardy.  

LaQuita Williams’ Nominations Report is printed on the last page of this newsletter. We will be conducting a Local 34 election in April. Please read the President’s note that follows LaQuita’s report, as there was a change in the nominations, following the March GA Meeting.  

* Note: Carolyn Vreeman has submitted her resignation from the Junior Chief Steward position effective April 30, 2011. Per the terms of our Local 34 Constitution, any vacant officer positions will be filled with an election by the Executive Board. The earliest that we can hold that election will be the May 18, 2011 Executive Board meeting after an official motion is made to hold such an election. The position of Junior Chief Steward and Member-at-Large for one year term will be open for that election.  

Recognition Steve Marincel, longtime Field Representative from Council 5, retired in March. He worked with Locals 552, 2822 and 2938 but we, too, have benefitted from his years of service. He has been the health insurance expert for us over the course of his career working with Hennepin County negotiations and as a participant on the Labor/Management Health Care Committee. We will miss him but want to wish him well as he enjoys retirement. Thanks you, Steve, from all of us. You will be missed.  

Master Negotiations Committee: We still have room for more members to serve on this committee as we work to craft a contract proposal. Members so far are Paul Madison, Sabrina Denson, Vicki Moore, Jacquelin Poole, Cathy Cowden, Mary Sandstorm, Maggie Keating, Maureen Glover, Patrick Regan, Elena Izaksonas, Wes Volkenant, Carolyn Vreeman, John Herzog and me. We had our first meeting on Thursday, February 24th to go over ground rules of the committee as well as talk about the direction we will take this year. We have two more meetings scheduled so far: Tuesday, April 26th from 5:30 - 7:00 PM in the Government Center Auditorium and Tuesday, May 24th from 5:30 - 7:00 PM in A723, the room behind the vending machines by the brown bag lunchroom - both rooms are on the A-level of the Government Center. If you are interested in joining us, please let me know.  

My final comment, "If Jean Ran The World", winter would have ended on March 19th and spring weather would have begun on the official first day of spring, March 20th. I think the weather should pay attention to the calendar!

Happy Spring, Jean