From the Desk of the President (April, 2012)

ANNOUNCEMENTS  

We will have three elections at the April 4, 2012 General Assembly. The first election will be for the dele-gates to the 2012 AFSCME International Convention held in Los Angeles the week of June 17th. The local voted to elect our dele-gates at the 4/4/12 GA and to send the dele-gates plus the top ranked alternate to the convention with the following expenses covered: 5 days lost time; housing for seven nights (Saturday, 6/16/12 - Friday, 6/22/12); 7 1/2 days per diem (we can only pay 75% per diem for travel days); round trip airfare; and transportation to & from the air-ports in Minneapolis and Los Angeles. Please note that this is not meant to be a vacation for those elected to be delegates. This is a union business event and the charge from our local is that every single delegate and alternate will be on the convention floor for every single part of the convention proceedings. We will have many important issues before us including amendments to the International Constitution, elections for our International President and Secretary-Treasurer and scads of resolutions directing the union on future political, social and economic issues. If you are thinking about putting your name forward for this election, keep this charge in mind.  

 The second election will be for members to attend the May 9-10, 2012 Educating the 99% In-Depth Training on Teaching and Learning. This is sponsored by Labor Education Ser-vices and will be held on the St Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. The workshop is designed for labor leaders involved in member education to identify common challenges to effective education and how to address those challenges. The local voted to send up to six members covering 2 days lost time, registration costs, mile-age to & from St Paul and parking for both days. The registration cost covers materials, snacks and lunch both days.  

The third election will be for the Netroots Nation Conference held June 6 - 10, 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island. The local voted to send up to two members covering 3 days lost time; 4 1/2 days per diem; registration costs; round trip airfare; transportation to and from the airports; and 4 nights lodging with the election to be held at the April General Assembly. The conference will bring "bloggers, newsmakers, social justice advocates, labor and organizational leaders, grass-roots organizers and online activists for four days of thought-provoking panels, practical trainings and fun networking".  

 If you are interested in any of the above events and would like more information, please feel free to contact me at 612-348-0266.  

 Minnesota Union Leadership Program is once more taking applications for the 2012 - 2013 series of classes. The classes are designed to "foster a deeper understanding of the critical issues facing working people in Minnesota". The six in-depth sessions are scheduled over a nine month period with a new two day introduction held September 26-28, 2012 at Rutgersís Bay Lake Lodge. Participants will study the labor movement and discuss how to address the challenges facing unions today. The classes are lead by Labor Education Services. For more information, you can call 612-624-5020 or visit their website at les@umn.edu. Applicants must complete an application form with support from their union. The local has voted to sponsor up to three members to participate on the 2012 - 2013 series - with the proviso that their application is accepted by LES. If a member's application is accepted, the local will cover the cost of registration and any mileage and parking involved in attending the classes. We will select those three members at the May 2, 2012 General Assembly. Our local has two graduates of the first series, Wes Volkenant and Heather Hemmer. They can share their stories of their experiences if you have questions.  

Thank you for sending me to Indianapolis for the AFSCME Election Rules Review Committee Regional meeting. It was definitely worth the time and effort involved in getting there. We had about 100 or so members from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kentucky and New York - there may have been more states but those were the ones that I caught references to when the Chairs called members to the micro-phones for testimony. Council 5 was represented by President Mike Buesing, Executive Director Eliot Seide and five rank and file members, Art McGrane from Local 668, June Clark from Local 4001, John Knobbe and John Collins from Local 404 as well as myself. All but Brother Collins offered testimony on what we saw as flaws in the 2010 elections process at the Boston Convention and offered suggestions for improvements. My feeling is that the words we offered were straightforward and thoughtful. What we did not do is condemn the candidates and the members who supported the candidates. What we did do was address the concerns we had with the imperfections in the nominations, campaigning and elections process. I noted that some of the issues regarding campaigning and observations could be handled like our own primary and general elections in Minnesota - you can campaign anywhere within 100 yards of a polling site and must stand back so many feet when observing at the polls with no one allowed inside the balloting area itself except for election judges and the voters. Many suggestions about the nominations process were offered, including having a specific area for the nominating speeches so that the speakers and their supporters would be safe. The suggestion to have those nominating speeches from the reporting podium at the front of the convention hall was well received. Everyone would be able to see the speakers and they would not be crowded. I have to admit that my favorite suggestion was one that I offered - that we have a Nomi-nations Chair whose sole duty would be to conduct the nominations with a meeting of all candidates on Monday night to go over all the rules, draw straws for the order of nominations and then to conduct the nominations on Tuesday. I noted that this person should be someone who is held in high esteem by our members and mentioned that Linda Chavez Thompson was one person I felt would fit that description. There were many comments about International staff carrying credentials for a local while having all of their expenses covered by the International which could be construed as a conflict of interest.  

Another issue addressed was that of block voting. Quite a few folks at the 2010 convention had shared their stories about being told they had to sign the block voting form - no option offered. This one is going to be a tough one as block voting is allowed but there should be some way to allow individuals who wish to cast their own ballots the opportunity to do so. All in all, I think that this was a worthwhile opportunity for members with concerns about the process to voice their opinions. My hope is that the Committee will take those comments under advisement and we will see an improved process at the June convention this year. Again, thank you for allowing me to voice the concerns shared by the delegates from our local to the 2010 convention.  

Council 5ís Retirees Chapter is now up and running. We have a long-standing policy of paying the first year's dues for any retiree wishing to join the Retirees Chapter. One of the main goals of the Retiree Chapter is to work on pension and health care issues - two of the most inclusive day-to-day factors retirees face. Your voice, joined with your fellow retirees from around the Council, carries a lot more weight than doing it alone. Our pensions have been under attack by the legislators around the country and those attacks will not stop until we can get some sanity back in the various legislative bodies. Our retirees can show that they are wise stewards of the money they receive, that the system is not broken and that they can answer any questions that folks might have about the pension system and how it impacts their lives.  

 And speaking of pensions, AFSCME Council 5 and MAPE will hold a Teleconference to Protect Your Pension at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, April 3, 2012. All you need to do to participate is answer your phone when it rings. If you want to make sure that the Council has your correct home phone, call the receptionist at 651-450-4990 or send it via e-mail to coun-cil5@afscmemn.org. Here is a link to pertinent information about your pension: http://afscmemn.org/defend-your-pay-%2526amp%3B-pension.  

Thanks to all of you who have attended the various rallies, sat in on hearings and attend workshops on the constitutional amendments. Your support for these efforts is noted by the legislators so you are not working in a vacuum. Please keep it up as it is that constant, visible presence that makes a difference.  

"Energy and persistence conquer all things." - Benjamin Franklin  

Jean