FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT (AUGUST, 2002)

Thank you for sending me to the 35th AFSCME International Convention.  As you will read from the articles written by some of the other Local 34 attendees, it was a wonderful experience. The work of the convention was constant with many resolutions ranging from simple items such as opposing privatization of prisons to the more complex items such as discussing members concerns about the erosion of civil rights under some of the laws which have been passed since 9/11. If you listened to the opinions expressed by our sisters and brothers from all corners of our great Union, you heard genuine concern and caring for the issues before the body. One resolution that made me stop and think was one about establishing a multi-state negotiations committee to deal with those large employers who have employees in more than one state. The trend to consolidate like services under one company is most likely going to happen more frequently so it makes sense for our Union to be proactive in addressing this matter. One component that was not addressed was how we could use this thinking to stop privatization efforts in the public sector. The more exposure we have to the large companies, the more we can learn about their operations and costing practices so we then have the ammunition needed to present our own budgets. I am hopeful that we in Hennepin County will not face this type of action but, if such a beast would raise it's ugly head, at least we know that our Union is working on it.

One of the workshops I attended dealt with the role of women in the Union - how did we get active and how do we use our experiences to bring more women into the role of union activist?

The stories shared by the panel of activists and the women in the session were inspiring. A common theme was that folks became active after facing a crisis in their own work lives. Once the member resolved her issue, often with the assistance of an officer or steward, she was determined to become active so that she could share the benefits of her experience with others so that they would not have to go thorough the same situation. Almost everyone in the room acknowledged the importance of the support they received while working towards the resolution of the issue which brought them to their officer or steward. Another method of getting active in the Union that was mentioned is so simple - they were asked by someone to become active, to join in an activity, to attend a meeting, to serve on a committee - so easy to do yet not done enough. The last question asked in the workshop was "What would you tell your members about the Union?" The resounding answer, in one form or another, was simply that you are not alone, that all of us are stronger than any force facing us, that we can do anything with the support of our sisters and brothers of AFSCME. I walked away from this workshop feeling empowered and ready to take on any comers!

Andrea Lennox, Bob Velez and I are members of the Labor/ Management Healthcare Committee which is comprised of representatives from the various Unions, Supervisor Associations and Management in the County. We are currently in the process of receiving information from Health Partners and MHP about their rate proposals for the year 2003.  So far, the news is less than perfect, as insurance rates, along with many other economic factors, have been adversely affected based on the economy and the 9/11 fall-out. We do not have any firm information at this point and will continue to meet thorough the month of August to discuss and review what we are given by the two health plans. You will hear more about this as we get closer to the deadline for setting the new premiums.

I receive a newsletter called Prime Time. It is sent our by the International and is a new publication for our AFSCME retirees. The latest issue addresses issues of concern regarding drug bills before Congress, pension offsets, retiree activities and other points of interest for retirees. One point of interest to our folks who like to travel is AFSCME-sponsored Elderhostel trips to the Grand Canyon and to Jamestown, Williamsburg & Yorktown - almost makes me want to be a retiree! If you are beginning to plan your retirement, keep in mind the fact that you can remain active in the Union by joining a retiree chapter. Our Local's policy has been to pay for the first year's dues for any one of our members wishing to avail themselves of this benefit. If you want more information about joining a Retiree Chapter, please contact the Council 14 office at 651-455-0773. 

And now, in closing, I would like to share the following tidbit found in one of the many e-mails I receive each month. "Someone who thinks logically provides a nice contrast to the world." I do not know who wrote that simple phrase but it is a refreshing take on life.

Jean