From the Desk of the President (8/2006)

August is here already and summer, sad but true, is almost over. I hope that everyone is taking advantage of the many beautiful gifts of nature - lakes; rivers; city, county and state parks; miles and miles of bike paths - many maintained by fellow public employees - which are open to all of us. I have many happy memories of going to Girl Scout camps each summer, with August being the month for day camp. It was a week of daily adventures away from my brothers (loved them dearly, but they were typical brothers). I did have to endure the ride to and from day camp with my three sisters but, since we were all involved in the scouting program, we had lots of common ideas and plans to discuss. As I grew older, I switched from being an enthusiastic camper learning about nature and all the fun to be had out-of-doors, to being a counselor and sharing that knowledge and love of adventure with the younger girls. The icing on the cake was Girl Scout camp during my college-year summers. What a treat is was to be away from the books and pressures of learning and being with more young and energetic girls who couldn't wait to enjoy the camping experience. Even now, I measure summer by the weekly routines of camp - the first week of August would be spent greeting a new busload of campers and settling into tents, judging swimming abilities, having a huge welcome campfire, planning cook-outs. As you can tell, my heart is still with camping!

Politics: Yep, this is a topic that should be at the forefront of all our minds. The majority of Local 34 members work for the Human Services and Public Health Department. The Department is facing cuts in the budget based on the passage of the Deficit Reduction Act. Right now, with those cuts in place, the Department is tentatively looking at cuts of up to $22.1 million. The State Legislature had an opportunity to put money into the state budget, which would have offset some of the federal cuts. They blew it!

So, what does this mean for you? Well, quite simply, you have the ability to decide who is elected to represent us for the next two years and to work on fixing this problem. No matter where you live, you will have the opportunity to express your satisfaction or dissatisfaction at the polling place in September primaries and the November general elections. All of the Federal Congress seats are up for election/re-election as well as one Senate seat. At the State level, all Senate and House seats are up for election/re-election.

What can you do? Find a politician who you feel strongly represents your causes and work on her/his campaign. When s/he is elected, you are going to be remembered as someone who gave 150% to reach that goal and you will be listened to when you call about our needs. There are many candidates who have been endorsed by AFSCME Council 5 with more being screened weekly and added to the list. They need you to help them doing literature drops, door knocks, phone banks, get-out-the-vote actions. They need you to talk to your friends and neighbors about their goals and what they can do for all of us as residents of Minnesota, as well as our respective Senate and House districts. For those of us who grew up in greater Minnesota, we can talk to our families and friends about candidates running in our hometown districts that we feel will be good for us.

Let's face it; if we do nothing, then we end up with nothing. One phone bank, one door knock, one morning/afternoon out of your busy lives can mean all the difference in the election for our endorsed candidates and even more of a difference in our work lives. Some of our members will be spending the next four months working full-time for the Council on our efforts to get labor friendly people elected. Some of us will spend one evening a week going to the Council office to do phone banking. Some of us will work directly on candidates' campaigns. Whatever your comfort level, please get involved. Sometimes it is as simple as helping to provide a pan of brownies or a 12-pack of beverages for the door knock. Every little bit helps! Write a letter to the Editor of your local newspaper/neighborhood newsletter telling why you support a particular candidate. Please think about it, find something that you can do and, in the words of Nike "just do it". It all adds up to help us come out as winners when the folks we help elect then debate bills affecting funding sources for our programs.

So, if you can assist, contact the Council 5 office at 651-455-0773 and ask to speak to someone about opportunities to work on our endorsed candidates and our efforts to make our work lives better. You will be hooked up with an opportunity of a lifetime!

October - AFSCME Council 5 Convention: We have received the call to this convention, which will be held at the Sheraton-Bloomington Hotel in Bloomington, Minnesota, October 5 - 7, 2006. Important business of the convention will be the election of the four chair officers and the 40 Executive Board members for the coming two years, as well as voting on any resolutions brought before the body. Workshops and action events are planned for the convention. Look for more information about this in the next newsletter, including when the delegates will be elected.

Have a safe and enjoyable August! Jean