From the Desk of the President (July, 2009)


Special Leave Without Pay - SLWOP

"Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways it can change someone else's life forever.” Margaret Cho…   

Thank you to all who have committed to taking special leave without pay between now and the end of the year. It is because of your generosity - no matter how many hours you plan to use - that our coworkers whose circumstances are such that losing any paid time would create an unmanageable financial hardship are not facing mandatory leave without pay. For those of you who have not yet availed yourself of the special leave program, you can do so through the last full pay period of the year. Thank you!  

Here is what you have done so far this year:

AFSCME represented employees:

4139 Total              1600 - 39% have participated as of June 2009

2776 - 50% have committed to participate through end of the year


835 Total                      528 - 62% have participated as of June 2009

607 - 73% have committed to participate through end of the year

Non-organized employees:                      

1208 Total                    653 - 54% have participated as of June 2009

810 - 67% have committed to participate through end of the year

Totals: $1,320,000.00 already saved as of June 2009

$3,080,000.00 committed to for savings through end of the year                                                                      

Thank you to the Commissioners for listening to us when we proposed that they ask for voluntary leave instead of mandating furloughs - to give employees the opportunity to show our greatness. The results, as evidenced by the numbers above, show that we have many great employees - something AFSCME has known for many years. If you read the July 1, 2009 e-mail from County Administrator Richard Johnson, you can see that your efforts, along with budget reductions that have already been implemented for 2009, have enabled him to not look for further reductions this year.

Progressive Dues update:

The highlights from the June General Assembly in last month's newsletter had a small note regarding the work of the Council 5 Progressive Dues Committee. A good number of you contacted me regarding that information, concerned about any type of increase - wondering why we would need one when we already have a progressive structure in place. Well, I have good news. Based on feedback such as yours, the Council 5 staff asked the International for clarification of the proposed changes. The clarification received stated that any local with a progressive dues structure in place will not have to make any changes to their dues structure unless the local chose to do so. Local 34's 1% structure, based on our budget, appears to meet our needs so, unless there is direction from you to change it, we will keep our dues at that level. Just to let you know, other locals are so impressed with how ours is working that they have asked for information on the process our Budget & Finance Committee used to arrive at that figure, how the transition was handled, and the impact it had on membership. You never know when you are going to be a leader in change. 

Negotiations update:

I am pleased to announce the appointment of the following members as your Local 34 Table Team for this year’s negotiations process: Jacquelin Poole, Jean Diederich, Laurie Simon, Patrick Regan and Wes Volkenant. This is a well-rounded group of members who will represent you well in the meetings with the Employer. Table Team training will be held on August 10th for the six AFSCME Table Teams - Locals 34, 552, 1719, 2822, 2864 and 2938 - to brush up on our skills and protocol. 

We still have several meetings scheduled in August for the Master Negotiations Committee to work on finalizing our master contract proposal and any supplemental items. You have been sent a letter via US mail regarding a survey, accessed on our Local 34 web site, to assist us in putting together our contract campaign and proposal. If you have not already done so, please visit our web site at to complete the survey, as your input is very important.

Once the proposal is finalized, we will send it to the Employer on September 8th. We will then meet on September 14th to receive the Employer's counter-proposal with regular negotiation meetings scheduled for September 28th and October 19th and two mediation sessions scheduled for November 2nd and November 16th.    

If anyone is willing to serve on the Action Team, please let me know. We need motivated, energetic, creative members willing to get information to members and plan activities surrounding the contract campaign as well as work on actions to support the Table Team's efforts in negotiations. We have the services of Chris Cowen and Jennifer Munt from Council 5. They worked with the State's and U of M's Action Teams during their contract campaigns. In my humble opinion, the Action Team is the most important group during negotiations as they are everywhere, working with everyone.

2009 Budget County Board meetings:               

This year the Board will face some heavy decisions for HCMC. The unallotments made by Governor Pawlenty, particularly the cutting of the GAMC program, is going to have a huge impact on the hospitals budget as a large number of people using the facility were covered by that program. With the loss of GAMC funds, the hospital faces rising uncompensated care costs. Even though HCMC is run independent of the County budget, the County remains the "bank" for any uncovered costs. Those monies come from the County's General Fund and once the money leaves that fund, it is gone. Why should we care? Very simply, cuts in one area of the County affect every other area as the budget is approved as a whole, not as individual pieces.  

An important piece of the budget puzzle, and its impact on our ongoing ability to do our jobs, is the presentation each Department makes to the County Board for their proposed budget. Each Department has been told to bring in a proposal at 96% of the 2009 level. Last year we asked our members to take time away from their desks to attend some of those meetings. We are once more asking you to do so (this is a great opportunity to use some of our SLWOP time), wearing AFSCME green and be a witness to how the budget is set. Our presence was noted last year and we did have an impact on some of the changes made from the original proposals. The process starts when the Board adopts the 2010 maximum levy and budget with a series of department presentations from September 15th to November 20th, followed by Commissioner amendments and rounding off with the Truth in Taxation hearing. The final budget is approved by the Board at their December 15th meeting. Please check our web site,, for a complete list of the Department presentations and meeting dates. I hope to see you there.

Well, I think that is enough news to digest for this month. Stay tuned for updates on negotiations and the 2010 budget. Get out and enjoy all that Minnesota has to offer.