From the Desk of the President (December, 2008)

Announcements: Local 34 renewed our membership in the Minnesota Social Services Association (MSSA) for 2009. We are entitled to 7 agency delegates to MSSA so we will hold the election for those delegates at the December 3, 2008 General Assembly. If you are interested in serving as one of those delegates and are not able to attend the meeting, please contact me by no later than noon on Wednesday, 12/3/08, to let me know of your interest in putting your name forward for the election. 

We will also hold our annual holiday feast at the 12/2/08 General Assembly. Our Events Coordinator, Andrea Lazo-Rice, along with the able assistance of Chalmers Davis, will make sure that we have plenty of food to tempt our taste buds. If you are able to assist them in getting the food and making sure that there are tables for the food, please contact Andrea. 

AWARD You may have read in Wes Volkenant's article from last month that our Local was awarded the Jerry Wurf Organizing Award at the Council 5 convention in September. It is awarded to an individual member, local union, or group of members/local unions who have worked tirelessly and effectively in the area or organizing on behalf of AFSCME. We received this award in the company of Jessica Johnson, who spent months working to organize Correctional Officers in Kentucky, and was given the award as an individual. According to Eric Lehto, Organizing Director for the Council, we were given the award for a number of reasons. We had an organizing challenge proposed by Clifford Robinson and issued to all the locals in the Council stating that our local would match up to $15,000.00 from other locals to be used for the sole purpose of expanding the organizing program of the Council. A number of locals stepped up to the plate and contributed money for that cause and we matched their funds. We were also the first local to submit and receive a grant from the Council for internal organizing. Kathleen Farber and Vern Wagner spearheaded the drive to reduce the number of fair share fee payers while educating all of us on the importance of unionism. Those efforts continue to carry us forward. Perhaps the most important reason for the award is the fact that any time the union has asked for assistance with organizing efforts within the Council or around the country, Local 34 members have stepped forward to be a part of the process. Brother Lehto stated, quite simply, that Local 34 has been a staunch support of the organizing program of the Council and deserved to be recognized for those efforts. We can all take great pride receiving this award. It is named after one of AFSCME's presidents, Jerry Wurf, who served from 1964 to 1981. He campaigned and advocated for more aggressive organizing by AFSCME when he ran for the presidency. It is because of his efforts and direction as President that AFSCME grew from 220,000 to over a 1 million members during his years in office. If you go over to the Council office, you will see our Local's name listed on the plaque with the other award winners from years past. Thank you to everyone in our local who has been part of any organizing effort - talking to coworkers about the union, giving a fee payer a dues authorization card to sign, serving as a Volunteer Member Organizer for both internal and externals efforts. It all adds up to success.  

The Elections: What can I say? After months of phone banks, literature drops and door knocks for one-on-one conversations with our members about the candidates AFSCME endorsed, it is over - finally! November 4th was a day of anticipation, hard work, worries, ups and downs, working with fellow union members from across the state with the final culmination of seeing the results of all the hard work when Barack Obama is declared the winner for President as well as many of our friends in the State and Federal House getting re-elected. We lost some key races - Ashwin Madia, Steve Sarvi and El Tinklenberg would have been very worker-friendly at the Federal level. Some of State House candidates lost but we gained other seats. Randy Johnson and Jan Callison, our endorsed candidates for Hennepin County Commissioner races, handily won their seats. Jeff Johnson won the seat replacing Penny Steele, who chose not to run again. Once more, our endorsed candidates received those endorsements, not because of their party affiliation, but because they espoused issues important to us as working folks - a worker's right to choose to join a union, looking at making taxes more fair so that everyone pays their fair share, bringing jobs back so that our economy improves. My hope is that all of our efforts will bear fruit over the course of the next three to four years. We are going to have to continue to work with those we elected to serve us to keep our issues at the forefront. We will need to lobby - many times with the lobbyists from the County - at both the state and federal level when needed to educate elected officials on why they need to support our issues so that we can continue to do the work that we do. 

And, once more, Local 34 was cited by Council 5 Political staff as well as by political staff from other unions as being out there for every political event - every door knock - every phone bank. Tigger Lunney, Diana McGee and John Ewaldt, folks who did lost time for the Council for this elections cycle, all state that our Local "rocks". Thank you to all of you who participated as you made this the success story that it is. 

Have a wonderful and joyous holiday season, Jean