From the Desk of the President (2/2006)


My article this month is a bit short. I was out sick and our Editor, Brother Volkenant, has assured me that he has plenty of information to fill out any empty spots left my lack of verbosity! Many members of our Local have indicated in the past that they would like to see a voluntary Short Term Disability program offered through the County to fill in the gaps left between available sick leave hours and Long Term Disability. Such an offering could be especially attractive for folks who have been employed for a short period of time or those who have, due to a past illness or family need, used their sick leave hours and have a small balance on the books. Based on that indicated interest, the Labor/Management Health Care Committee reviewed options and came up with a list of criteria for a Request for Proposal which was submitted to the County Board, approved by that body for publication and notice of the Proposal posted for responses by insurance carriers last fall. After all was said and done, one plan, submitted by Standard Life, was chosen by the Committee to recommend to the County Board for approval. The County Board did vote to approve that plan. Standard Life is the carrier that provides the existing life insurance coverage available through payroll deduction. An announcement about the Short Term Disability plan has been in the on-line Hennepin County Weekly if you need to refer to those notices. A short description is that this voluntary plan will be available to benefit-earning employees scheduled to work 60 or more hours per pay period with an effective date of March 5, 2006. The open enrollment period will be February 13, 2006 - March 3, 2006. A notice will be sent to all employees by Hennepin County Benefits with the specifics of the plan. Also, you might want to note that Benefits announced that benefit earning employees will be able to add domestic partners to their life and long-tern care insurance as of April 1, 2006. More information will be forthcoming from Benefits on those options. 

Another subject of note is our dues. As you know, our dues, as approved by the membership at the November 3, 2005 General Assembly, were supposed to have changed effective January 1, 2006. Due to a number of glitches with the County's IT resources being allocated to the conversion of the court-related cases/information from a Judicial District and/or County system to the new State system, MNCIS, the change was not made for the January withholding. We have been in discussions with "The Powers That Be" to facilitate the change for February 2006. This change, from a five-tier dues structure to a straight 1 % of monthly gross income dues structure, might also have another unforeseen twist to it. That would be a switch from one large amount on the 1st paycheck of the month to a smaller amount from each paycheck for the dues deduction withholding. If this change ends up being the optimum method for Payroll, we would have to bring the matter before the membership for a vote, as the withholding is part of our contract and would require a Memorandum of Understanding, agreed to by both Labor Relations and the Local, to be approved and added to our contract. We tentatively have this on the agenda for discussion and vote by the body at the General Membership meeting on February 1, 2006.   

"In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die, and the choices that we make are ultimately our responsibility. - Eleanor Roosevelt. I think that Ms. Roosevelt had the right idea and, in the spirit of her remarks, I am asking for your assistance. We found out how well we work together when we have a common goal in sight during the negotiations process last year. Can you think of other issues that could use that same coordinated, determined approach by our members for addressing concerns to our members? The issue can be one that affects us Local-wide or one that is specific to your fellow members in your work area or job class. Please send your ideas, suggestions, thoughts, brainstorms to me - either via e-mail or interoffice mail, HSB 8, mail code (880). I look forward to hearing from you.