From the Desk of the President (February, 2011)


ANNOUNCEMENTS: February 2, 2011 General Assembly events:  

1. 1st request for nominations for officers (see the related article on the previous page from our Nominations Chair, LaQuita Williams). The second and final request for nominations will be held at the March 2, 2011 meeting.

2. Election of delegates to the March 22, 2011 AFSCME Council 5 Day on the Hill at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in St Paul and at the State Capitol. The local has approved paying one day lost time, mileage, parking and the registration cost for up to 34 members to attend this year. I know that this might present a conflict for you as the MSSA conference is scheduled for March 21 - 24, 2011 and many of you plan to attend that event.  

This is my sales pitch for the importance of attending Day on the Hill. This is about the being part of the solution to the fix that we are in, not part of the problem. This is about having a voice in keeping funding in place for the work that we do. This is about preserving our pension so we have something to look forward to when we retire. This will only happen if you are willing to join us and stand up for all of us. Meeting your Senator and Representative, regardless of their political affiliation, gives you a personal working relationship with them. You have the ability to meet with them, let them know what services you provide to the community, the difference those services have made to your clients, how those services are funded and the impact that a loss in funding would have on your ability to continue providing the quality and level of services now in place. You do this with other members who live in your legislative district so you are not alone. We are facing an extremely difficult legislative session with Republican majorities in both the Minnesota House and Senate and a Democrat in the Governor's office. To illustrate this, a bill was introduced on January 19th to cut state government by 5000 state employee positions by reducing the ranks of state workers and payroll costs 15 percent by 2015, through layoffs, early retirements, furloughs, wage and hiring freezes and pension restructuring. This is the uphill battle we face, as cuts in services at the state level means cuts in services at every level of government. As you well know, the work we do daily provides the safety net for our communities.

3. Opportunity for eight of our members to attend the Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship Dinner and Silent Auction to be held Thursday, March 24, 2011 at the Prom Center in Oakdale. This dinner is held to recognize the scholarship winners and to hear from them about their goals. We will elect those eight attendees at the GA. The meeting is held at 5:30 PM in HSB 110, 525 Portland Ave, Minneapolis - the corner of Portland Ave. and 6th St. There are parking at meters on the street and in several ramps across the street. If you are interested in putting your name forward for Day on the Hill or the Nellie Stone Johnson dinner and cannot attend the February GA meeting, please send me an e-mail by 12:00 noon of that day.  

Holiday Pay

We have had an ongoing concern about how our members working in three areas, COPE, CBFR and Child's Crisis, have been paid for working on holidays. These areas are mandated to have coverage year round, so members are required to work on holidays and are entitled to the holiday premium under the terms of our contract - see Article 10, Sections 1, 2 and 3. With the advent of APEX, some were given the holiday premium if they were assigned to work the actual holiday, and others were given the holiday premium if they were assigned to work the day the County observed the holiday. This was causing frustration on the part of our members, as there was a lack of consistency. We received a clear-cut response from Human Resources noting that none of the three areas are designated as 24 x 7, so the employees will receive holiday premium if they are assigned to work the observed holiday, not the legal holiday. What this means is that when a legal holiday falls on a Saturday, and the County observes that holiday on the preceding Friday, the employee who is assigned to work on Friday will receive the holiday premium pay and the employee who is assigned to work on Saturday will not. (Please note that if you work in ROWE and you choose to work on an observed holiday as part of your work week, you do not qualify for premium pay - only the regular hours worked.)

New Employee Orientation

Under the terms of our current contract, AFSCME has the right to meet with new employees on their first day of employment. We meet with them immediately following their County orientation with Human Resources to give them a Welcome packet with information about AFSCME, what a union is, which bargaining unit they are in and answer any questions they might have about our union. We provide a light lunch as this is their lunch break between meeting with Human Resources and reporting to their place of employment. This first contact with our new coworkers is very important as, once they get to their job, they are inundated with unit rules, training for their jobs, etc. Many new employees go to work sites with only one or two coworkers. Some work from their homes. This presentation takes about an hour from beginning to end. We try to have presenters from at least two different locals at each orientation. Now that we are into our second year, we realize that it would be helpful to have a pool of members from each local in case a scheduled presenter is unable to make the meeting. We are looking for people who like to meet new people, who are interested in talking about the union and willing to spend an hour or so four to six times a year to greet new employees. The orientation is held the first Monday of each payroll period (unless that is a holiday and then it is the first Tuesday) from approximately 11:45 AM - 12:45 PM for getting the packets, accepting the food from the delivery person and doing the presentation. It is fun and fulfilling. If this is something you think that you would enjoy doing or would like more information, please contact me or Wes Volkenant. We look forward to hearing from you.  

Mail Order Prescriptions

I was able to test out ordering of my prescription with the new mail order company, WellDyneRx, which contracts for this service with Navitus, the new pharmacy provider. As we are encouraged to do, I submitted my request for the three month supply for the cost of two months. I received the three month supply along with a letter that, for future reference, they are only able to provide the prescription at the rate the doctor wrote on the original prescription. In other words, since my doctor wrote the prescription as a monthly amount, they will only be able to fill it at a monthly amount.  

They did note that they could contact your medical provider to get a revised prescription for the three month supply. However, the best practice would be to explain to your doctor that you will be using the mail order pharmacy to achieve the cost savings of three months for the price of two and ask them to write the prescription in such a fashion that WellDyneRx can fill it on a three month basis. Some suggested wording was the monthly prescription amount with an okay to have it filled 4 times a year for three months at a time. If the doctor is not comfortable with that, they can ask that WellDyneRx contact them when they receive the prescription to clarify how it is to be filled. It appears that the mail order firm used by HealthPartners had this process in place so we received seamless service without knowing it. If you have questions or experience an issue with getting your prescription filled via the mail order process, please let me or Vicki Moore know.  

Master Negotiations Committee

Our contract expires on December 31, 2011 so we are looking at the start of the negotiations process. The first step is for members of the six AFSCME locals - 34, 552, 1719, 2822, 2864 and 2938 - to meet and discuss how we want to proceed. That group is called the Master Negotiations Committee and our first meeting is set for Thursday, February 24th, from 5:30 - 7:00 PM in the Government Center Auditorium. I am looking for members interested in serving on this large group to help formulate our plan for the remainder of the year. We will discuss the terms of our current contract, decide how to survey our members on their ideas and suggestions, work on all of the ideas and craft a proposal. This group also assists the members of the Hennepin County Policy Committee is working on the plan we develop - be it attending meetings in the community to talk about the work we do, meet with our legislators, write letters to our respective newspapers. In order to serve on the local's Table Team, you must have been part of the larger group. Please let me know if you are able to join us on the Master Negotiations Committee as we move forward this year.  

If this all sounds like a lot of change, it is. That reminds me of a quote from John F. Kennedy, “The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is certain or unchangeable.” I look forward to making good changes for all of us.