From the Desk of the President (February, 2012)

ANNOUNCEMENTS New Local 34 Executive Board Member-at-Large - please join me in welcoming Laura Ross as our newest Member-at-Large. She was elected at our December 21, 2011 Executive Board meeting to fill the seat vacated by Mara Hill and will complete that two year term (ends April 30, 2013). Laura is a Child Protection Social Worker and has served the local as a steward, newsletter distributor and activist. Laura's term of office began January 1, 2012. Welcome, Laura!  

Nominations for open officer seats - Please remember that we will have nominations for the open officer seats at both the February 1, 2012 and March 7, 2012 General Assembly meetings. Please refer to the notice sent to you via US mail or the Local 34 web site for a complete listing of the open offices. LaQuita Williams is our Nomi-nations Chair so any inquiries can be directed to her.  

The 2012 Council 5 Day on the Hill will be held this year on Tuesday, March 27th. The day begins at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown St Paul with workshops, a plenary session, break-outs by legislative districts and then moves to the State Capitol for a rally and meetings our respective legislators. It ends with a reception back at the Crowne Plaza hotel. Since we are still going to be dealing with the same anti-worker legislators as last year, pushing worker unfriendly bills - especially the "Right to Work (for less)" legislation under the direction of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) with the likes of Mary Kiffmeyer (read more about ALEC at http://afscmemn.org/alec-exposed) as a lead proponent in Minnesota and bankrolled by the Koch brothers, it is going to be important to have some strong voices from our Local at the Capitol that day.  

Delegates will be elected at the February 1st General Assembly.

To see the agenda and workshops, go to the Council 5 web site at http://afscmemn.org/afscme-day-hill-march-27.

Please note that you do not need to register on line as we do our full Local 34 registration.  

2012 - 2013 contract - can now be found on the Labor Relations’ web site on the County intranet: http://hennote1/intranet/publications/laborcontracts.nsf

Vacation - You Have Earned It - How About Using It?

ARTICLE 11A- VACATIONS Section 2. Full time employees shall accrue vacation benefits in accordance with the following schedule: Total Length of Service Since Most Recent Date of Hire Annual Vacation Accrual Rate Less than six (6) months 64 hours More than six (6) months but less than five (5) years 96 hours More than five (5) years but less than eight (8) years 120 hours More than eight (8) years but less than twelve (12) years 144 hours More than twelve (12) years but less than eighteen (18) years 160 hours Over eighteen (18) years 184 hours Section 3. Vacation leave shall not accumulate in excess of two hundred eighty (280) hours. The EMPLOYER shall not be responsible for managing an employee's vacation leave balance so as to ensure no loss of benefit because the balance is at or near the 280 hour limit. Correspondingly, the EM-PLOYER will not force employees to take vacation for such purpose.  

ARTICLE 11B - PAID TIME OFF (PTO) Address leave balances for those of us who chose to take PTO instead of vacation/sick leave - please refer to the contract on the Labor Relations web site for the complete list. Note that PTO hours max out at sixty (60) days or four hundred eighty (480) hours and the same proviso referenced in Section 3 above exists for managing time. Vacations - how many of us actually take more than one day at a time? How many of us plan time away from our desks - no laptop, no phone - completely and totally away from the job? No taking the laptop because we can with ROWE - leaving the work to our coworkers. I took a vacation for 18 days - from December 17, 2011 to January 4, 2012 - and it was WONDERFUL! After negotiations it was also sorely needed! When I came back to work, it was with a fresh attitude and an appreciation for that work.  

What did I do? Pretty much whatever struck my fancy. It was a stay-cation - spent time visiting friends, catching up on some reading, watched a few movies that were collecting dust on the TV stand. I was able to do what Christmas shopping I had left to do in leisure - got my Christmas cards written and mailed - Christmas gifts wrapped - and eased into the holiday celebrations feeling relaxed and rested.  

What I did not do was bring the laptop home with me. It stayed in the docking station on my desk. After 31 years with the County, I know that there is nothing that I do in my job that cannot be done by my coworkers. I also know that they can be trusted to the best job that they can do - which is pretty darn good.  

 I know that we have many folks who are stockpiling their vacation and sick leave or PTO balances to cash out as severance pay when they retire from the County or resign from their County job and that is admirable. With ROWE, we have the ability to accumulate our vacation and sick leave as we can flex our work hours so that the two hour doctor appointment or an afternoon at the zoo with our child's class does not have to cut into our accruals. It is nice to watch our balances grow while also get-ting our work done - a true win for all of us. I have heard from so many of you who have shared your stories of working while on a weekend trip with a spouse for his/her work or taking the laptop up to the cabin to work from the deck. ROWE has made life and work better for a lot of us and that is something that we want to keep improving on.  

 However, as one of my friends who is a mental health professional pointed out to me after a discussion about the different kinds of leaves employers offer around the Twin Cities, we cannot waste our health today for the possibility of a material gain years from now. She noted that there is a fine balance between saving for the future and taking care of our physical, mental and emotional health and well-being today. We need to be healthy now and all along the way in order to reach our goal of retirement while maintaining that health. The most telling comment she made was that so many times she sees folks who could easily address some of their health issues by taking time to relax, get away from their work and enjoy life. Of course she pointed out that vacations are not the panacea but could go a long way towards people being happy.  

Sometimes you have to leave work behind and actually concentrate on being in the moment with your family, your friends or your solitude. You need time to rejuvenate - relax - enjoy life away from the desk and the computer and the phone. You need time to take a deep breath and be yourself. Sometimes one day just doesn't cut it, you need to really get away for a week or more. Yes, we get 11 paid holidays over the course of the year and many of us use those days as mini-vacations. ROWE is good for a lot of us when we want to get our work done in spite of the doctor appointments and other things that pop up during the course of the week. That works for some of us but not for all of us.  

So, please, think about taking the time for you and your health. If you can take a real vacation and get away from here, do it. I highly recommend it as a tool to remaining healthy.  

"I'm not wise, but the beginning of wisdom is there; it's relaxing into -and an acceptance of - things." - Tina Turner  

 "This art of resting the mind and the power of dismissing from it all care and worry is probably one of the secrets of energy in our great men." - Captain J. A. Hadfield  

 "Take a rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop." - Ovid  

"Sometimes I sits and thinks, and some-times I just sits." - Satchel Paige  

Here is to just sitting! Jean