From the Desk of the President (February, 2017)



Please note that our Nominations Chair, Jody Stadler, will hold take nominations for the 2nd and final time at the March 1, 2017 General Assembly. Please see her article for all the details. If you are interested in putting your name forward for any of the open positions, please contact her.

New Chief Steward - due to resignation of both Kela Williams and Tywanna Gray as Chief Stewards due to promotions to supervisors, a special elections was held at the January 18, 2017 Executive Board meeting to fill the Chief Steward position vacated by Kela Williams. Brian Olson was elected and will serve out that term of office which ends April 30, 2018. Mara Ssengendo has been serving as Acting Chief Steward for Tywanna Gray as she was in an acting supervisor position. Since Tywanna's term of office ends April 30, 2017, the membership moved to have Mara continue to serve as Chief Steward. Congratulations and thank you to both Kela and Tywanna for their hard work as our Chief Stewards. Their efforts helped many of our members as they dealt with grievances and other work issues. Thank you to Mara for being willing to step up to the plate and serve in the interim as Chief Steward. She worked closely with Kela and Michael LaCoste, our Council 5 Field Representative, as she learned the ropes. Her efforts have helped to provide the seamless service that we pride our local in providing when our members are in need. Congratulations to Brian on his election. He and Mara have already been found a rhythm to the Chief Steward duties and are continuing that seamless service. Our membership is very lucky.  

Recording Secretary - Miguel Salazar submitted his resignation as Recording Secretary effective December 2016. He had been in an acting supervisor position so Christina Eichorn had been filling in for him as the Acting Recording Secretary. Since Miguel's term of office ends April 30, 2017, the membership moved to have Christina continue as Acting Recording Secretary. Thank you to Miguel for his work on behalf of our local's members and thank you to Christina for taking the fabulous notes at our General Assembly and Executive Board meetings. Again, we are so lucky to have members willing to do this work.  

Appointments for Elections – Jody Stadler was appointed as our Nominations Chair for the 2017 Officer Elections and Alex Erickson was appointed as out Elections Chair for those Elections. Jody has already completed her first round of nominations at the February 1, 2017 General Assembly and will complete them at the March 1, 2017 General Assembly. She will then hand off any contested races to Alex to process for elections.  

Appointment of Dental Trustee – the membership approved the appointment of Alex Erickson as our Local 34 Dental Trustee for the Council 5 Dental Trust. He joins representatives from Locals 1719, 2822, 977, 2474 and Council 5 to oversee the nuts & bolts of our self-insured dental program. Thank you to Doug Graham for serving in this position and thank you to Alex for taking it on. We all appreciate your work to help us keep our dental health in good shape.  

Employee Engagement Team - Christina Eichorn’s appointment to serve as the union representative to this County committee was approved by the membership. She will work with Hennepin County employees from various work areas on issues that affect employees. Jan Berry is the team leader for this group. Christina replaces our former Chief Steward, Dana Hanson. Thank you to Christina for her willingness to be a part of this process. Her ability to see the big picture as well as the minute details will serve the county well.  

January 10, 2017 Quarterly Steward Training - I facilitated this training as Chief Steward Mara Ssengendo was on a well-earned vacation with her family. Even though the weather was nasty with icy snow for the drive in, the majority of our stewards and officers were able to make it to the training. The officers were asked to attend as the topic for the training was the grievance from beginning to end. We felt that it was important for all of us to have this information as we all are asked questions by our members. We also fill in when our stewards are working with other members. Erica Kantola and Joe Broge, Council 5 Field Representatives, started the day with a dissection of the grievance process. They picked it apart and went over the fine details with handouts for clarification. This was a "nuts & bolts" presentation with all the questions our stewards had about why, when, how, etc., answered. After a break for lunch, we finished up the work on what constitutes a grievance and the timelines that need to be met. Then we broke into small groups to work on the various parts of the process starting with coaching as a useful method to address issues before they become a problem to an investigatory meeting to disciplinary action to filing a grievance all the way to arbitration. We visited Loudermill hearings, mediation and the role of the Council 5 Arbitration Review Team along the way. Then each group did a small skit beginning with what coaching should look like and following the progressive process. You do need to know that your stewards and officers are quite the hams! Each group built on the situation from the previous group so, by the time we got to the end, the product was nicely polished. I am confident that our folks learned a lot from this training. Thank you so much to Erica and Joe for breaking the information down so that we understood it and helping us learn how to better represent our members. And thank you to everyone who braved the weather during morning rush hour to get there.  

Day on the Hill - the AFSCME Council 5 Day on the Hill will be held on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 at the River Centre and State Capitol in St. Paul. The membership voted to send up to 50 members. We reached that goal so a motion was approved to add an additional 25 spots for a total of 75 members to attend this event. At the time of writing this article we do have spots open so, if interested, please contact me. The local voted to cover one day lost time, round trip mileage, parking and the cost of registration for our members who are elected/ appointed to attend. This is our opportunity to join with fellow AFSCME members from around the state to raise our collective voices as we meet with our state Representatives and Senators. We have a list of issues that cut across the lines of work that we, as public and non-profit workers, do on a daily basis. Make no mistake, the current majority party wants to cut funding for the programs and service we provide to the residents of our cities, counties and state. They want to mess with our pensions so that we would not have that safety net for our future retirement by changing it from a defined benefit to a defined contribution. I am not sure where the mean spirited nature of their many proposals comes from but it is up to us to stop them.  

April 2017 LES Women & Femmes retreat - Elizabeth Allison, MiKayla Handley, Tamika Hannah, Elizabeth Jorgensen, Watchen Marshall and Ali Marzolf were elected to attend this event. They will spend three days with other labor activists learning about issues that affect us in the workplace and in our communities and work on strategies to address those issues. We look forward to hearing their report at the May 3, 2017 General Assembly.  

Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship Dinner - Elizabeth Allison, Grace Baltich, Kenneth Garnier, Rhonda Griffin, MiKayla Handley, Kathy Kelly, Paul Madison and Mara Ssengendo were elected to attend this event on behalf of our local. The dinner celebrates those students who have received the scholarships which are open to union members of color and their dependents who attend a Minnesota university or college. A silent auction is held before the dinner and program to raise additional funds for the scholarship program. 34 has had members and dependents of members receive scholarships. Please visit our Local 34 web site as the information for the deadline for the scholarships will be posted when that deadline is announced.  

Local 34 website developer - John Herzog has announced his retirement plans from both Hennepin County and serving as our web site developer. He crafted a want ad which is included in this newsletter. First - thank you to John for all the long hours he has put into making our web site one of the "go to" sites for many union members over the years. His efforts have been held in high regard by other union news sites. Second - he is willing to talk to anyone interested in taking over this position about what it entails. I strongly encourage you to avail yourself of that opportunity if you think that this is something you might be interested in doing for the local.  

Local 34 Committee reports - one of the responsibilities of our Members-at-Large is to serve as the Chair of a standing committee for the local. We had a review at our February Executive Board meeting of the various committees and work done over the past year. This is a summation of the reports. Budget & Finance Committee - Chair, Kay Powell: the committee met several times in fall 2016 to go over the previous 2 year's budgets. She requested information from other Committee chairs regarding money spent for their activities. That information was used to develop a 2017 budget proposal which was presented to the Executive Board and the membership for approval. Constitution Committee - Chair, Christina Eichorn: no work needed as we have not had requests to amend the Local 34 Constitution or Standing Rules. Health & Safety Committee - Chair, Kenneth Garnier: reported that he has attended several meetings of the County Health & Safety group. Media Committee - Chair, Kenneth Garnier: he has met with the Newsletter Editor, Ali Marzolf, to discuss the newsletter. Kay Powell noted that she has handed off the newsletter distribution information to him. Political/PEOPLE Committee - Chair, Kenneth Garnier: no activities in 2016. President noted that he will be contacted by Council 5 asking for assistance with getting Local 34 members involved this year. Travel/Social Activities - Chairs - Angel Alexander & Andrea Lazo-Rice: they provided food for the May and December General Assembly meetings. Travel arrangements were made for the folks attending Labor Notes, Netroots Nation, the AFSCME International Convention and MN AFL-CIO convention. Also of note is the work of the Good & Welfare Committee - Amanda Abell & Leah Hicks handle the requests. They provided rough numbers for the cards and flowers sent to our members. The numbers stay relatively the same from year to year. The Committee Chair assignments will be revisited after the elections of officers this year.  

2017 has been an interesting year so far. The political climate is stormy at best. I gave the President the benefit of my doubt and, in my humble opinion, he has failed miserably. His ban on immigrants from certain countries was religious persecution - pure and simple. His statement that this was about screening for terrorists when all the terrorist acts committed in this country were not committed by people from the seven countries on the list. If his intention was to bring the people of this country together, he has achieved his goal - just not in the fashion that he had envisioned. I hear from folks from all over the political spectrum that the ban was quite possibly the least intelligent act possible. I look around our workplace and around our county - cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like without the wealth of diversity we enjoy here. Our immigrant neighbors, friends, coworkers, clients all add to richness of our lives. Please read the Council 5 statement on refugees.  

In closing I ask that you all take time to contact your legislators about issues that are important to you. They need to hear from you when you support what they do and when you do not support their actions. Also remember that we are already looking forward to the elections in 2018. Jean