The beginning of the year is traditionally a time to reflect on the past year and make plans for the new year.  As I reflect on the past year, I cannot help but think of the loss of several good labor friends to Local 34.  Tom Scaglia was one of my union mentors who taught me how to be proactively involved in the both the Union and my job.  He remained one of my "check it out" folks long after he left our ranks to become a supervisor and I will miss his words of wisdom and wit.  The loss of Senator Paul Wellstone was not only felt here but across the country as he truly was a man for those who had no voice, a person who knew what labor is about and one of our best friends in politics.

Last year saw massive changes in the way many of you are doing your work.  Financial Workers have become Human Service Representatives as the Adults, Elderly and Disabled, and Families Divisions converted to the new HSR Design, forming new teams and revamping client service.  Enforcement workers in Child Support experienced their Redesign as cases were transferred and new work groups formed in order  to provide better service to clients.  Children, Family and Adult Services saw changes with the advent of the Matrix system. 

We are finding that these changes not only affect those workers directly involved in doing the work but also other workers throughout the County who need information about those cases in order to do their jobs.  This will be an ongoing lesson in community as many of us learn just how much interaction there truly is in the work that we do.  Perhaps this will also be an opportunity for improvement as it is this interaction with not only members of our local but other locals which has shown the need for us to sit down and talk about how the work we do and how we are viewed by Management has an affect on the global membership.  We have joint Meet & Confers in Economic Assistance and Children, Family and Adult Services.  This should probably expand to other areas such as Corrections so that those concerns that are common to all locals can be addressed jointly. In unity there is strength!

The Budget is going to be one of the major topics of discussion this year.  In the bi-monthly Presidents' meeting with County Administrator, Sandy Vargas, Ms. Vargas gave us the most recent information that she had on the situation.  The State's budget is funded 40% from income taxes and 40% from sales taxes and, since the economy has been slow, that source of income will be slow and this will have a direct impact on the ability of the Legislature to address the budget shortfall.  The County is addressing the 2003 budget by continuing to hold higher vacancy rates, looking at contracted services, reviewing travel costs and holding down furniture/equipments costs as a beginning.  Ms. Vargas did not sugar coat the fact that we will all see the fallout from the cuts in state and federal aid.  I appreciated her candor although I wish the news had not been so grim.

So, what do I see as goals for Local 34 in the coming year?  One thing that I would like to see happen is the development of an Officer Manual listing datelines and deadlines for our work.  The importance of this was brought to our attention as we realized that most of what we do is handed down orally so that we may not always meet those deadlines.  The benefit of having such a written document is that the work of the Local could always continue to be done timely in the absence of an officer without having to scramble to determine what that work is.   Another goal would be to get our Local's office in order.  We have boxes of papers spanning the past 20 some years of our history that needs to be sorted through.  Some of it can be tossed but most of those papers contain our history and should be bound so that we have it for future members' reference.   We need to work at identifying our issues for the contract negotiations.  Anyone who is interested in serving on the Master Negotiations Committee is welcome.  Please give me a call or send me an e-mail to indicate your interest.  Our goal is to have as wide a variety of job class representation as possible on the committee so that we can have a quality product for presentation to our sisters and brothers of the other Locals.  Let me know what you see for the coming year.  I welcome your comments.

Happy New Year!