From the Desk of the President (January, 2012)


Stop Giving Your Time to the Employer!!!

Too many of us have been working "off the clock" - over 40 hours in a week for non-exempt employees or over 80 hours in a pay period for exempt employees - without being properly compensated by the Employer. That has got to stop. Way too many of you have come to me complaining about having too much work to do and not enough hours in week in which to get it completed. You have stated that you are afraid that if you take a vacation or have to use sick leave, you will end up getting a warning from your supervisor about not meeting standards. You have told me that you will put in more time just to get the work done so clients get services they need or so that you do not get "dinged" because you had to take your child to the doctor, you had a funeral, etc., and did not meet the "numbers". You are told to stop spending so much time with clients - move them on - get the work done, so you can take another case. Our clients are not widgets, they are not numbers. They are real people.

We have contract language - see Article 9 - Work Schedule/Premium Pay, Sections 4 and 5. If you are a non-exempt employee and you are working past the 40 hour mark in a week, stop doing that unless your supervisor has approved overtime. If you are an exempt employee and work past 80 hours in a pay period, stop doing that unless your supervisor has approved compensatory time. That means for those of you who work at Century Plaza, if it is the end of the week for you, and a client walks in at 4:45 PM and seeing that client means you’ll go past the 40 hour mark for the week, you are done for the week, unless your supervisor is willing to give you overtime. Walk away from the desk, and ask another worker who is still under the 40 hours, to see the client, or tell the client they will have to come back the following week. For Social Workers, if you have al-ready put your 80 hours in (including the time you spend on time reporting), that is it for the pay period - even if it is Wednesday. If you have court scheduled, your supervisor will be responsible for finding someone to cover the hearing - unless they are willing to approve the comp time for you. We all want t o do our jobs and do them well. How-ever, if there are not enough of us to do the work and our client numbers grow, something has to give and it should not be our physical or emotional health and well-being.

What if clients complain if you are not able to get the work completed in a timely manner? Give them the names and numbers of the Hennepin County Commissioners and suggest they call them. The Commissioners tell us that they are not hearing from anyone about lack of ser-vices or delays. Perhaps it is time that they did hear from people.

This is the list of Commissioners and their numbers:

1st District, Mike Opat, 612-348-7881 (he is also current Chair of the Board)

2nd District, Mark Stenglein, 612-348-7882

3rd District, Gail Dorfman, 612-348-7883

4th District, Peter McLaughlin, 612-348-7884

 5th District, Randy Johnson, 612-348-7885

6th District, Jan Callison, 612-348-7886

7th District, Jeff Johnson, 612-348-7887

Make as many copies of this list as needed. Keep them in your pocket - post them on bulletin boards - support your coworkers when they are at the point of going over the 40 hours in a week or 80 hours in a pay period. This is about our health and well being, our ability to do our jobs well.

None of this is meant to suggest that we misuse ROWE and our flexibility to schedule our work. This is meant to address the issue of those of us who have legitimately worked our hours and are required to keep working - or have such high case loads that we cannot possibly get it done. What it means is that if the Employer is asking for time reporting to be completed within 48 hours and the state or federal standard is 72 hours, that we follow that standard. What it means is that the Employer stop changing the average caseload to reflect how many cases we have divided by how many workers we have, and instead, look at what the acceptable limits should be. We did not take these jobs to do "just good enough", we took them to do our work well - to provide quality services to our clients - to spend the time necessary to talk to them and find out what their needs are.  

What I am trying to say here, folks, is that we have to stop giving away our time. The Employer will never, ever find more staff if we keep taking on the work from vacated caseloads and try to do that work in addition to what we are already doing. For me the final straw was hearing the response from a manager when asked what will happen to the work from the 32.5 FTE's in HSPHD that will not be filled in 2012 as employees leave. The response, delivered in a matter of fact tone, was, "The work will be dispersed to other workers." And, just like that, we knew that our folks would not see relief - instead would get more work added to the already impossible workloads in place.  

In closing, if the Employer wants us to continue doing the impossible with no further resources, then they will need to pay us overtime or compensatory time according to the terms of our contract.