From the Desk of the President (January / February, 2008)

Announcements:

                     New Chief Steward – Cathy Cowden joins Clifford Robinson in handling chief steward duties.

                     New Trustee – Osman Aweis will fill out the term which expires at the end of April 2008.  He joins Jim Evans and Audie Lussier as our Trustees.

                     New Good & Welfare member – Marcia Dietz will join Lisa Durkot and Cathy Cowden in handling Good & Welfare requests for the Local.

                     Nominations Chair – Deanna DeLoach will be in charge of taking nominations at the February and March 2008 General Assembly meetings.  If you are interested in putting your name forward for any office, please contact her.  You should have received a letter regarding the nominations and elections procedure for this year.  

                     Please join me in thanking Cathy, Osman, Marcia and Deanna for stepping forward to participate in Local 34 activities on our behalf. 

                    Thank you to Commissioner Peter McLaughlin for attending the Local 34 sponsored viewing of the Michael Moore movie, “SiCKO”, on November 3, 2007. All of the Commissioners were invited to attend.  We received regrets from Commissioner Randy Johnson as he was moving that day.   

                    Congratulations to Kela Williams and Aboubker Ouassaddine who were the leaders in our efforts in contacting fair share fee payers to discuss union issues and benefits and inviting them to join us as members by signing the dues authorization cards.  Due to their hard work, as well as the hard work of other officers, stewards and activists, we were able to reach out to over 200 folks in our bargaining unit with new card signed by close to 120 new members. Barb Harrison, Ester Killion, Miguel Salazar, Shawnice Watson, Laurie Simon, Robert Velez, and Joe Weston are some of the other leaders. Katie Farber and Vern Wagner deserve a huge thank you for their efforts in coordinating the organizing drive, getting information out to the activists, planning site visits, arranging for food for informational meetings, meeting with stewards and activists to devise strategies for different work sites. Local 34 was recognized for their efforts at the December 2008 Council 5 Executive Board meeting as part of Metro Area Director, Jerry Serfling‘s, report.  He said that the work, summarized in a report from Katie and Vern, will be shared with other locals as they begin their organizing drives. Hats off to both Katie and Vern!! 

                    Elections for representatives from the local to attend the Council 5 Affordable Heath Care Conference February 22-23, 2008 will be held at the February 6, 2008 General Assembly.  The Council 5 Executive Board has made addressing health care one of the top priorities for our members and this conference is a step in that direction.  The conference will provide tools for us to frame our concerns, assist us in crafting a message and obtain tools to help us speak about the issue.  We will participate in an electronic town meeting as part of the conference.   

                     The average Minnesotan pays 32 % of their income for family coverage or 11% for single coverage, we need to be part of the solution to the problem.  Health insurance was one of the most time intensive portion of our past negotiations discussions – both amongst ourselves and with the Employer. Both sides had to make concessions in order to arrive at the benefit set in our 2008 – 2009 contract.  Inasmuch as the rates were reduced for an employee with children in an effort to make the coverage more affordable to employees at the lower end of the pay scales, we still have members who cannot afford to pay those premiums and who either do not have coverage or qualify for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare for their children – or do not have coverage at all.  This is not just our issue.  Affordable health care is an issue faced by our friends, our neighbors, our family members – people across the state and country.  We need to find a way to address the issue so that all of us will be able to access health care that – quite literally - does not cost us an arm and a leg.  Finding candidates who actually talk about this issue and are willing to talk about a plan to bring those costs down will be a key component to our success.  This conference is a good step on that path. 

                     I will be on leave from January 21, 2008 til about February 29, 2008.  In my absence, please address your questions to our Vice Presidents, Wesley Volkenant and Mary Kay Windels.   As 1st Vice President this year, Wes will chair the union meetings and be the point person for my normal union activities.   Thank you to both Wes and Mary Kay for the extra work they will take on during my absence. 

                    Jean