FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT (JULY, 2002)
That is what I have been hearing for the past several months - the budget won't let us do this and the budget won't let us do that. We can't afford to hire more staff because of the 9/11 events. The State and the Feds have cut their funding streams and we won't have the money. Well, maybe we will increase funding for this program but that will mean that we will have to cut the services in another area. Tempers are getting shorter and employees are feeling more frustrated about the pressures they are under to provide continued quality services with fewer resources and fewer bodies. It reminds me of the days when I helped my dad can vegetables each fall. We had to watch that pressure cooker closely so that it would not build up too much steam and blow the cover off the pot. I see the workplace as the pot and workers' frustrations as the steam. And the sad thing is that I do not see any easy resolution to the situation.
The Presidents of the AFSCME Locals and our Business Agents meet every other month with the County Administrator, Sandy Vargas, along with her Assistant Administrator, Richard Johnson, and the head of Labor Relations, Bill Peters. At our meeting in June, Ms. Vargas presented information on the budget situation the County is facing based in the current funding from the State and Federal legislation. It is not a pretty picture. According to their calculations, we are facing a $34 million cut for 2003. They are hopeful that we will be able to make up $13 million of that with the levy increases for next year. That leaves another $23 million that will need to be made up somehow. Each Department has been asked to look at their proposals for next year and make recommendations on how to address this deficit.
My concern, and that of many folks around here, is that the solution will be made at the expense of our members, that we will be asked to do more work with fewer bodies when so many of us already feel that we are doing the maximum amount possible now. We need to be proactive in the solution to this problem so, if you are invited to participate in the budget process for your Department or are asked to provide input , please do so as those of us who do the work are usually the ones who have the best ideas on how to do it.
The second issue that I feel the need to address is that of control. In the past year, folks asking me about "controlling my members" have approached me. This comes from a variety of sources and, in my opinion, is just not appropriate. As President of the Local, my role is that of leadership but I can find not one thing in our Local's Constitution, which gives me the power of control. I am both appalled and dismayed that anyone would even think that I have the right to control any other individual's right to say what they think or write what they feel. I believe that is a right given to all of us in the Bill of Rights - something called Free Speech. One case in point is the article written by Sister Andrea Lennox, which appeared in last month's Banner. When this article was written, it was done with the knowledge that not all that read it would agree with message. However, did that mean she should not express an opinion based on the information she had? Should our officers and stewards not make suggestions about situations they see and possible resolutions to problems caused by those situations? I strongly believe that it is our job – no, our duty—to say what we mean when we are representing our members. So, rest assured that I will not seek to control anyone. If I disagree with what is said, I will take responsibility for making that clear to the person making a statement, but I will never abrogate their right to say it.
I look forward to continuing to hear from you about your concerns and views.
Thank you, Jean