From the Desk of the President (July, 2003)

Announcement

Nancy Fleming-Norton, our current Recording Secretary, has announced her resignation from this post effective July 31, 2003. The Executive Board sadly has accepted that resignation.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for her many years of service to AFSCME Local 34.  She has been a leader—often  feisty, never quiet—in  making sure that the rights of our members are protected under our contract. 

Nancy’s leaving means that the Executive Board will hold a special election at the July 16th meeting to fill that position.  Anyone interested in running for the office of Recording Secretary should contact me by no later than noon on Monday, July 14, 2003, to put your name on the ballot.

I can be reached at 348-0266. 

Legislative Session

The weather is getting hot but it is nothing to match the fire that needs to be lit under our Legislators. The debacle called the 2003 Legislative Session did not harm us as much as it could have, but it certainly is not going to help us.  Upon reading some of the bills that passed, it appears that cut and slash was the game plan, much to the detriment of our clients and many of our fellow taxpayers.  They cut programs to help those in need and touted a tax cut program while giving the actual tax cuts to the wealthy.  According to their figures, someone like me might see a tax cut of about $30.00 per month, which, while not a poke in the eye, is not going to make a difference in my annual budget.  At the Federal level, the Administration would like to give an additional $726.00 billion in tax cuts to the wealthy, yet  we have lost  2.5 million private-sector jobs between January 2001 and February 2003.  I remember comments from some of our legislators that they were justified in cutting public sector jobs as those employees who lost their jobs could get jobs in the private sector.  That raises an interesting question - where are those jobs? 

And another question that needs to be answered - if 40% of our State's budget comes from income taxes, what affect will the tax cuts that Governor Pawlenty and his cohorts put forward have on the budget in the years to come? Common sense dictates that if the source of income is cut, the budget will be adversely affected but that is not what we are being told.  Also, with 40% of the State's income coming from sales taxes, the loss of jobs most certainly has to have an affect on the State as we have fewer people working meaning less money being spent to bring in state and local tax income streams.  Math was not my strong suit during grade school, but even I can see that less money coming in means that we will have less money available to provide the services our citizens are used to and expect to receive. 

We, along with other concerned Union members and public interest groups, managed to fight off the attempt to cut our right to collective bargaining under PELRA (Public Employee Labor Rights Act) and to freeze public employee wages.  Most of the thanks for this goes to the State Senate and to those of our friends in the House who fought a valiant fight to stop the efforts there.  However, the pressure that we collectively put on our friends and non-friends must continue between now and the next session.  If we let up now, we will lose our momentum.  So, when you receive a notice of a Take Back Minnesota Town Hall meeting, please attend as our ability to influence our friends really does start with this grassroots effort. You will get to meet not only your fellow Local 34 members but many other union members from your legislative Districts.  Visit the website, www.afscmemn.org to see when the next meeting is planned for our area.  The beginning to putting those who voted against us this past spring out of office starts now!

Negotiation update

The Local 34 Master Negotiations Committee has completed its work, meeting with Master Negotiations Committees from the other eight Hennepin County AFSCME Locals.  We spent a number of intense hours bringing forward, discussing, and determining which items on our “wish lists” would make the cut for our general proposal for negotiations this year.  Our last session on June 12th went from 5:30 PM to just after 9:00 PM.  The hard work of our Committee members will hopefully bear fruit when we meet with Management this fall.  The Table Team members will be approved at the July General Assembly so their names will be reported in the August newsletter.  The Table Team will have a training on July 31st at the Council 14 office to go over the finer points of negotiating successfully.  Look for more information as we get closer to our first session with the Employer, in August.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July - celebrate your independence!

Jean