From the Desk of the President (July, 2008)

Well look who sent us her monthly column – President Jean – who’s returning to work around June 23rd, and will be back in charge of the Local for its July GA and E-Board meetings!  Welcome back, Madame President!


Thank you very much for the gorgeous peace lily and get well card sent to me from the Local after my May 13th surgery.  It has brightened my room and been a constant reminder of what a wonderful group of people you are and how lucky I am to work with you.  Also, thanks so much for your e-mails and cards over the past six weeks.  They made the time pass by more quickly.


A new seniority report has been posted on the Labor Relations web site and will also be posted on our Local 34 web site. Please take time to review this updated list to make sure your seniority date is correct.  If you feel that the date is incorrect, send me an e-mail with your name, job class, date on the list, why you think the date is wrong, and what you think your correct date should be.  It is very important that you get that information to me by no later than Friday, July 11th, as we have just a 30 day time frame to submit any requests for corrections to Labor Relations.  We will need time to compile a list for possible corrections to give to them by that deadline, July 18, 2008.


As you are aware from previous reports, the County Departments are working on their proposals for the 2009 budget and should have them submitted to the County Administrator, Richard Johnson, by this time.  It is going to be a tough year for us - not only as employees but also as taxpayers and constituents - as we look at the cuts in funding from Targeted Case Management (TCM) and Child Support reimbursement as well as the property tax levy limits imposed by the recent state legislation.  There are some exceptions in that legislation, so our Council 5 staff will be helping us to review them to see what impact they will have on our ability to lessen the budget cuts.   I attended one of the Children’s Redesign presentations.  The changes in this proposal, cutting of FTE’s (full time equivalencies) and shifting of staff, are the first of many changes we will see proposed over the course of the year as other areas in the Human Services and Public Health Department (HSPHD) review the work we do.  I commend our members who worked on the Children’s Redesign workgroup.  You were faced with a thankless task of trying to determine how to keep our core values and mission in place while having to propose cutting program and work we have valued in our service to the community.  You are our leaders as your work will be repeated many times as the other areas face similar decisions - what do we need to continue doing based on mandates and what should we look at no longer doing in order to deal with the funding cuts. One of the topics many of you have raised in our conversations is that of the contracted vendors and their impact on the annual budget.  Traditionally, contracts comprise about 50% of the HSPHD budget and we comprise the other 50%.  I did ask the question about what impact the changes in the Children’s Redesign would have on those contracts, and the response was that there would be proportional cuts in the vendor contracts so that the work we do will not bear the full brunt of the cuts.  That being said, you know full well that the vendors will apply pressure on the County Board to reinstate the proposed cuts to their programs.  Each of us needs to be responsible for watching the public hearings when the Board hears from the vendors.  We will need to be a presence at the hearings to let the Commissioners know how important it is to maintain that balance between vendors and employees.  It will take all of us to accomplish this task.


That State AFL-CIO Convention is slated to be held September 14-16, 2008 in Duluth.  The AFSCME Council 5 Convention is slated to be held at the Bloomington Sheraton September 25 - 27, 2008.   We will elect delegates to both events at the August 6, 2008 General Assembly. The Local will send up to seven to Duluth and up to 34 to the Council 5 Convention.  Expenses, such as mileage, per diems, lodging in Duluth, and lost time will be covered.  If you are interested in putting your name forward for either or both events and cannot attend the August GA, please send me an e-mail with your name and event/events you wish to attend by no later than noon on Wednesday, August 6th.  Your name will be included for the election of delegates.


The Labor/Management Health Care Committee received information about our 2007 experience with HealthPartners.  In all the facts and figures presented, one item stood out. HealthPartners received more money in premiums last year than we what we cost for our health needs.  We will explore the reasons why as those expressed were not clear.  Does this mean that we are practicing healthier habits?  With more of us working at home, are we healthier because we are not exposed to as many germs?  Are some of us just not going to the doctor?  Personally, my hope is that it is because we are practicing better health habits - not only because I like you – but also because that will mean that if you are healthier, you will be around a lot longer!  We did receive an update on the Wellness Clinic on the street level of the Government Center.  Did you know that you can go there for a good number of tests and not have a co-pay, or that a nurse is in the clinic from 7:30 AM - 3:00 PM, Monday – Friday, or that you can make an appointment for that clinic via the online scheduler?  So, if you do work in - or near - the Government Center, this is a handy tool just waiting to be utilized.  Check out all the specifics on the Benefits website.

Happy 4th of July!