From the Desk of the President (July, 2011)

 

First, thank you so much for the get well card and the beautiful floral bouquet you sent to me while I was home recovering from carpal tunnel surgery. It sat on my dining room table where I got to enjoy the gorgeous flowers every time I walked by - which was at least fifteen times a day. It is always nice to be remembered by my sisters and brothers and this was an especially nice way to do that.  

New Executive Board Member-at-Large - Miguel Salazar was elected at the June 15, 2011 Executive Board meeting to fill this two year term position vacated by Sabrina Denson. His term began immediate-ly upon his taking the oath office that even-ing and he jumped right in to the work of the local, debating a number of issues and getting educated on others. Please join me in welcoming Brother Salazar to his new position in Local 34!  

AFL-CIO Young Worker Summit - held September 29 - October 2, 2011 at the Hilton Hotel, Minneapolis MN. This event is geared towards getting younger union members (35 and under) engaged in the union movement. Workers from the unions throughout the AFL-CIO will be part of this event so you will meet with members from unions representing Letter Carriers, Steel-workers, Teachers, Laborers, Sheet metal Workers, Pipefitters, etc. The local will cover cost of the registration, two days lost time, mileage and parking for attendees. We will hold the election for this event at the July 6, 2011 General Assembly held in HSB 110 at 5:30 PM. If you are interested in putting your name forward for the election, please plan to attend the meeting or send me an e-mail expressing your interest so your name is added to the list for the election that evening.  

The July 6th General Assembly will be a shorter meeting than usual as we have been asked to participate in a Council 5 action regarding the State Shutdown at the State Capitol that evening (if the shutdown is averted, that action will not take place).

As you have read in the notice we sent to you at your home address on June 17th and the e-mails from Richard Johnson, County Administrator, any shutdown by the State will have an impact on the County's budget as so much of the funding for the programs we provide are state dollars. It is very important that we are part of the solution - contacting our State Senators and Repre-sentatives (you can do this by calling 1-855-508-6472, AFSCME's dedicated number for this purpose. You are asked for your zip code and once you enter that, you will be patched through to your legisla-tor), going to rallies, sending letters to the Editor, talking to our neighbors - so that the State Budget is set and we can get on with the business of doing the work that we do. My greatest fear is that we will see those we serve feel the pain of going without medicine, food and housing just so that the legislators can preen and posture – brag about how they shut the government down to prove a point. It is arrogant and wrong of them to do this and we need to call them on it. If you think that I sound angry, you would be right - I am very angry. If you and I did our jobs the way they have done theirs, we would have been fired long ago. My request is that you plan to attend the General Assembly and then head over to St Paul afterwards for the shutdown action. Perhaps we can car-pool over there - I have room for four more people in my vehicle and I am sure that others attending the meeting will be able to do the same.

Seniority lists - have been posted on the Labor Relations intranet site - please review it for your correct infor-mation: http://hennote1.co.hennepin.mn.us/HR/Intranet/GenlInfo.nsf/2c3c06f0ef9746f18625704a00505136/ddd6c0fd42964ba986256c61004f9e11?OpenDocument

One problem that has cropped up is that persons who were hired into a Local 34 job class, left to go to another Hennepin County position in an unor-ganized job class and then came back to a Local 34 job class might have the date they came back to the Local 34 job class as the seniority date when, in reality, it should be the date they started employment with the County. July 17th is the deadline to get any incorrect information resolved. If you find that your date is incorrect, please send me an e-mail with what you think your date should be and why. Please get this to me by no later than Friday, July 8th, in order to give me time to contact Labor Relations to review your situation. Once the deadline is reached, the dates on the list will be certified as correct and, in the event of layoffs, will be the ones used to determine the order in which folks are given a layoff notice.  

We met on June 15th to hold further discus-sions on the status of our self insured plan. So far, the claims paid are less than the monthly premiums put into the self funded insurance account. Keep in mind that claims can have a lag between the time you re-ceive the services and the claim is paid. The report we received showed that Preferred One paid over $200,000.00 in May 2011 for services provided in January 2001. That means we will not know until next year what our actual claims history is. Unfortu-nately, that means we will not have the full picture when it comes to determining any changes to the health insurance plan for 2012. A concern mentioned is that we need to be better consumers - do some shopping around for lower cost providers of services in order to help keep the overall cost of the insurance down. Possible options to achieve that goal were presented at the meeting were: the existing plan with a $15.00 Tier 1 co-pay/$30.00 Tier II co-pay; a 90/10 plan – employees would pay 10% as coinsurance for any costs incurred other than prescriptions; and an 80/20 plan - employees would pay 20% as coinsur-ance for any costs incurred other than prescriptions. The thinking is that if employees have to pay a higher % of the costs, they will get serious about finding lower cost providers so that their % stays low. The corollary to that is most likely that the employee portion of the monthly premium would be lowest for the 80/20 option and highest for the existing option. More to come on this as we get closer to negotiations….

Pharmacy costs continue to be a big part of the costs for the insurance plan. A suggestion mentioned was that folks should perhaps pay a higher share of the cost for the non-generic prescriptions that are a driver in the high costs - maybe 10-20%. This suggestion could mean that when the only option is a name brand that costs $1500.00 per 30 day supply as no generic exists or it does not work, 10% of that cost would be $150.00 and 20% would be $300.00. For those of our plan members in that situation, this would be cost prohibitive.

Wellness activities - each employee (and spouse if covered by the plan) must complete two Hennepin HealthWorks sponsored health and wellness activities between November 1, 2010 and October 31, 2011. A list of classes/activities can be found at their web site: http://www.co.hennepin.mn.us/portal/site/HennepinUS/menuitem.b1ab75471750e40fa01dfb47ccf06498/?vgnextoid=eb942bf97cacb210VgnVCM2000000a124689RCRD

If you have completed your activities and have not already done so, you should go to the Preferred One web site at and register them in order to obtain the reduced co-pays for 2012. Their web site is at: https://secure.preferredone.com/memberapps/default.asp?Site=hc  

To date, 1571 plan members have met the requirement for the 2012 incentive with 43 plan members completing 5 or more classes. Being the procrastinator that is my tendency, I am one of those folks who need to document what I have done this year.....  

So, if Jean ran the world, we would not have to worry about a potential layoff situation. We would know that the people we serve would be doing okay. So, let's all do something to make that happen and create our own display of fireworks bursting with positive actions to make our world a better place for all of us.