From the Desk of the President (June, 2003)

Announcement

The Executive Board moved to send up to 10 members to the International Labour Council Conference to be held July 11 – 13, 2003 at the Thunderbird Hotel, Bloomington, MN.  The Local will cover 1 day lost time, mileage or bus fare, and the registration cost of $50.00 per person which covers lunch each day.    Delegates will be elected at the June 4, 2003 GA meeting.  If you are interested in putting your name forward for this election and are not able to attend the GA, please contact me at 348-0266 by no later than the end of the workday, Tuesday, June 3, 2003, to indicate your interest.  Local 34 is a member organization of the Labour Council, an international organization comprised of Canadian and US labor unions dedicated to furthering the causes of unions across our borders.  Cathy Cowden attended the conference in Canada last year and would be an excellent resource for more information.

 Negotiations

Our hope to have a shortened version of negotiations for our 2004 – 2005 contract did not pan out.  We decided that we did not have enough information available to us to make wise choices for the coming year.  Most of this was predicated on the Legislature giving some insights into the direction that they would take on bills affecting how we do business.  Unfortunately, that did not happen as quickly as we had hoped for which means we will be doing negotiations as usual.  To that end, the Local 34 Master Negotiations Committee has been meeting to work on our Local specific proposal and those items that we see as being common to all members of the nine AFSCME locals in Hennepin County to bring to the joint Master Negotiations Committee meetings which will be held May 29 and June 12, 2003.  We will work on our joint proposal in preparation for the opening of this year’s negotiation session.   Keep your eyes in this newsletter for more information.

The Budget

This continues to be the hot topic of discussion at every meeting I attend. The news does not seem to have changed much over the past months.  The numbers of dollars and FTE’s fluctuate a bit but not enough to give me any hope that we will see a fix for the shortfalls any time soon.   Every Department is looking at losing staff based on the cuts they will have to make in the coming year.  We are being told that we should be okay for 2003, but 2004 will bring changes.  Part of the uncertainty at this time is that the County runs their fiscal year from January 1st through December 31st  while the State’s fiscal year is July 1st through June 30th  .

So, until the Legislature settles on a budget for the state, we do not have all the information needed for the balance of 2003.  The County Board is facing very tough choices as they work on the budget for the next year.   I suggest that you check out your Department’s Intranet site for up-to-date information about changes that may be necessary.

Milestone

I am taking an opportunity at this time to write on a point of personal privilege.

Many of you know that I was diagnosed with breast cancer and were there for me as I faced some tough choices about surgery and aftercare.  With your support, prayers and uplifting messages, as well as some very much appreciated vacation donation hours, I was able to face this challenge head-on, turning what could have been a very gloomy time of my life into one of the most positive opportunities of my life.  Little did I know when John Herzog and I dug through a contract from the state of Washington many years ago and found the prototype for our current vacation donation program that I would be a beneficiary of that program.  It took several tries in contract negotiations to get it approved but it was time well spent for all those who have used the program over the years.

This month I am celebrating five years of being cancer free – YIPPEE! Thanks to all of you who have been part of this journey with me, who offered your encouragement and broad shoulders to lean on when I needed to do that, who called to say “hey”, who covered my casework while I was working partial days, who continue to ask me how I am doing.   I have to be honest and admit there were a few times while sitting through chemotherapy that I wondered what the point of that particular exercise was but those were very short moments compared to the long-term benefits.  My hair is not quite as colorful now as it was then but that could change at any moment.  The one lesson that I continue to learn is that one must be true to oneself and one’s values.  This entire process has actually freed me to do just that.  So, thanks for all your support.  I am very glad to be here to work for you and with you and look forward to many more years of doing just that in whatever capacity is available.

I leave you with this quote from Robert Frost, which is germane to my celebration – “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”

I wish you many new paths to blaze for those who will follow us.

Jean