From the Desk of the President (June, 2009)

ANNOUNCEMENTS: Local 34 will hold an election at the June 3, 2009 General Assembly of up to 7 delegates to attend the July 10-12, 2009 International Labour Council conference held at the Bloomington Sheraton. Since all events are held after work on Friday, July 10 and then on Saturday and Sunday, July 11-12, 2009, the only expense reimbursed will be mileage. The Local will cover the cost of registration for the delegates. Anyone interested in putting their name forward for this event should contact me by no later than 12:00 noon on Wednesday, June 3, 2009.

We received the sad news that our former Vice President, Mary Kay Windels, lost her mother, Catherine Windels, on April 30, 2009. Mary Kay asked me to share with you that her mother's passing was peaceful and that she appreciates all the kind words of support and sympathy.

Andrea Lazo-Rice, Angel Alexander, Chalmers Davis, Clifford Robinson, Ibrahim Adam, Jacqueline Coleman, Kathleen Farber, Patrick Regan and I were the members of the Local 34 Executive Board who attend the Council 5/International sponsored Local Union Leadership Academy (LULA) training held in Mankato on May 4-5, 2009. We spent time exchanging ideas with members of Local 306 from Dakota County and Local 607 from DHS - Faribault – finding out how they handled tasks that we all have in common. Some of the topics we discussed were ones we had covered in previous trainings while others were new to me. The time was certainly well spent, as we developed an action plan to map our Local and a phone/e-mail tree for future actions. The Executive Board will flesh out the plan at our May and June meetings and bring information to the General Assembly for feedback/discussion.

Master Negotiations Committee: The following members have been appointed to our Local 34 Master Negotiations Committee: Andrea Lazo-Rice, Cathy Cowden, Chalmers Davis, Clifford Robinson, Ester Killion, Fatuma Kassim, Halima Said, Jacquelin Poole, Jacqueline Coleman, Jean Diederich, John Herzog, Kela Williams (she has since withdrawn from the appointment), Laurie Simon, Patrick Regan, Paul Madison, Shawnice Reid, Vicki Moore, and Wes Volkenant. These folks will represent you at the future Master Negotiations Committee meetings - those held to develop the contract proposal and those held after to review any tentative agreement. We had our first meeting on May 12, 2009, with the next one scheduled for June 2, 2009. A subcommittee has been appointed to develop a survey to, hopefully, be sent out via computer using the Survey Monkey tool.

The survey will ask for your feedback on this year’s process and we do appreciate your response as that will help to determine how we proceed.

Voluntary Special Leave Without Pay: The AFSCME Presidents met with all but one of the Commissioners prior to the Board meeting on Tuesday to let them know that we were not in favor of a mandatory furlough program. We did ask that, if they were determined to do something, they offer employees the choice to use Special Leave Without Pay on a voluntary basis to meet the $4.5 million goal. As you can tell from the resolution passed, we had some success in that the program is voluntary - for now. Hopefully, employees will volunteer enough time so that it will not become a mandatory furlough situation. The time can be used in whatever fashion best suits each employee. Some folks have told me they plan to take a day every month while others have said they will take 2-3 hours every pay period. Whatever each person decides, it can be stretched out over the course of the year.

As for the 32 hours - interestingly enough, Peter McLaughlin took a page from our negotiations process and said we should ask for more than what we need in the hopes of getting what is needed. His amendment was to ask for 4 days - 32 hours - in the hopes of achieving the 3 days - 24 hours goal that Richard Johnson said is needed to get to the $4.5 million savings. Sometimes the lessons we teach are learned just a little too well.... There is a review date of July 1, 2009 to see if the requests for the time submitted by employees will achieve the goal of $4.5 million. If that goal is not achieved, the Board would then revisit the matter of a mandatory furlough. The resolution was further amended to have a report made to the Board on how the program will be implemented and how leave requests will be handled. The intent of the program is to ask employees to make a commitment to the number of hours they want to volunteer. Employees will have til the end of the year to take the SLWOP. Please read the May 13, 2009 memo from Richard Johnson for all the specifics of the plan and how to submit any hours you plan to use.

When we were meeting with the Commissioners, we had conversations about some of the concerns we had about this program and the impact it would have on the timeliness of our work, on how it would affect time reporting which is the basis for reimbursements for our programs, and how the time would be managed along with existing sick leave and vacation requests. If you have feedback on those issues or have others that are of concern to you, please let me know so that we can find the answers.

Override, Override, Override: Angel Alexander, Vern Wagner, Vicki Moore and I participated in a May 17, 2009 rally at the Capitol to encourage an override of the Governor's veto of the tax bill. We joined many of our fellow Council 5 members in forming a gauntlet that the House representatives walked through to go into the House chambers. Many of our legislative friends stopped to talk to us, thanking us for our presence and encouraging us to keep the pressure on their cohorts to override the veto. They also asked us to ask our neighbors and friends to do the same. Russ Scheidler, our AFSCME poet laureate, composed a song titled "King Tim of Minnesota" for the occasion. The video of Russ and the AFSCME Chorus singing the song may come to YouTube soon! (see page 9 of the newsletter)

As I write this, the override vote on May 17th failed and the budget is not balanced. It will be interesting to see what happens between now and the time you read this article. As always, we public employees from all sectors of government will continue to carry on with our work in spite of any roadblocks and barriers. It would be nice if the laws passed would enable us to provide quality and timely service.

As we head into the summer months filled with picnics, gardens, yard work, and other outdoor activities, remember to take time to enjoy the sun and take time for yourself. We all need to keep replenishing our mental health batteries!

Jean