From the Desk of the President (June, 2012)

Next Wave contact person for Local 34 - A group of Next Wavers (members who are 35'ish and younger) met on February 25th to plan the direction of the Council's Next Wave program. One of their recommendations was that each local designate a member to be the Next Wave contact per-son for the local. The Council 5 Executive Board passed a motion in support of that recommendation. The expectation is that this member would do two main things: organize Next Wave members inside the local and be a contact person for the local to other AFSCME Council 5 Next Wave activists. The Local 34 Executive Board moved to elect/select/appoint one of our members to this position at our July 11th General Assembly. If you are interested in finding out more about the Next Wave program and the contact person duties, please give me a call at 612-348-0266 or send me an e-mail and I can give you a more complete description of what the expectations for this position will be.  

Minnesota Fair Trade Coalition - Sametta Hill has been appointed to serve as our Local 34 representative to the Steering Committee for this organization. We have been a member of the Fair Trade Coalition for about ten years but have not had an official representative until now. Please join me in thanking Sametta for her willingness to represent us on fair trade issues. You might ask why this is important to us? The simple answer is that fair trade means that workers everywhere are paid a fair wage for their labor. That would mean that taking jobs out of this country is not quite as attractive as it is when corporation can pay people pennies per day to do the work that they once paid dollars per hour to workers in the United States. If we can keep jobs here, we have a more healthy economy and that is better for all of us.  

PTO - you may have read the e-mail sent by Human Resources regarding converting from sick leave/vacation accruals to Paid Time Off (PTO). I received many calls and e-mails from members wanting to know if this meant that they HAD to convert from their current sick time/vacation accruals to the PTO program. The answer is no, you do not need to convert to PTO. We do have language in our contract that allows anyone who wishes to make that change from sick leave/vacation to PTO a one time opportunity to do so - once made, you cannot change your mind and switch back. If you have questions about the possible ramifications of making such a change, feel free to give me a call.  

AFSCME Family Picnic - the metro area AFSCME locals are once more organizing a picnic. It will be held on Sunday, July 22nd from 1:00 - 5:00 PM at Battle Creek Regional Park in Maplewood (McKnight and Upper Afton Roads). The grills will be busy again and folks are asked to bring something to share for the potluck meal. The waterpark will be open so swimming suits are recommended. Duane Gatzke is spearheading the planning committee and he is asking for volunteers. If you can help out, please call him at 651-472-2787 or send him an e-mail at kkirk77dg@comcast.net. An hour or two of your time will help to make the event fun for everyone.  

2012 Legislative Session was the worst ever - the Legislators are responsible for one state shutdown; two BAD constitutional amendments and zero progress on issues that make a difference to working folks like us. They spent too much time attacking workers rights to organize and bargain terms and conditions of our wages, health insurance and safe working conditions. They tried their hardest to force a "Right to Work For Less" amendment on the ballot but failed due to the vigilant efforts of a diverse group of constituents - labor organizations, faith groups, even employers who recognized that this would be bad for the economy. These same legislators raised our property taxes at the same time they gave corporations tax breaks. And they did nothing to create jobs - until the very end when they could see the handwriting on the wall and passed bonding and stadium bills authored by the DFL minority.  

So, what does that mean for us? It means that we need to support candidates who are willing to work with us to turn our economy around. It means that we have to ask tough questions of anyone running for office: Where so you stand in support of workers who are trying to organize? Are you willing to tax the rich in order to raise revenue for public services? Will you restore state aid to local governments? We will be screening candidates over the course of the summer. If you are interested in attending those screenings, please let me know. I can let you know when the screenings for candidates where you live are taking place.  

I recently attended a class titled "Thinking Differently about Diversity - Valuing the Human Kaleidoscope". The presenter, Leslie Shore, introduced a new dynamic to the concept of diversity - that it is not just about race, gender, creed or sexual preference. Diversity encompasses everything about us and helps to strengthen our communities. At the beginning of the session she asked why we decided to attend the class. My answer was that the use of the word, kaleidoscope, in the title intrigued me. When you think about what a kaleidoscope is made of, you find that you have bits and pieces of different colored glass or plastic which you view through a round tube. As you turn the tube, the colors are reflected off the mirrored surfaces of an equilateral triangle. So, when you get right down to it, if we are the bits and pieces, we are a reflection of each other. I like to think that we see the best of each other in ourselves and the best of ourselves in each other. She pointed out that we all share 99.8% of the same DNA so it is only .2% of that DNA which contributes to our differences. Imagine - only .2%! We have so much more in common with each other than we are different from each other. I also discovered that my penchant for gardening has been handed down to me from my ancestors who were farmers. We tend to preserve traditions and even though I did not grow up on a farm, up until my parents, our family farmed and I love gardening which is a form of farming. So, maybe when all is said and done, in light of our union activism, a few generations down the line we will have union activists looking back at us as the basis for their traditions. That would be okay with me!  

If you are on Facebook, please take time to check out the new Council 5 Facebook page and "Like" it. The plan is to update the page with information and events that are important to us, our work and our lives. We also have a Local 34 Facebook page so visit that one, too, for Local 34 information. June will bring us summer and the beginning of vacation season.  

Enjoy! Jean