From the Desk of the President (3/2004)

Announcements – we still have openings for delegates to attend both the March 11, 2004 Day on the Hill and the March 12-13, 2004 Council 14 Convention events. If you are interested in representing Local 34 at either or both events, please send me an e-mail with your name and event of choice by no later than noon on Friday, March 5, 2004. The information about the events was included in the February newsletter.

Nominations for officers will again be taken at the March 3, 2004 General Assembly meetings. See the report from the Nominations Chair for updated information.

Thanks to all of you have been taking time to contact me about your concerns and ideas regarding both the work we do in our daily jobs and the work we do for our Union. We face many challenges this year as the ramifications of the budget cuts hit us. Many of you have commented on the difficulties you face as you deal with the loss of staff with and an accompanying increase in workload. What I am hearing is not complaints about the work and the need to get it done but rather the lack of time to do it. The sad fact is that we have eight hours in our working day and more work than we can do in those eight hours. This fact is not news to Management and is often a common thread in many of the discussions I have had with supervisors and managers since the beginning of the year. Having lost three co-workers in my unit, I know firsthand how hard it is to try keep up with the workload. The cases did not go away, so we are all feeling the pain of feeling swamped and ineffective. What so many of you are saying is what I feel – we are falling behind on our commitment to providing adequate service to our clients.

I feel frustrated and, sometimes, even incompetent which is not how I like to feel as I process work. The approach that I have found works best for me is to just keep plugging away, do what I can do each day, and try very hard to leave the feelings of guilt behind when I go home.

So, once more, I ask all of us to become involved in finding the solution to our problems. In my opinion, the major solution to that in the long run is to find politicians who are willing to face hard truths and stand up for what we know will help us to do our jobs. We need people who will fight for our rights to be organized in the workplace, to be fairly compensated for the work that we do and to get paid for overtime when we have to work extra hours, to address the skyrocketing costs of medical care – insurance, drugs, hospitals, nursing homes, to face down those who feel that we should live in a state of constant terror and lose our basic freedoms. We need strong individuals to not only run for office but we need strong, dedicated individuals to work for their campaigns, to do phone banks, to run around dropping off literature, knocking on doors of neighbors to ask for their support of your candidate of choice. It all begins with the caucuses on March 2, 2004. Please plan to attend yours and voice your opinions.

Matt Nelson and I have met with Dan Engstrom regarding the newly created Human Services Department and how it will affect our members. So far, we shouldn’t see too many changes to the work that we do as a result of the new Department. Mr. Engstrom reported that he and the Directors are working on functions common to all of the old Departments such as payroll, Human Resources, etc. to see what best practices will meet the needs of our larger group. We have a meeting scheduled for March to sit down with him, the Directors, and, from both our Local and Local 2822, the Vice Presidents and Chief Stewards to discuss some of the nuts and bolts of the work we do each month such as the Meet & Confers and grievances.

Also, we should have more news on one of the items from our new contract.  We agreed to Meet & Confer on the issue of dignity and respect. That was to begin after the first payroll period of the new year. We have our first bimonthly President’s meeting with Bill Peters from Labor Relations at the end of February and this is one of our topics for discussion. I would like to see us move on this issue as it is going to be more important than ever to have those attributes practiced daily as our work gets harder to do.

Please continue to let me know what is going on at your work site. It helps to keep our Local strong.

Jean