From the Desk of the President (March, 2005)
2005 Contract Campaign
‘Radical’ simply means grasping things at the
Angela Davis, activist, writer, and educator
can't become what we need to be by remaining what we
- Oprah Winfrey
AFSCME Mission is to promote the organization of workers in
general and public employees in particular; to promote the
welfare of the membership and to provide a voice in their
determination of the terms and conditions of employment.
AFSCME is committed to the process of collective
bargaining as the most desirable, democratic, and effective
method to achieve this.
is wise to direct your anger towards problems - not people;
to focus your energies on answers - not excuses."
- William Arthur Ward
what do the above have to do with us as union members?
This column is dedicated to everyone who has asked
what the UNION is going to do for our Local as we prepare
for negotiations this year. We face some very tough obstacles - the
public's opinion/perception of us and the value of the work
that we do, the Employer's desire to hold the line on staff
and costs, the elected officials' desire to show the public
that they are being accountable to them as they hold the
line on taxes, our own issues with a willingness to get
involved in the process, the amount of work that we have to
do as we continue to hear the mantra "do more with
less", a growing discontent with the "same old,
many of you are happy with the 0% and 0% raises received in
2004 and this year? How
many of you are happy with the fact that the cost of living
for such basic items as food, clothing, and housing has not
stopped along with our lack of increased income? How many of you agree that we should
continue to pay more each year for our health insurance
premiums without seeing an increase in those benefits?
How many of you feel that we can do better - much
that being said, how many of you think that we can continue
to approach the negotiations process in the same fashion as
we have in the past?
of the nine Hennepin County AFSCME Locals met on January 13,
2005, to discuss the collective bargaining process and how
to approach it this year.
The consensus of the folks in the room was that we
can do better - much better - but we need to rethink the way
we do business.
We discussed the traditional collective bargaining
process that has been used in the past - the members are
surveyed about what they would like to see in the Union
Local's Master Committee, a group of about 20 - 35 members
sit down to tabulate the results and vote on what to include
in the Local's wish list which is then brought forward to
the larger Master Committee meeting of the nine AFSCME
Locals who then vote on a master proposal with the Local's
supplemental issue fine-tuned.
Once that has been completed, a smaller group of
about 5-7 members, the Table Team, along with the Table
Teams from the other 8 Locals begin to meet with
representatives from Management to negotiate the contract
for the next few years.
Reports via Table Talk are issued giving updates on
the progress of the Table Teams.
Once the Employer has presented their final offer,
the Table teams bring that back to the Master Committee for
review and vote on a recommendation to the membership accept
or reject. A
summation of the offer with the Committee's recommendation
is given to the membership for a vote.
concern voiced by so many members is that there is very
little room for input once the surveys have been completed
and not enough information available during that process.
This was the main topic of discussion at the 1/13/05
meeting. It was
very clear to the representatives of all nine Locals that
our membership wanted to be an integral part of the process
at every step along the way this year.
The agreement from that meeting was that we would all
go back to our Locals to propose that we try something new
this year - a contract campaign - to address collective
is a contract campaign and how is different from the same
old, same old? The
major difference is that the entire process is member
are involved in doing one-on-one surveys with coworkers to
find out what each members personal list is of top
bargaining demands they would like to see AFSCME take to the
bargaining table this year. Members will also be asked what
they are willing to do to assist in achieving their goals.
As many members as are interested in doing so will be
actively involved in tabulating the survey results and
putting together the initial proposal to take to the Master
Negotiations Committee meeting.
The membership will vote on the Local's final
proposal at a General Assembly before it is presented to
large Action Team comprised of members from all nine AFSCME
Locals will plan and organize action events -
work on information for fliers and hand them out,
design buttons for us to wear, decide to have a t-shirt day,
sponsor a "contact your Commissioner hour" -
in support of the group at the bargaining table.
What actions are planed and when they should be taken
are limited only by how creative this group will be.
The Union and Employer proposals and counter
proposals will also be disseminated by the Action Committee
- via a Table Talk or the Local's web site - so that the
membership has this information as soon as it happens.
The members of the Action Team will decide what to
do, how to do it and when to do it as they keep the
membership current. The
importance of this group of members cannot be emphasized
will comprise the most important part of the entire process
- getting information out to the body and keeping those
lines of communication open.
It will be very clear that this process is
transparent - no hidden agendas - all out in the open and
available for all to see.
34 already has a Strike Committee in place.
Current committee members are John Korman, Chair;
Kevin Ihrke, Andrea Lennox, and Steven Martinetti.
If you are interested in joining them, please contact
John. The main
purpose of this committee is to plan for the eventuality
that, as a body, we end up deciding to reject the Employer's
final offer. If
that happens, the membership needs to be prepared to go on
strike so that we can hit the picket line immediately with
those plans firmly in place long before they are needed.
Wes Volkenant wrote an excellent article in the
February 2003 newsletter outlining his plans to prepare for
the challenges of a possible strike - how to prepare for
ongoing car payments, mortgages/rents, food, utilities.
It should be a very handy tool for the Strike
Committee to use as part of their educational materials they
prepare for dissemination to our members as part of strike
This committee will be the folks who get all the
detailed nuts and bolts together to run a successful picket
line including how many picketers are needed at any given
time, where pickets should be placed, what information will
have to be given to the press, how to get our message out to
the public, etc. Hopefully
we will not need to utilize any of the hard work and efforts
of the committee. However,
it is better to plan for all possibilities and be prepared
than to be shortsighted and ill prepared.
5 will be instrumental in providing education and training
at every step in this process.
The leaders of the Council have committed to
assisting all of the committees with research and
information needed to prepare for this contract campaign.
The Council's phone bank will be available for any
massive phone calling when needed.
They will help when we need press to educate the
public on our issues. If
we need to get a letter campaign going, we will be able to
utilize the resources of the print shop.
And, of course, our Business Agents will be at our
side throughout the campaign.
extremely important part of this entire contract campaign
process that cannot be overlooked is the importance of the
politics and our elected officials.
The success of the campaign begins with how
successful we are with getting our legislative agenda heard
and acted on. We all
know that the Legislature, at the both the Federal and State
levels, determine the laws and statutes governing our work
as well as what monies are available to the Employer to
enable us to do our work.
What happens with the President's proposed budget
trickles down to the state level.
What happens with the Governor's proposed budget will
have a direct impact on the County's ongoing ability to fund
our programs via LGA (local government aid) funding.
It is incumbent on us to be a part of that process by
contacting our Senators and Representatives to let them know
which issues are important to us and how their proposed
bills will affect our clients and the services we provide to
the residents of Hennepin County.
It has been stated before - if we want a good
contract we need funding and if we want good funding we need
good elected officials.
In order to keep those electeds on track, we need to
stay informed and be active in that process.
Also, we should be aware that our AFSCME sisters and
brothers throughout the state - state, city and county
employees - are also facing their own contract campaigns so
we are not alone in this initiative.
What affects us also affects all of them.
We need to support each other in our respective
battles as that unified voice, heard throughout the state on
a regular basis, will have a lasting impact on our ability
to have success at our bargaining table.
the time you read this newsletter, you may very well have
attended one of the Brown Bag lunchtime meetings being held
at our various worksites to kick off this Contract Campaign.
We will give more information about the process, have
one-on-one surveys on hand for completion, seek volunteers
to take those surveys back to their units for completion,
invite Fair Share fee payers to sign dues authorization
cards to become full dues-paying members, have PEOPLE
contribution sign up cards to add to our ability to pursue
our political goals of strong labor candidates who will
support our efforts at every level of government.
If you missed the meeting at your site, don't fret.
We have more planned as we are dedicated to providing
opportunities for all of our membership to be
have almost 5000 folks in the nine Hennepin County AFSCME
bargaining units and, if we band together, that gives us an
immense power base to achieve our goals. The members of the
Local 34 Executive Board invite every one of you to join us
in this campaign.
Yes, it is going to be a lot of hard work but the end
result will be so sweet. We look forward to working with you
as we plan for success.
Personally, I am very enthusiastic about joining with
all of you as we prove that, regardless of our individual
walks of life and beliefs, we can come together and prove
that our collective determination will prevail.
we can achieve great things!