From the Desk of the President (March, 2012)


ANNOUNCEMENTS: Please remember that the 2nd and final round of nominations for open officer seats will take place at the March 7, 2012 General Assembly. You can contact our Nominations Chair, LaQuita Williams, for up-to-date information or visit our web site —  

A motion was passed to send up to 6 members to the May 9-10, 2012 LES class on  Educating the 99%, covering 2 days lost time, cost of  registration, mileage to & from the event as well as parking.  If you are interested in attending the class and wish to put your name forward, please let me know. The election will be held at the April 4, 2012 General Assembly.  

Respectful Workplace Policy Committee: I attended my first meeting of this group last month. Based on contract language we negotiated last year, this group was charged with coming up with a definition of bullying, as well as examples of what bullying looks like, to be added to the County's policy on bullying. The County currently has the Diversity, Non-Discrimination and Harassment Policy. hat will be split into two separate policies—one for Diversity and NonDiscrimination, and the other for Harassment and Bullying.  Coming up with a definition for bullying is not as easy as it sounds. You have to sift through all the emotions and feelings, separating what bullying feels like from what bullying is. Monica Long, the Chair for this group, has taken all of the ideas shared by the group members and is winnowing them out, so that we have a refined product. The first and second versions of our definition have been sent out and reviewed.   We meet again in April and I will provide another update at that time.  

Progressive Discipline: One of the concerns that we have discussed at various Executive Board and General Assembly meetings is that of progressive discipline, which is happening so fast that our members do not have time to get corrective actions made before they are shown the door.    What I mean by this is that a member is given an oral reprimand for something that they did  - or did not do. They are told that they need to improve their work - or not repeat the error. Within the next few weeks or months, they are then given a written reprimand for the same  - or similar action.   The next thing we know, the supervisor is suspending the employee for one day or five days because the employee has not shown progress in their work plan. And, before you know it, the employee is terminated  - sort of like a train whose skids have been greased and is out of control—ending in a wreck.    More than once, while we have a grievance in process for the written reprimand and, before we have had a chance to take that grievance through all the steps, the employee is served with the suspension. We grieve the suspension and before that is even heard, the employee is being terminated. The kicker to this problem is this: when the member asks for help for the suspension, we find out that they have received an oral reprimand or a written reprimand. The member, for whatever reason, did not ask a steward for assistance. When we get to the suspension, it is very difficult for us to slow down the speeding train of disciplinary action as the groundwork, correct or not, has already been laid. It is so important for you to talk to one of our stewards whenever you receive any type of discipline so that we can assist you with whatever it is you need to do. We have seen some patterns of this type of action at 1800 Chicago, HSB, Century Plaza and the Government Center. We would like to prevent further instances of this type of train wreck. If you have been experiencing this pattern of discipline, please let us know. You can contact the steward in your work area, or one of the Chief Stewards - see the list at the front of the newsletter.   We would like all of our members to be afforded an opportunity to effectively correct errors, or work on an improvement plan before being presented with a progressive discipline.  

Day on the Hill: The Local voted to send up to 50 of our members to attend this day of legislative lobbying for issues important to us as union members, as public employees and as voters. Even though this is supposed to be a bonding year, it appears that the current legislators have decided that they need to be our mother and father and decide what is best for us because, golly gee, we aren't capable of acting like educated adults and making good decisions for ourselves. It appears that they have decided that, since they cannot legislate anything of merit, they will put is on the ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment. The one that is there for sure is the marriage amendment. Another one that they are proposing, the Right to Work For Less bill, would gut our rights as workers and as a union. They do not want us to have the right to collectively bargain for our wages, health insurance, work hours, etc. They would like to stop our ability to organize more workers. They want to mess with our pensions. That is why it is so important for us to participate in this lobbying day. But our work should not start or stop with that one day. We all need to contact our respective Senators and Representatives to let them know how we feel about their proposed actions. Let them know that messing with our pensions is a solution in search of a problem. We have already worked on fixing any shortfalls by increasing both the employee and the Employer contribution. Point out to them that almost 90% of us stay in Minnesota when we retire and we spend our pensions here in Minnesota. A lot of us move back to our hometowns where we support small town businesses and farmers. We help keep Minnesota vital and growing while we work and continue to do after we retire. Let them know that the Right to Work For Less bill does no one any good. It cuts the average wage by $5500.00 per year and that means we all end up spending less money as you can't spend what you don't have. Just think about what $5500.00 less per year means to your budget. What will you have to cut?  Food? Clothing?  Mortgage or rent payments? Education for the kids? Medicine? I am really serious about this and you need to be serious, too. We hurt if we have less in wages and that translates into more hurt for those businesses who do not see us in their stores. It is a lose-lose-lose situation and you need to tell your legislator that. Voter ID  - don't even get me started. Many of us have served as election judges. How many of you saw voter fraud? I know that I did not see any. Instead I saw Minnesota voters lined up to exercise their right - yes, right - not privilege, not benefit - their right to vote. Minnesota is a leader in the nation for our lack of fraud and for our accessibility. This is one that we need to nip in the bud. "Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest are willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathies with despised ideas and their advocated, and bear the consequences."  Susan B Anthony Okay, I will get off my bandwagon now.

You all know that I feel strongly about social justice, equality and access for all. I hope that you will join me in working to preserve the way of life we have in Minnesota. It is going to be a long year as we face this battle together. ~ Jean