From the Desk of the President (November, 2003) 

We had our first Local 34 Supplemental meeting for negotiations on October 13th. Our Table Team met with Management to discuss the items we had included in our initial proposal.  We presented our reasons for our requests.  Management will come back to the next meeting to respond to our request for shift bidding for the Sentencing to Service Crewleaders and on our request for review of bumping rights for several job classes.  We asked for Meet & Confer on the Trainee portion of our contract as we feel the program is not handled equitably by different areas.  Lindsay Schwab and Elizabeth Portlance will work with Susan Wray to pull together a committee to review the Human Services Representative series as it was envisioned and as it is currently functioning.  Hopefully, we will have some progress with regular negotiations by the time you read this.  We have made very little movement on either side of the proposals as of our last meeting on October 8th.  

The position of Recording Secretary remains open.  If you are interested in the job, please contact me to indicate your interest. 

“The price of greatness is responsibility.” – Winston Churchill     

            The past few weeks have been difficult ones for many of us as we either have a consultation with supervisor and manager, or talk to our co-workers about their consultation, in preparation for the pending layoffs which are a result of the budget approved by the County Board.  Many of you have expressed your anger, hurt, frustration, disbelief, sense of betrayal and unfairness that this is happening.  You have also asked why it had to happen and who is responsible for the mess that we are facing.  The most realistic answer that I can give is that the cuts we face are due to unwillingness of the politicians at every level - Federal, State, County, and City - to realistically face what is going on in front of their eyes.  While the economy tanks, they are slashing funds for the programs that help those who most need the help, while giving tax breaks to those who are the least in need of them.  At the County level, that translates into our Commissioners levying taxes at a less than maximum rate which determines the ability to fund the Human Services budget for the County.  I know that they feel the need to answer to their constituents, but, in doing so, were they acting responsibly?  As a taxpayer in Hennepin County who sees people in need of services on a daily basis, their action did not represent my opinion on the matter.  We may not know all the ramifications of their actions until the public begins to feel the hurt from cuts in programs to the poor, the elderly, the homeless, the unemployed or underemployed, the mentally ill.  Maybe we are lucky and no one from any of those groups live in any part of Hennepin County, so we will not see people in pain, people facing further need for our help.  Personally, I doubt that we will be so lucky.  I am disappointed that what I saw as the responsibility for a realistic budget was not shouldered by the folks on the 24th floor.  Yes, we would still face cuts in the budget and layoffs but not to the degree that we face under the proposed budgets. 

            What this means is that the greatness we seek will have to come from us as we deal with the fallout from the 2004 budget.  We will see many acts of that greatness in the coming months, as notices of layoff or reassignment to another work area are received by our members. That greatness will be displayed by you when you give your support to your affected co-workers, when you ask what they need to help them deal with the news and the ramifications of that drastic change in their lives and then provide that assistance.  You will display your greatness when you are there to help your new co-workers make the transition into their new jobs.   Our responsibility portion of this equation comes into play as we continue to provide quality services to our clients while dealing with all of our issues. 

            We are all going to need to be more aware of each other's feelings and needs as we deal with the coming changes.  It is not going to be easy for any of us, including our supervisors and managers who have to deliver the news to us.  Many times, the very people that they sought to hire for the qualities needed to provide quality services are now the people they have to tell that they are laid off or will be sent to another work area.  They will be called on to listen to us as we voice our feelings and still counsel us to provide ongoing quality work so that our clients do not feel the pain of these cuts.  We will need to recognize the feelings of both those of us who will be leaving and those of us who will be going to a new unit or team.  Our anger and frustration with all of this should not be misplaced - taken out on the new faces in our work areas as they replace valued friends and co-workers.  

            I don't have all the answers on how to deal with this but I do have the time and energy to listen and discuss this disruption in our work lives.  Hopefully we will be able to find ways to carry on and get our work done while acknowledging our grief.

            Please contact me at 348-0266 or send me an e-mail. 

Jean