From the Desk of the President (11/2005)

Dignity &

Dignity & Respect update: I have just been informed that the HSPHD Executive Team has approved the implementation of a Dignity & Respect project at Century Plaza.  If you recall from earlier articles, the Dignity & Respect Committee had broached this subject with the Executive Team with a short presentation on our request at one of their meetings this summer.  What does this mean for our folks at CP?  It means that everyone there will have an opportunity to be involved in the process to improve their working environment so that all people - regardless of their reason for being in the building - can expect to be treated respectfully and with dignity.  If you work at CP, look for more information and your chance to be part of the efforts as the project gets off the ground in the next few months.   

AFSCME Council 5 Executive Board has issued a call for nominations to fill two vacancies at the November 17, 2005 meeting. The vacancies are from District 5, the East Metro area which is comprised of Dakota, Goodhue, Ramsey and Washington Counties.  If you live in one of those counties or, if residing outside Minnesota, you work in one of those counties, you are eligible to be nominated to fill one of the two vacant spots on the Council 5 Executive Board.  The deadline for nominations is Monday, November 14, 2005.  All nominations must be submitted to: AFSCME Council 5 Elections Committee, % Susie Olson, 300 Hardman Ave S, So St Paul MN 55075 or via e-mail to: susie.olson@afscmemn.org  with the note in the subject line -  AFSCME Council 5 Elections Committee.  The vacancies are created by the resignation of Sister LoRita Powell who is now on the Council 5 staff and Brother Scott Metcalf whose unit has been called up for active duty in Iraq.    

"When the water starts boiling it is foolish to turn off the heat."  Nelson Mandela 

This brings me to the topic of negotiations. We will be heading into the home stretch of this process with two all-day meetings scheduled this month - November 7th and November 14th.  The Table Teams of all the locals have been constant in their resolve to reach settlement on a fair and equitable contract.  Our resolve has been tested on more than one occasion - most recently with the issue of health insurance.  When the Table Talk issued in early October was put on your desks, you responded in huge numbers.  Many of you, after talking to the officers and Table Team members, to express your anger and frustrations about the status of insurance rates due to lack of an agreement, contacted your Commissioners to voice that anger.  It had a tangible result - an interim proposal with rates greatly lowered from what was originally proposed and the ongoing ability of the Table Team to continue to negotiate on the permanent rates for 2006 - 2007.  No matter what you hear, you are responsible for that change.    

That strength and resolve must continue to be voiced - over and over again - during the next month as we build ourselves up to get a better contract.  We are a force to be reckoned with.  By continuing to be visible and vocal in the workplace and in the community, we demonstrate to the Employer that we are committed to that goal and willing to turn up the heat in order to achieve more than crumbs for the next two years.  We must have a contract that recognizes our worth - treats us respectfully - and allows us to go forward with dignity knowing that we, the UNION, have been shoulder to shoulder in our quest. 

Personally, my resolve has just been strengthened by two pieces of information.  The 1st piece of information is the new bankruptcy laws have changed with a new means test.  If your annual income is below the state's median income, you can file Chapter 7 and erase your debts.  Minnesota's median income for a single person is $40,650.00. That works out to an hourly wage of $19.54.  We have 14 job classes in our bargaining unit topping out at less than this hourly rate.  The majority of the job classes in some of our sister locals are well under that hourly rate.  We deserve better!  For a couple, the annual median income is $54,598.00 which translates to an hourly wage of $26.45.  Many of our members are the sole breadwinner for their families.  That brings another 17 of our job classes under that rate.  We certainly deserve better than that.  The median income for a family of four is $73,498.00 which is an hourly rate of $35.34 which takes care of the remaining job classes in our unit.  Of course, if your family falls under those rates with more than one income, that is even more fuel for our cannons.    

And the 2nd piece of information comes from the US census figures recently released by the Bureau of National Affairs.  They show that the annual median household income for the United States remained flat in 2004 - at $44,000.00 for both 2003 and 2004 with adjustment for inflation.   This goes along with the fact that the number of people without health insurance grew in 2004 from 860,000 to 45.8 million which is about 15.7 % of the population in this country.  I do not want to see any of our membership fall into that category because of premiums that are not affordable- we deserve better!

I look forward to seeing you out and about as the Action Team calls for your participation in events to support the Table Teams - and yourselves - during the remainder of negotiations.  Together, we can make a difference!

Jean