From the Desk of the President (November, 2006)


Elections & Voting

I have thought of all sorts of slogans regarding the importance of voting on November 7th. Here is a sampling:  "Wedge issues, wedge issues - it's the economy, stupid!" … "You need a hand? Look no further than the end of your arm in the voting booth.”. “ Your children's future is in your hands. Vote!”.   “ You say 401(K) - I say PERA - VOTE!”.   “ There really is enough for everyone - shake it loose by voting."   

Okay, I never said they were brilliant. My point is, that voting this year, more than ever before, will mean the difference between real protections for public employees - that would be all of us who are city, county, state, or municipality employees - regardless of out job class or how long we have been employed here - as well as our ability to deliver ongoing quality services to the residents of our particular public sector. We have an opportunity to elect people who will look out for our issues - labor issues - when they are elected to office. This election cannot be about wedge issues but about real issues - those that affect us in our work lives as well as everyday lives. We need to look at candidates who will afford us the ability to have jobs that pay well, guarantee us that education will be accessible for all of our children, and work towards health insurance that will be affordable for all of us. Our future lies in the hand that wields the voting pen - please use it wisely on November 7th.  

Dignity and Respect Meet & Confer

We had our quarterly meeting on September 28th. The Dignity & Respect Committees from the Library, Taxpayer Services and Century Plaza gave updates on their progress. The Library and Taxpayer Services groups both seem to be at about the same place – ready to share information from the surveys and formulate actions steps on where to go from that point. Century Plaza has completed their survey – having put together an impressive packet of information for their review. I was especially impressed with the discussion they held on symbols and words, such as what they mean to people from various cultures so that anything sent out or used by the committee will reflect that sensitivity. We briefly discussed the ongoing role of the Meet & Confer Committee - will it continue to be one of oversight? Do we need to continue?  We agreed to continue the discussion at our next meeting - most likely in January 2007. Bill Peters of Labor Relations reported on the Intranet web site – under Labor Relations – you can check it out at OpenDocument, as it is chock full of information on the progress of the work done so far.     

Labor/Management Health Care Committee

I would like to clarify one item from last month's article regarding the 2007 health insurance premium increase. The wording in my article caused some folks to think that it was going to be an additional 12% over an already agreed to 11% increase. The point that I was attempting to make is that, based on the agreement with HealthPartners, if HCMC formed their own pool for 2007, the increase for Hennepin County's pool would be a maximum of 12% rather than a maximum of 11%, which would have been in place if HCMC remained in the total Hennepin County pool for health insurance.   

Bill Peters has suggested - and AFSCME representatives have agreed - that we should use the Committee as an educational tool over the next 4-6 months, learning about items such as HSA’s; 1+spouse, 1+1 child, 1+2 children plans for health insurance, and the impact of singles paying part of their premium, etc., as some of these will most likely pop up as suggestions during negotiations next year. The Committee would not advocate one way or another on any of the issues, but the feeling on our part is that it would be wise to have as much of this information as possible available to us prior to negotiations. 


HCMC will split off from the Hennepin County payroll/Labor Relations/Human resources as of January 1, 2007. They are forming their own pool for health insurance but will continue to be covered under the current plan through the end of our negotiated agreement which ends 12/31/08. You might want to note that AFSCME is reviewing the proposition that folks will no longer be able to laterally transfer from a position on Hennepin County to HCMC after January 1, 2007 and vice versa. Since HCMC remains under the auspices of the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, it is our belief that PELRA and our contract would have an impact on our retention of ability to transfer. This will have the greatest impact on Local 2822 folks but Local 34 does have several job classes in common with HCMC job classes so we have an interest in the outcome of a decision. 

On a personal note, I was happy to be re-elected, along with Cliff Robinson, to the Council 5 Executive Board. Also re-elected were Molly Malecki from Local 2822 and Pat Guernsey from Local 552. Our Hennepin County employee contingent is rounded out with Carmen Brown from Local 977, HCMC, who was newly elected to the Board. Cliff and Molly were elected as delegates from the County sector, Pat was elected from the East Metro district, and Carmen and I were elected as delegates from the West Metro district. We have our work cut out for us as we look forward to developing a direction the 2007 legislative agenda, plan the 2007 Day on the Hill activities and continue to build on the successes we have achieved in the first two years of our merged Council. Many of our locals will be working on contract negotiations so we will have the opportunity to work on coordinating those efforts - supporting each other as we all work towards common goals - safe working conditions, economic gains, and affordable health insurance as some of the more important ones. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve you in this capacity. It is a lot of hard work but is also very exciting to see how far we have come and how well we have meshed together. 

To paraphrase Mother Jones, on Thanksgiving Day, let us give thanks for our past gains and prepare to fight like hell for our future gains!