From the Desk of the President (November, 2009)


The Local 34 Executive Board approved a motion at the October 21, 2009 meeting to renew our membership in the Minnesota Social Services Association (MSSA) for 2010. As part of that membership, our local is able to send 7 agency delegates to MSSA events. We will hold the election of the 2010 MSSA delegates at the December 2, 2009 General Assembly which will be held at 5:30 PM in Room L 15 of the Health Services Building. If you are interested in putting your name forward for one of the delegate positions or would like more information, please contact me. This announcement will run again in the December newsletter.


Council 5 Convention Highlights:


I served as part of a panel for one of the workshops at the convention on Progressive Dues. This workshop was held as a precursor to a meeting scheduled for early 2010 for all locals who have yet to develop a progressive dues structure based on the resolution passed at the AFSCME International Convention. The five panelists were Barb Bezat and Mary Austin from Local 3937, University of Minnesota Technical, Mike Nelson and Eric Mattson from Local 2829, State Amalgamated, and me. We shared our experiences in moving to our respective progressive dues structure with the workshop attendees. The common thread was that we all felt it was important to be fair to all our members, to find a way to provide for appropriate representation of our members as well as support our local's efforts to be effective in the workplace and to fund our work. Members attending the workshop asked questions about how long it took to complete this process, from deciding to switch to implementing the new structure; what ask of the Employer’s Payroll regarding the change; how to explain the new structure to members; etc. We are very lucky that our change from the five tiered structure to the straight 1% structure went as smoothly as it did. From conversations that I held with sisters and brothers after the workshop, they are facing road blocks such as the Employer not wanting to change the existing system, members of the locals are feeling that the existing system works just fine so why "fix" it, and fears that the new structure will need to be changed every year.


As Wes Volkenant noted earlier, I also served as the Chair of the Resolutions Committee. This year it was a relatively quiet duty as the resolutions mostly addressed enhancing the work we already do. One thing that I did learn is that we should say what we mean - that if the committee's recommendation is to not support a resolution, then we should say so. That way, when members vote, they will be clear that voting no is the recommendation of the committee. My work was done on Friday morning prior to the gubernatorial forum. Looking out over the room of delegates, all wearing that beautiful AFSCME green, was a truly wondrous sight. Can you imagine what the gubernatorial candidates must have thought when they looked out over the crowd?


Our proposal is short and to the point in recognition of the economic climate we face - ongoing unallotments by Governor Pawlenty means that funding for a good number of programs in the Human Services and Public Health Department have been greatly reduced on top of cuts from federal funding. We are very cognizant of the fact that our families, friends and neighbors are experiencing the same economic hardships we face. We also know that we are doing more work - not the same amount but more - with fewer staff than several years ago. We are working through our breaks and staying late to finish that one last detail in order to get a case completed so that our clients get the services they so desperately need - and do so because we are dedicated to providing quality services. We are all doing our part to keep Hennepin County working.


November 2nd and November 16th are the last two scheduled days for bargaining and are both full days of mediation. The Table Team has not wavered in our goal of reaching a fair and just agreement with the Employer. What can you do to help achieve that goal? Talk to your supervisors, managers, commissioners, friends and neighbors about how the work that you do has changed, how increased caseloads have impacted your ability to do your work in a timely and correct fashion, what the lack of state and federal funding has meant the programs we work under and the stress we experience. And remember to wear green - shirts, buttons, wristbands - maybe even join me and have green hair!

Lastly:  Thanks to all of you who wished me well on my move. It was an interesting process - packing up 25 years of memories to travel about four miles to my new abode - and one that I am so happy to have completed. The family tradition is that whoever has the newest home gets to host the Thanksgiving meal. That means I will be busy unpacking and organizing to get ready for that celebration. I wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving this year.                Jean

"We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count." -  Neil A. Maxwell