From the Desk of the President (10/2005) 

It is hard to believe that we are already facing October – getting ready to find pumpkins that will serve as the perfect jack-o-lanterns for Halloween and apples that will be just right for fall baking.  The changing of the leaves’ colors always gets my fall cleaning instincts going.  Luckily, I am able to squelch them just fine so that I can get out and really enjoy all that nature has to offer us like the crisp fall air, the bright blue skies and the last rains to settle the dust of summer.  It is also a time to prepare for the coming winter as we squirrel away supplies to help us make it through the season of snow, ice and cold temperatures.   

“There is not a person in your life who isn’t there to teach you something about yourself.”  - Kristine Carlson

Local 34 ended up having 41 of our dues paying members take advantage of the Early Retirement/Resignation package so we saw a flurry of retirement parties during September.  I suspect that many of us were able to get our fill of sheet cakes – and laughs - as we shared in their joy and trepidation as they faced the next leg of their respective life journeys.  Let’s hope that they have many wonderful adventures ahead of them.  The above quote was shared with a good number of those leaving as they enriched my life here with Hennepin County, encouraging me to always give my best effort while showing me how quality services can be provided to Hennepin County residents.  I am so grateful for the lessons they shared and, hopefully, will honor them by passing them on to others. 

September saw the end of the primary races for many city, school, park and library seats.  AFSCME-endorsed candidates did quite well in reaching the top two slots for the general elections in November.  The PEOPLE Committee will have many opportunities for all of us to become involved in campaign activities – be it door knocking, literature dropping, phone banks or providing support for any of the above.  Local 34 members have gone over to the Council 5 office to use the state-of-the-art phone bank there.  It is a wonderful way to talk to fellow union members about issues important to all of us and you don’t even have to worry about transposing numbers while dialing (my major pitfall) as the computer does it for you.  If you think that this is something that you are interested in doing, please let me know as we do need volunteers.  The ones that I have done have been for several hours after work in the company of members from the Minneapolis Library, our Local, the Council 5 E-Board, and staff from the Council.  Getting our friends elected to office allows our sisters and brothers in the respective public entities to have a voice in how their work environment which is a win for all of us.  

You probably have already read about the maximum tax levy approved by the County Board at the August 30th meeting.  That amount was 3.98%.  As the Board deliberates on this matter, they will hold a number of budget meetings between now and the December 1st Truth in Taxation hearing which is when they will vote on the levy amount.  It is incumbent on us to support that maximum levy amount so that we can have the resources to do our jobs as well receive fair compensation for that work.  Please contact your commissioner to let her or him know how important it is to support and approve the maximum amount.                       

“It is not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” – Mother Teresa

As you have read in the highlights of the September GA, our Local voted to send a contribution to the AFSCME fund for our sisters and brothers affected by Hurricane Katrina.  Per the memo from President McEntee, we have 3,300 members in Louisiana alone who have been put out of their homes due to this tragedy, with over 800 of them from New Orleans.  They have lost their homes, their personal belongings, their sense of comfort and well-being.  I ask that each of you join me in sending a personal contribution to this fund so that they can work to rebuild their lives more speedily.  It does not have to be a lot, as even one dollar, when added to other dollars, goes a long way towards building the fund. Contributions can be sent to AFSCME Fallen Heroes Fund, 1625 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20036-5687.  Please note on the memo line or in a cover letter that this is meant for the Katrina Relief effort.  You can also visit www.afscme.org to see what else can be done to assist our members in the affected zone.  Thank you for anything you do. 

Health insurance is moving slowly as we work our way through all of the information provided in the proposals from the providers.  Hopefully, the Labor/Management Health Care Committee will be able to reach an agreement, by the end of September or beginning of October, on a recommendation for Paul Cegla to take forward to the County Board.  The nine AFSCME locals, with the assistance of Eliot Seide and Jerry Serfling from Council 5, plan to hold a series of informational meetings around the County about this insurance - give you the most up-to-date information that we have and answer your questions.  They will be held in early October so look for flyers which will announce the meeting dates, times and places.   

Negotiations are moving forward.  We met three times in September and have another three meetings scheduled during October.  We have yet to get to the issues of wages and health insurance, the two biggest drivers to the process.  Right now, most of the progress has been on housekeeping items.  We hope to have made major strides in the process by the end of the month but we are not sure how some portions of health insurance piece will affect the process. The most current information can be found on our web site, www.afscmelocal34.org , or that of Council 5, www.afscemn.org .  Those sites will be updated as we have more movement in the process.  As Indira Gandhi said, "The beaten track does not lead to new pastures."   I look forward to traversing new paths as we work to achieve our goals of a fair contract and decent heath insurance.  Thank you for supporting our Table Team as we continue our negotiations.

 

In solidarity,

Jean