From the Desk of the President (10/2008)

2009 Budget Levy 

Thank you to County Administrator Richard Johnson for working hard to present a balanced proposal for the 2009 levy with his recommendation of a 7.98% cap. The proposal would have afforded a bare bones but fair structure for the services provided to the residents of Hennepin County and was presented to the County Board only after he had met with all of the County Departments, held lengthy discussions about each proposal brought forth by those departments, checked to see if each proposal had been reduced as much as possible and then put together for a comprehensive final package. Commissioners Randy Johnson, Gail Dorfman and Peter McLaughlin voted to support his recommendation and I want to thank them for doing so. Unfortunately, the levy limit that was accepted on a 4-3 vote was 7%. This means that the proposed cap was reduced by 1/8 or about $6.5 million dollars. For us, the bottom line is that we, the employees who actually provide those services, will have fewer resources available to us to do our work. 

When we have been told that we must do more with less, the knowledge that the "less" has been reduced even further is disheartening. On a personal level, that means that the hope my unit had of having a vacant position filled so that we could once more have 8 of us doing the work of 11 (we lost three positions in 2005), we will continue to do that work with only 7 line staff. That means that delays in getting our cases opened, delays in referring cases for paternity action, delays in establishing support orders, and delays in acting on information to make sure that support is directed to the appropriate family will continue to grow. And even though I know that I am doing more than 8 hours worth of work each day, for the first time in my 28 years with the County, I feel that I am not giving the residents of the County their dollar's worth because I am not able to get all my work done. That is an extremely demoralizing feeling and many of you are feeling the same way based on our conversations over the past year. I have shared this with the Commissioners when I have met with them and will continue to do so. Hennepin County deserves better! 


One of our members came to me with a question about her ability to be "bumped" from her current job class by a more senior employee in case of layoffs. Her concern was that there are more senior employees who once held her job class and thought that, if they received a layoff notice for their current position, they could "bump" back to her job class as she is one of the least senior members of that class. 

My answer to her was that the only folks who could "bump" her would be someone in a higher paid job class within our bargaining unit who had previously been in her job class. If a more senior employee had once been in her job class and then chose to go back to a lower paid job class, they would not be able to "bump" her as bumping rights are only for a lower paid job class once held within Local 34 bargaining unit job classes. She asked that I include this explanation in my article as she has been given different answers by co-workers and supervisors. To illustrate a common situation, if a Social Worker receives a layoff notice, s/he could "bump" back into their previously held Senior Child Support Officer position as that is a lower paid job class. S/he could not "bump" a Public Health Nurse, even if s/he had once held that position, as the Public Health Nurse job class is higher paid. I hope that this offers some clarification to those who have the same question. 

Standing Committees 

As part of our Executive Board retreat held in August, there have been changes proposed for our Standing Rules regarding how our standing committees are chaired. The end result is that each of the six At-Large Executive Board Members will now chair a Standing Committee and that a new Standing Committee is now created. The new committee is the Travel/Social Arrangements. The Chair Assignments are as follows: Budget & Finance - Angel Alexander; Constitution - Jacquelin Poole; Health & Safety - Ibrahim Adam; Media (formerly Newsletter) - Alexander Gordon; PEOPLE - Betty Pharr; and Travel/Social Arrangements- Andrea Lazo-Rice. If you think that you might be interested in serving on any of the above committees, please contact the indicated officer - their numbers are listed on the 2nd page of this newsletter. Budget & Finance is a short term assignment with the work done in the fall of the year in preparation for a recommendation to the General Assembly in November for the coming year's budget. Constitution is an ongoing committee with the work of reviewing any recommended changes to the Constitution and Standing Rules, writing them up for presentation to the General Assembly and, if approved by the body, sending the constitution changes to the International for approval by the President and then presenting the final approved document to the General Assembly. Health & Safety - receives and maintains comprehensive list of all information regarding health & safety concerns in the workplace provided by our members, serving as a liaison with Management on issues as needed and sharing those concerns with the membership. Media - works with the Newsletter Editor and web site developer to gather information for both forms of publication, provide editorial oversight, and solicit member reporters to report on the work that we do. PEOPLE - our political action committee with the responsibility of reviewing all requests from political candidates for contributions and soliciting participation in our political activities - door knocks, phone banks, etc. Travel/Social Arrangements - serves as the coordinator for the local's social activities such as brown bag lunch meetings and trainings as well as helping with travel arrangements for conventions and workshops. We do have two other standing committees - Good & Welfare, and Membership - whose chairs had been previously designated and members appointed - Cathy Cowden, Lisa Durkot and Marcia Dietz for Good & Welfare and Katie Farber for Membership. 

Think Pink 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I am celebrating my ten year anniversary this year and I would like to strongly encourage all the women in our lives, especially my union sisters, to remember to do your monthly self exam and to follow up any concerns with a doctor immediately. It is much better to check and find it is nothing than to not check at all. As with everything, early intervention saves lives.