From the Desk of the President (October, 2011)

 

Contract negotiations had its kick-off on Monday, September 19th when the Union met with the Employer and presented them with our multi-unit proposal for AFSCME Locals 34, 552, 1719, 2822, 2864 and 2938. Here is the link to the proposal, found on the Council 5 web site: http://afscmemn.org/hennepin-county-bargaining-page. Please visit that site for updates as they are added over the course of the contract negotiations process.

 Your Local 34 Table Team members are: Dana Meyer, Jean Diederich, Kathy Kelly, Maggie Keating, Paul Madison and Wes Volkenant. (Unfortunately, Kim Kurth had to drop out. We thank her for her willingness to serve on the Table Team - maybe next time.) We will spend time both during the negotiation sessions and between sessions working on strategies and fine-tuning the proposals. Traditionally ,we have had a series of 8 to 10 meetings so, with all the work covering wages; health insurance - premium contributions, co-pays, etc.; ROWE; health & safety; Meet & Confer issues; differentials for shift and weekend, etc., we will be a very busy crew.  

Our scheduled meetings with a brief synopsis of what takes place at each meeting:  

9/19/11 2:30 PM Union presents the multi-unit proposal to the Employer.

9/26/11 2:30 PM Employer responds with their counter proposal - we work on our response.

10/10/11 2:30 PM We present our response to the Employer - they work on theirs - some back & forth.

10/24/11 2:30 PM More back & forth on the proposals.

11/7/11 9:00 AM Mediation - all day with the State Mediator kicking the day off with ground rules we then break off into two separate rooms with the Mediator running back and forth.

11/14/11 9:00 AM Mediation - all day and, perhaps, into the wee hours of the night with more of the same.

(We will also schedule meetings for our Local 34 supplemental issues interspersed amongst those dates.)  

The end times for the above noted meetings get later as we get further into the process so we will most likely be working on language and responses to the Employer until 8:30 - 9:00 PM for the two October meetings and the first November mediation meeting. We have our respective Local con-tracts for reference so that we can craft educated response.  

Sometimes we will break off into supplemental meetings with a local and the Employer's Labor Relations Representative for the local to discuss a specific issue that we were not able to hammer out during a scheduled supplemental meeting. The hours can get to be long and, after 6:00 PM, when the air is turned off, the air a bit stale. Sometimes it can be hot, especially when there is no air movement. Sometimes we get tired and cranky, sometimes we get a bit silly, but always, always, we are serious about doing the necessary work to get a contract that will work for all of us.

The final mediation session is the one where we work even more fast and furious on proposals, counterproposals, think even further outside the box with the end goal of coming to a tentative agreement that we can present to the membership (that would be you) for a vote to accept or reject and authorize a strike.

You ask what you can do to help achieve a fair and equitable contract and the answer is this: volunteers are still needed for both the Action Team - Cathy McMahon is the chair - and the Strike Committee - David Cohoes is the Chair. Please contact them to volunteer some of your time to sup-port the Table Team while we are at the table and yourselves as you are the folks for whom we negotiate the contract. This is an often used phrase from Paul Wellstone but it is so true - "We all do better when we all do better." If everyone pitches in with a few hours, just think of how much energy we could create.

Council 5 Convention delegates have been elected or selected to represent you at the convention held October 6 -8, 2011. They are Angel Alexander, Jean Ayer, Jacqueline Coleman, Cathy Cowden, Terrance Davis, Jean Diederich, Hassan Diriye, Hodan Farah, Kathleen Farber, Kelly Geis, Alexander Gordon, Phillip Gray, Tywanna Gray, Rhonda Griffin, Heather Hemmer, Michele Henry, John Herzog, Maslah Jama, Katherine Kelly, Laurie Langer, Andrea Lazo-Rice, Sheila Lipsco, Linda Millhouse, Victoria Moore, Kay Powell, Shawnice Reid, Zachary Rice, Melvin Robinson, Nancy Scarlotta, Lindsay Schwab, Car-olyn Vreeman, Wes Volkenant, Kela Williams and Camarra Winters.

This is a good mix of members both age-wise: "seasoned" members, "pickle in the middle" members and Next Wave members and attendance wise: attended many conventions, attended a few conventions and our first time attendees. We will have a mentorship program in place so the more seasoned delegates will paid up with first timers to walk them through registration, work-shops and meetings.

Thank you for all of your well wishes when I was out for the carpal tunnel surgery - your kind words and support mean a lot. I am happy to report that it appears to be as successful as the first one so will soon have full use of both hands again. Perhaps I will be able to get back to quilting and embroidery, two past-times that I let go as the pain in my hands increased. Going through this twice has made me an even bigger fan of ROWE than I was before (if that was possible) as working in a ROWE environment afforded me the opportunity to work from home. Not being to drive well or carry much weight meant that coming into the office would be difficult. Having the laptop at home with no need to cart anything around - maybe shift a piece of paper now and then as our Child support cases are on the computer and our documents are on ECF (Electronic Case File) - let me be productive so that my work got done, clients received service and the County did not experience a loss of time that is related to being out on sick leave. And the best part of it all is that my coworkers did not have to pick up the slack when they are already overworked with their caseloads. ROWE truly provides for a win-win-win situation for clients-workers-employer. As you read this, we will have entered autumn and the excitement of preparing for cooler days, raking leaves, gathering the last of the summer garden bounty and - yes, digging out the long sleeves and warm jackets. Hopefully you will be able to enjoy the fall colors that have been predicted for the entire state.

 

Jean