From the Desk of the President (October, 2013)



We will vote on two items at the October 9, 2013 General Assembly. This meeting will be held in HSB 110, 525 Portland Ave, Minneapolis MN, at 5:30 PM.

1st - Vote on Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the 2014 – 2015 health insurance plans. You have received a Table Talk at your desk with a link to the Council 5 web site on the MOU. Members attending the meeting on 10/9/13 will vote on whether to accept or reject the MOU. The Employer presented their “best and final” offer as part of their initial contract proposal as, if we would accept the offer, they wanted to allow plenty of time for Benefits to get information out to employees prior to open enrollment which traditionally begins early November.

The existing plan with existing co-pays, etc., will be offered side by side with two narrow provider networks, HealthPartners/Park Nicollet (as one option) and Fair-view/HealthEast/North Memorial (the other option), with reduced employee monthly premiums and the first three co-pays for the year waived. If you have not already taken a look at the proposal, here is the link: Select the tentative Agreement on Health Insurance to read the in-formation. If you have questions about the MOU, please contact me. I strongly encourage you to take the time to read through the proposal. You must be present to vote on the MOU.

And speaking of our Hennepin County Health Insurance plan, here is a short update on the Self Insurance plan. As of the end of August 2013, we have over $37 million in reserves. The reserves are built by the monthly premium contributions set for singles and families by the County. Each month, the Employer deposits the following for each employee based on their respective cover-age:

Single coverage - $602.88 (current employee contribution is $60.00 per month – and will be $75.00 per month effective 12/1/13 per the terms of our contract)

Single + spouse - $1116.02 (current employee contribution is $391.70 per month)

Single + Child(ren) - $893.16 (current employee contribution is $300.00 per month)

Family: Employee + Spouse + Child(ren) - $1386.40 per month (current employee contribution is $436.48 per month).

We became self-insured effective January 1, 2011, so the reserves have built up since that time. At that time, the recommendation was that we have reserves to cushion times when our monthly costs paid was more than the monthly premiums deposited in the bank. We have been doing a very good job, as evidenced by the amount of the re-serves, of achieving that goal.

We, the Union, believe that all of us have worked hard to contain the costs for our health insurance so all of us should be rewarded by containing the cost of the insurance premiums. We do need to keep in mind that it takes about six months for all the bills incurred in any given month to be submitted and paid. So, the existing $37+ million reserves will be reduced by bills not yet sub-mitted. However, the monthly premiums will continue to be deposited so, unless there are huge bills not yet submitted, this reserve balance should continue to slowly grow or be maintained at the current level.

Vicki Moore, Wes Volkenant, Doyle Juenke and I represent you on the Labor/Management Health Care Committee, and trust me, we keep a close eye on the health of those reserves. We are very lucky to have a nationally-recognized expert, Peter Benner, on call via Council 5 to assist us with any questions and concerns we might have with the information presented.

2nd – We will fine-tune the language that will be on the ballots for a Health Care Savings Plan for our severance pay and a Health Care Savings Plan for pay period contributions from our current pay. The members who attended the September 4, 2013 GA have already voted to have these items on the ballot along with the ballot for the contract.

We will hold a discussion on the wording for the bal-lots. Then, the November 2013 newsletter will be primarily devoted to what a Health Care Savings Plan is, what the ballots will look like, and, if members wish to submit a short letter about why they do or do not support either of the proposals, those letters, as well. If you wish to submit a letter, please send it to our Newsletter Editor, Wes Volkenant.

Since this is something that will apply to everyone in the Local 34 bargaining unit and will, if the vote to establish a Plan, will become part of our contract, it is important that you take some time to educate yourself on what the affect such a plan will potentially have on your severance or ongoing pay. One important factor to keep in mind that severance pay pertains to employees with eight (8) continuous years of service with the County. If you leave County employment with less than eight years of service, this would not affect you.


We have had three meetings on the main proposal with the Employer to date. Also, the Local 34 Table Team – Douglas Graham, Jean Diederich, Kela Williams, Laura Ross, Maggie Keating, Paul Madison and Wes Volkenant – along with our Staff Representative, Matt Nelson, have met twice with the Employer to discuss our Local 34 supplemental issues. We have exchanged information on our proposal and answered questions about the reasons for the proposal. The remaining dates for negotiations are 10/10/13, 10/21/13, 11/4/13 and 11/14/13. Please continue to check the Council 5 web site – see link as noted above – for updates.

Heather Hemmer is looking for more volunteers to help out with the Education, Engagement & Outreach Committee work for actions in sup-port of the Table Team while we are in negotiations. Please send her an e-mail at heatherh_87@ She welcomes any time that you can contribute to making this round of negotiations a success.

Update on our request for better computer and supply bags since we are going to flexible work spaces in HSPHD: Per Manager, Mark Lee, HSPHD will provide a top-loading, two-wheel bag/cart as a substitute for the laptop carrying bag employees originally received. Workers should contact Jon Schoonmaker via e-mail at Please include your name, building, floor location, phone number AND cube number in your e-mail request.

ROWE – this is an evolving entity. As noted in the LOOP, HSPHD Management is looking at how ROWE will look now that the results/goals have been identified by us and what changes, if any, will be needed as we go forward with the work that we do. I am curious to see what recommendations will be made. ROWE has had a positive effect on our ability to do our work more effectively – as long as we have enough workers to do the work!

Now that fall has begun, I look for-ward to spending some time enjoying the changing colors of the foliage. Hopefully you will all be able to spend a bit of time doing the same.