From the Desk of the President (October, 2014)

It is hard to believe that we are creeping up on October already. That means the political sea-son is in full swing with ads on TV, door knocks are taking place all around the state and people are waiting with baited breath for a call about their favorite candidate from a phone bank near you. The funding for the work that we do comes from federal, state and county tax dollars. That means that the folks elected to represent us in the US Senate and House, in the Minnesota Senate and House and the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners have the ability to affect the future of that work. 

It is important to all of us to work for candidates who understand that the services we provide need more funding so that we can continue to do our work. You can find a list of all the AFSCME Council 5 endorsed candidates at http://afscmemn.org/afscme-endorsed-candidates. Those candidates screened with commit-tees in their respective parts of the state. The committees forwarded their recommendations to the Council 5 Executive Board for endorsement and the Executive Board voted on those endorsements.  

Please contact Rick Castillo at rick.castillo@afscmemn.org to find out how you can join your AFSCME sisters and brothers at a phone bank held at the Minneapolis Labor Center or the Council 5 office in South St Paul or a door knock around the metro area. You will have many opportunities to work for our endorsed candidates between now and November 4th including the October 19th Labor Day of Action - check out http://www.mnaflcio.org/news/labor-2014-days-action for times and locations.  

Also, if you are able to do so, please consider taking election day off to help with Get Out The Vote activities. You can complete your absentee ballot now with the new "No excuse" request - information can be found at the Minnesota Secretary of State site: ttp://www.sos.state.mn.us/index.aspx?page=211.  

On Health Insurance & Open Enrollment  

Keep your eyes open for information about the open enrollment for our health insurance plan. That will be coming your way this month in preparation for the open enrollment in November. We do not have all the details yet but it appears that we will have a third option for the Advantage plan - HCMC and their clinics plus NorthPoint. We will have more information on this after our newsletter is completed. As soon as we receive the details, I will share them via e-mail. If you do not currently receive e-mail notifications about union matters, please send me a request to be added to my e-mail list.  

And while I am talking about health insurance, please remember to complete your wellness activities to qualify for the reduced co-pay. You will need to have the activities completed before the end of the business day on October 31st. That is fitting - a Halloween treat that will pay off if you have any medical visits in 2015.  

After receiving a number of requests for vacation donations from our sisters and brothers who have run out of sick leave/vacation/PTO due to health related issues, one of our members asked that I remind folks that, in her words "we have a good (not great) short term disability plan the folks can enroll in - and now with Open Enrollment coming up it is perfect timing to promote the low cost and to show just how often folks without it are shocked to find they needed it." One would hope that we do not experience any type of catastrophe but we also know that crap happens. It might be worth your time to visit the Benefits site to check out the short and long term disability plans at http://www.hennepin.us/employees.  

What Iíve Been Learning at the Conventions  

Kathy Kelly, Grace Baltich and I attended the Women in Leadership conference on the first day of the MN AFL-CIO Convention - I am writing this article after coming home from that first day. We had a healthy discussion about issues women still face in the workplace that are barriers to our ability to gain equity. Here are a few interesting facts shared at this event: The AFL-CIO represents 6.5 million women, more than any other organization nation wide. Women represent over half our workforce. Nationally, women earn $.77 for every dollar that white, non-Hispanic men earn. That amount is reduced to $.64 for African American women and $.55 for Latina women. The United States ranks 17th in the top 20 wealthiest countries for gender equity. 66% of minimum wage earners are women. The national average cost for child care for one year for one child is $9450.00 but Minnesota has an average of $13,579.00, the 4th highest in the nation. Personally, I attribute that to the value we place on quality childcare and the fact that our childcare providers are also early education experts.  

Liz Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer for the National AFL-CIO, spoke to us about the issues women face and encourages us to build on the Women's Economic Security Act which was passed in Minnesota this spring. She said that we have the opportunity to pave the way for our young women coming into the workforce. Tina Smith, candidate for Lt. Governor, also spoke to us about the upcoming election and the importance of women getting out to vote and encourage other women to do the same.  

We ended the conference identifying key issues that we felt women need to work on to further our ability to make gains in our economy. The one that a number of AFSCME sisters chose to work on was labor education for pre-K to 12 and beyond. We agreed that making our labor history part of the curriculum from an early age was a key component to building our labor movement. The book that we enjoy so much during negotiations, "Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type" by Doreen Cronin, was used as an example of a simple way to introduce the concept of collective bargaining to young children. This discussion left me looking forward to the remainder of the convention.  

If you are on Facebook, take some time to check out our Local 34 page - https://www.facebook.com/groups/Local34/ - to see what has been posted for information by our members. We post pictures of the events we attend as well as bits and pieces of news that pertains to us as working folks. You can join the group by invitation - just let any one already there know you want to join.  

I am hopeful that the coming month will find us enjoying fall weather with the changing colors of the trees, crisp air and bright stars at night.  

Jean