From the Desk of the President (September, 2010)


Congratulations to our new Chief Steward, Carolyn Johnson!!!  She was elected at our August 18, 2010 Local 34 Executive Board meeting to fill the vacancy created when Clifford Robinson retired.  Carolyn brings to this position her years of service to the local as one of our stewards, her skills as a problem solver and the enviable ability to see the big picture as well as the small brush strokes creating the picture.  Please join me in welcoming Carolyn to her new role as Chief Steward.

Why do we do that? is a question I am frequently asked about a motion passed or action taken by our local.  A case in point is the contribution our local has made for a good number of years to the County's annual Backpack Challenge, providing backpacks and school supplies for children who would otherwise not have them for the beginning of the school year.  Following is a story that illustrates why the membership approves this contribution each year: 

When I was going through the check-out line at KMart, the cashier commented on the volume of supplies I was purchasing and asked if I had a lot of kids?  I let him know that our union always sponsors backpacks for the Hennepin County Backpack Challenge to gets supplies for children who otherwise could not afford them.  He looked at me and said, "Thank you."  He then went on to tell me that he and his brothers were recipients of the program when they were younger and how grateful his mother was that she could get the backpacks for them.  He said she made them take very good care of the backpacks so that they did not need new ones every year.  While he was telling me this, the cashier in the next lane over told us the she and her siblings also got backpacks from this program.  They both told me that I should make sure to let the members of our union know how good they felt being able to go to school with the supplies they needed and the backpack to put them in.  Most times you never know what the ripple effect is going to be of an action taken.  We now know what the effect was for two people and their families!  

The importance of voting was never more evident than in our recent Primary Election.  Our AFSCME endorsed candidate for Governor, Mark Dayton, won the DFL primary by less than 7000 votes.  That means that AFSCME Council 5, representing close to 43,000 members around our state, was instrumental in helping him make it through the Primary.  Now we need to gear ourselves up to work even harder to get him elected as our Governor.  How can you help?  We will have phone banks every Tuesday and Thursday at the Council 5 office from now until the November 2, 2010 General Election.  We will most likely also have phone banks somewhere in Minneapolis - that  information is not available at the time I write this report. 

The phone banks are member-to-member, explaining why we support Mark and why it is important to us as public employees to get a candidate who recognizes and respects the work that we do, who is willing to work with all working people to achieve better working conditions, create more jobs, address the health chasm faced by the cuts in MNCare and GAMC, and help keep education for our children affordable.   We also have plenty of AFSCME endorsed candidates at the Federal, State, County, City and School Board levels who could use our support to be elected/reelected this year.  The opportunities are endless.  If you do not know how to hook up with a campaign, give me a call and I will help you.

The Hennepin AFSCME Picnic on Sunday, August 8, 2010, was a success in spite of being held on the hottest, most humid day of the year so far - 96 degrees with a 104 degree heat index.  We had plenty of food - whoever brought the homemade chocolate chip cookies is a winner in my eyes! - and many delicious salads - on top of the hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, beverages and brownie bites provided by the Planning Committee, chaired by Molly Malecki and Ann Baird from Local 2822.   A huge round of thanks go to them and their committee for all their hard work which made this event as much fun as it was.   A wonderful addition this year - ICY COLD snow cones in a variety of flavors.  This was definitely the year to introduce them to the picnic as they helped us maintain a level of coolness that was missing with the temperature.  Mark Dayton, candidate for Governor, and Mark Stenglein, candidate for Hennepin County Commissioner in the 2nd District, attended the event.  We all got a chance to speak to both Marks.  In spite of the heat, games were played, doorprizes were given out, food was eaten, faces were painted, people were astounded by the deft acts of the magician and folks got a chance to sit back, relax and enjoy conversations with fellow union members.  If you would like to see pictures of the picnic, here is a link to a photo album:

Our union dental benefit is one topic that I am often called about mostly  about when you can add a spouse or dependent child.  This is just  a brief reminder that you can add your new family member as soon as that person joins your family.  Our dental program covers not only you but also your spouse and any dependent child(ren) at no cost - it is one of the benefits our members decided was important to provide to the membership years ago.  I would like to note that if you are adding a child to your family, add them as a dependent at the same time as you are adding them to your health insurance plan.  Even though most babies and small children do not need  a dentist visit, once they have been added, you don't need to worry about missing an open enrollment and having to wait til the next year.  My suggestion is to contact our Dental Trustee, Monica Jochmans, our Membership Secretary, Kela Williams, or me, to find out what you need to do to complete the addition process.  It is quick, it is painless and it is one less thing to worry about.

APEX is still causing scattered problems for our members.  If you have an issue that you have not been able to resolve, please let me know as I am still keeping to track of the types of problems and how long it takes to get resolved.  From what I have seen in the past two months, they are pretty much unique to the individual and quickly dealt with as soon as they are brought to the attention of the troubleshooters in Human Resources.  I would like to thank the folks on the APEX Team who have been working hard since the "go live" date in October of last year.  They have spent many long hours researching why problems with our paychecks happened and found ways to create fixes for them as they cropped up.  My suspicion is that it was a pressure cooker atmosphere as they spent time and energy to make sure that once a problem was identified and a fix found, that the same problem did not crop up again.  So, kudos to Team APEX.  We look forward to the ongoing speedy resolution of any new glitches that occur - and may they be few and far between.

Labor Day is just around the corner as well as the State Fair.  I hope that you all take time to enjoy both events, especially Labor Day, as that is a day to recognize you - the worker who keeps making this county a safe, healthy community. 

Thank you,