4 Pieces of Good News about Ebola That Have Gotten Lost in the Hysteria!

Public panic about a potential Ebola outbreak in the U.S. — largely stoked by unscientific fear mongering from public figures — has led to an increasing number of overreactions, ranging from school cancellations to outward hostility toward people of West African origin. Amid the hysteria, however, it can be easy to miss any small steps of progress we’re making to contain the global outbreak. Here are four pieces of good news that may have gotten lost amid the ominous headlines about the virus:

1.    1. Nigeria and Senegal have both officially defeated Ebola.

2..   2. Dozens of people in Texas just learned they’re no longer at risk for contracting Ebola.

.  3  3. The first person to contract Ebola outside of Africa has survived the virus.

 4.   4. The health worker on the so-called “Ebola cruise” has tested negative for the virus.

While Europe and the U.S. can celebrate some small pieces of good news about Ebola, however, the epidemic continues to ravage countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone, where more than 4,000 people have died so far. Despite the fears about Ebola reaching the borders of developed nations, international assistance to the impoverished West African region has been slow to come. In an impassioned “letter to the world” broadcast on BBC on Sunday, Liberia’s president warned that West Africa is at risk of losing an entire generation to the disease. Read full story

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Established in April 1950, AFSCME Local 34 represents over 1900 Social Service employees of Hennepin County.

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While the Violence Against Women Act became a law 20 years ago, a shocking 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence still today. This is a national conversation that needs to be had and this month it’s time to champion the International Violence Against Women Act.

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AFSCME Local 34, P.O. Box 15222, Commerce Station, Mpls., Mn. 55415

                                AFSCME Local 34   Updated 10/23/2014

 “We all do better, when we all do better.” ~ Senator Paul Wellstone

Protect all the gains we've made for working families! 

This is what democracy is all about - voting. There's so much at stake this year for women, for students, for seniors and for working families that every vote will matter. When more people know the issues and get out to vote, then democracy works -- and we can help it work.

As the temperature is dropping, the election season is heating up. Soon we will be voting to decide the future of Minnesota. Will we keep moving our state forward for working families? 

Not if Tea Party candidate Jeff Johnson has his way. If elected governor, Johnson says he’ll “go all Scott Walker on Minnesota.” Imagine waking up one day without a contract, without collective bargaining rights, without a voice on the job. That’s what happened to AFSCME members in Walker’s Wisconsin and it could happen here if we don’t vote.  

Governor Dayton and DFL majorities have made astounding progress during the last two years by creating an economy that works better for everyone. They approved contracts with pay raises for state employees. They raised the minimum wage to lift hardworking families out of poverty. They leveled the economic playing field for women. They made sure every child has access to free all-day kindergarten. They passed property tax relief for middle-class homeowners. They required the richest two percent to pay their fair share of income taxes. And they turned a budget deficit into a surplus! ~ AFSCME Council 5  

Time off for voting on Election Day - November 4th 

Article 20 of our Local 34 Contract: “An employee who is entitled to vote in any election, as defined in M.S. 204C.04, subd 2, may absent himself/herself from his/her work for the purpose of voting during such election day for a period not to exceed two (2) hours without deduction from salary on account of such absence, provided the employee has made prior arrangements for the absence with the Employer.  Any employee making claim for time off for voting and not casting a ballot or utilizing the time off for unauthorized purposes shall be subject to disciplinary action.  

Please let your supervisor know now if you plan to take the time off for voting.  S/he needs that time to make sure that your team/unit has adequate staffing to meet your area’s business needs. 

New website makes voting easier than ever!

MNVotes, the new website launched by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, makes it easier than ever to vote in the November 4 elections. Minnesotans can register online, request absentee ballots, find their polling places and more. Read more.

See a list of candidates endorsed by local AFSCME PEOPLE committees.

If you want to volunteer with other AFSCME members and retirees to support candidates who support us, call AFSCME Council 5’s Jon Grebner: 651-287-0587. 

Good News From Your Union! Hennepin County has agreed that there will be no premium increase for all health plans in 2015. This is in part due to the extraordinary performance of the self-insurance plan negotiated four years ago. It also has to do with members being healthier, so all those wellness activities are starting to pay off. Hennepin County Medical Center/NorthPoint is a new network option available with Advantage! Find out more about this network for Hennepin County employees that will cost 10% less than the Standard plan and 5% less than other Advantage plans. You will need to have your health  incentive activities completed before the end of the business day on October 31st. Open enrollment: November 10—November 25, 2014. 

Health Care Open Enrollment Begins: November 10, 2014 Ends: November 25, 2014, 4:30 p.m. Open enrollment is your opportunity to review your benefits elections, make changes, enroll in flexible spending and enroll or cancel eligible dependents in your health or dental plans. During open enrollment you can:

  • Enroll in or change health insurance plans.

  • Enroll in the voluntary dental plan.

  • Enroll or waive coverage for yourself or eligible family members.

  • Enroll or re-enroll in a flexible spending account (requires annual enrollment).

  • Enroll in the vacation-PTO cash out program.

Local 34 dues Increase proposed! The Budget & Finance Committee reported that meetings have commenced for the year, and the committee has been diligently working to flesh out what a membership dues increase would look like, based on 2015 wages. A presentation of the dues amendement with discussion will be presented at the November 5th General Membership meeting. That meeting will be held in HSB 110 at 5:30 p.m., and is open to all of our members. After discussion and questions/answers by the members present at the meeting, the membership will then vote on the dues amendment to our constitution.

Labor Lunch! Strikes! Hennepin County workers and labor activists talk about their experience of going on STRIKE. Pizza will be provided. Hennepin County Government Center Auditorium, 300 6th St. Mpls., November 12, Noon - 1:00. 

AFSCME Family Scholarship! Graduating high school students who are children and financially dependent grandchildren of full dues-paying AFSCME members may now apply for the AFSCME Family Scholarship. Download an application here. Application deadline is December 31.  

Future Issues of the Local 34 Newsletter! The Executive Board has decided that beginning with the October 2014 issue, our newsletter will no longer be distributed in paper version to each individual member. The PDF version will be made available to each of you through e-mail links via unit representatives. We are in the process of building an “e-tree” – similar to a phone tree but with e-mail addresses – with a contact from every team/unit in our local to receive notices of the newsletter being ready, flyers, etc. and then share them with the team/unit.  If you are willing to serve as that person for your unit, please send an e-mail to Kay Powell, kay.powell@hennepin.us.   Our goal is to be able to get our information shared as quickly as possible. Until that system is in place you can contact our Newsletter Editor, Wesley Volkenant, and he will email you a notice once the newsletter has been posted on the Local 34 website. You can also view all copies of our Local 34 newsletters dating back to 2002 on this website. A shorter version of our newsletter will also be posted on all union bulletin boards in your work areas.

Hennepin  County Department Budget Briefings! The County Board will begin their Department briefings prior to setting the 2015 budget and maximum tax levy. Here is the schedule. Consider sitting in on the briefing for your department. Wear green. Bring coworkers. Fill up the seats. Pay attention. Keep in mind that County Administrator David Hough's proposed budget will add 120 new positions as of 1/1/15. According to Human Resources Director, Rafe Viscasillas, they are supposed to be all line staff, - and he said that I could quote him on that. We know that 30 are slated for Social Worker positions, 2 for Child Support and some for Human Service Representatives as well as 22 or so for Probation Officers. It will be interesting to see how those numbers add up on 1/1/15. ~ Jean Diederich, President, Local 34

The Union Plus® Mortgage program, with financing provided by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage can help you with your mortgage needs whether you are purchasing your first home, buying a new home, or refinancing your current mortgage. Did you know that in addition to all active & retired union members, parents and children of union members are also eligible to participate in the Union Plus Mortgage program? Join over 200,000 of your fellow union members and their families who have already taken advantage of this fantastic opportunity and these exclusive benefits. Call 1-866-802-7312 to talk with a Union Plus Mortgage specialist to help you find the home financing that works for you or request Union Plus Mortgage consultation today. ~ Union Plus

We wanted you to be the first to know about a brand-new grant for union member veterans. The Union Plus Mortgage Veterans Grants program will provide qualified union member veterans with a $1,000 grant that never needs to be repaid! This exciting program launches November 1 and the funds are limited, so you’ll want to prepare now to promote it to your members on your website, social media and in newsletters.

The American Dream of homeownership is too often out of reach, especially for those of your members who made sacrifices in protecting our country. Union Plus wants to make the dream of homeownership more affordable for hard working union members who have served in our armed forces.

The Veterans Grants program, a NEW grant feature of the Union Plus Mortgage program, provides qualified union member veterans with a $1,000 grant that never needs to be repaid to help offset the costs of a down payment.

Be sure you and your members don't miss out on valuable offers like this by signing up for the FREE union benefits e-newsletter, Union Plus E-News. You’ll be the first to find out about new and updated benefits for working families including scholarships, discounts and financial services. The Union Plus E-News is a free monthly subscription. Read archives and samples of Union Plus E-News here

 

Government Could Save $7.6 Billion By Raising Minimum Wage! A new report from the Economic Policy Institute says the government could save $7.6 billion on public benefits to workers living in poverty if the minimum wage went up to $10.10 an hour. The report said if the federal minimum wage had kept pace with productivity growth since the 1960’s – the last time it was tied to inflation – it would be $18.42 today.  

Minneapolis Unions Launch Campaign over Unsafe Conditions At Ridgedale Center Mall! A 28-union coalition is launching a “Shop at Your Own Risk” campaign in Minnetonka warning of safety problems at the Ridgedale Center shopping mall renovation project. The unions are launching a mobile safety information campaign aimed at mall customers after the mall owner – General Growth Properties – failed to adequately respond to the safety concerns. Dan McConnell is the Business Manager of the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council. The Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council has distributed letters to businesses in the mall informing them of the safety problems and the coming union campaign about them. The union coalition is also launching a web site called “ShopAtYourOwnRisk.com to highlight the safety issues.

Paid Parental Leave Policy! St. Paul is poised to become the second city in Minnesota (after Brooklyn Park) to offer paid maternity leave to city employees. A resolution that has the unanimous support of the city's seven council members "would provide four weeks paid salary to the birthing employee mother and two weeks paid salary to the non-birthing employee parent or adoptee employee parent.

We Can't Catch a Break! Feeling overworked? Like you need a break? You're not alone. Americans are not taking vacations in droves. Partly, the rampant culture of overwork is to blame; how America seems to look askance at people who seek balance and don't want to spend the entirety of their lives grinding away at the office. Partly, it's because many workers in America—especially lower income workers—don't get paid vacation time, and can't afford to take time off. Add to that the fact that many Americans are terrified of losing their jobs or being perceived as lazy, undedicated, or at all dispensible to their bosses, and you get a bunch of exhausted, burned out people, whose happiness and productivity is diminished.  

Freedom to Marry! Freedom to Marry's goal has always been - and remains - to win marriage nationwide. Every day we focus on making that goal a reality. Because of our work together, we'll soon have as many as 35 states and Washington, D.C., with the freedom to marry. Even after the historic victories of the past couple of weeks, our work isn't over: There are millions of Americans living in the remaining 15 states, and they are denied the freedom to marry. We've proved that by working together, we can win. Now we need to stand together to finish the job.

Have a great day and thank you for visiting our union's website!