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AFSCME Council 65 applies to represent Social Service employees

At the April 8 Wadena County Board meeting, Interim Social Services Director Steve Reger told commissioners that he has received a Maintenance of Status Quo Order from the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) requiring Wadena County "to preserve existing conditions and promote a free and fair environment for the resolution of [the] question of representation".

Reger said that AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) Council 65, which covers the entire state of Minnesota except state employees, Metro Minneapolis/St Paul and Metro Duluth and St Louis County employees, filed a petition with the BMS requesting Maintenance of the Status Quo as it discusses its potential certification as the exclusive representative of Wadena County Social Services employees for collective bargaining purposes.

The union's headquarters is in Nashwauk, Minnesota.

According to Reger, Council 65 has 30 to 60 days from the date of the Maintenance of Status Quo Order, March 19, to complete its recruiting process and organize a vote of the Social Services employees.

During the period of the Order, there can be no changes to wages, hours, and existing conditions of the employees. Wadena County cannot question employees about the union or discriminate against them as a result of their filing the petition.

Any employee whose hiring anniversary occurs during the Maintenance of Status Quo Order period will not receive his or her annual step increase on time because the Order requires that no changes to wages be made during the Order period, Commissioner Bill Stearns said.

The Order remains in effect until the matter is disposed of and a determination about representation is issued by the Commissioner of the BMS.

Also during the April 8 meeting, the board received a letter dated March 13 from the Minnesota Department of Human Services written "to commend you and your staff for perfect performance in meeting DHS Human Services financial reporting requirements for calendar year 2013."

The board spent considerable time discussing issues that remain with FEMA and the Minnesota Department of Homeland Security regarding the completion of the rebuilding efforts following the June 17, 2010, tornado. Commissioners Stearns and Jim Hofer shared information that they had received at recent meetings with the Ag Society and with a representative from the Minnesota Department of Homeland Security.

It appears that the Ag Society is due to receive a considerable amount of money from FEMA as reimbursement for replacement of structures already completed at the Fairgrounds that were destroyed by the tornado. Several projects remain. The Ag Society has already received a substantial amount of money from FEMA and from the county's insurance trust.

It also appears that the county may receive reimbursement revenue as well. In addition, there is one county building that was destroyed but has not been rebuilt. Commissioners discussed what to do about that, and whether to request an extension of time from FEMA to construct the final building. FEMA's deadline is June 30, 2014.

Stearns and Hofer were to attend an Ag Society meeting on April 9 and would bring up these issues with Ag Society board members.