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president’s report setting sail in the spotlight pension update tech talk opeiu negotiations

Fall 2011

V-I-C-T-O-R-Y in the Buckeye State! THANKS TO the great AFT members in Ohio, all their supporters and our own AFTSU members, the effort to defeat an anticollective bargaining bill in Ohio was successful! Not only did AFTSU members donate $10,000 to the effort to repeal Senate Bill 5, but more than a dozen AFTSU members hit the streets in Ohio to encourage its repeal on Nov. 8. S.B. 5, which was on the ballot this month, called for restricting the ability of the state’s 400,000 public workers to strike and bargain collectively. Voting yes would have kept the bill in place, and voting no (which Ohio voters did, thank you very much) repealed it. The bill would have permitted public employees to collectively bargain for wages only, preventing them from collectively bargaining for health insurance and pensions. It would have prohibited all public employees from striking and opened the opportunity for increased employee contributions for pensions and healthcare. It also would have eliminated bargaining rights for college and university faculty. Your AFTSU brothers and sisters staffed phone banks and participated in labor walks, community outreach and volunteer activities. Statewide coordinator and AFTSU field vice president Darrin Nedrow says, “AFTSU members know how important this issue is to Ohio and the nation. Many volunteered to actually go to Ohio to assist in this struggle, and we could not have done as well without them.”


AFTSU Retirees

Setting Sail on the Waters of Retirement

Opting for early retirement are eight AFTSU members who helped build the AFT into what one of them has described as “the Cadillac of unions.” Marilyn Adkinson, Troy Brazell, Edgar Crook, Joan Devlin, Mel Driban, Charlie Glendinning, Norm Holsinger and Bob Jensen all have chosen to take the AFT’s early retirement incentive but are leaving at varying dates. Marilyn, Ed, Charlie and Bob will make their last day Nov. 30. Mel has already set sail, retiring on Aug. 31; Joan will leave us on Jan. 31, 2012; and Troy and Norm will officially retire on May 31, 2012. In our next issue of The Union Line, we will be profiling each of these wonderful colleagues, and we hope to do them justice for the years of devoted and proud work they have given to the American Federation of Teachers and the staff union that is sorry to see them leave. All of your AFTSU colleagues—new and seasoned alike—wish you the best, most satisfying, most relaxing years of your life!

Published Quarterly CONTRIBUTORS Sharon Wright, Jack Nightingale, Priscilla Nemeth, Annette Licitra, Dan Gursky, Jane Feller, Faith Proctor, Pam Wolfe, Glenn Scott and Darrin Nedrow AFTSU OFFICERS Jack Nightingale, President; Yonna Carroll, Executive Vice President; Faith Proctor, Administrative Vice President; Darrin Nedrow, Field Vice President; Sam Lieberman, Treasurer; Jo Awtry, Parliamentarian; Sharon Wright, Secretary AFTSU ADMINISTRATIVE STEWARDS Darryl Alexander, Angela Callahan, Amy Callner, Connie Cordovilla, Jodie Easley, Leonard Edmonds, Christopher Goff, Dave Kammerer, Dawn Krusemark, Shannon Lederer, Jennifer Porcari and Deborah Tanno AFTSU FIELD STEWARDS Alisha Ashley, Bob Brown, Jessica Humphrey, Pat Jones, Frederika McClary and Mary Jo Shannon

Singing a song of praise AFTSU President’s Report by Jack Nightingale

IT COMES AS no surprise to anyone reading this newsletter that organized labor is experiencing unprecedented challenges. As AFT employees, we are on the frontline, fighting these attacks on collective bargaining in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and other states; we are engaging in the political battles in Washington, D.C., and in a number of state capitals; and we are working with our locals representing preK-12 teachers, PSRPs, public employees, higher education faculty and staff, and healthcare employees as they negotiate contracts in the current environment. With all this on our plate, our union is also undergoing major transformation. Because of the five-year contract we ratified almost two years ago, we have approximately 1,150 days before the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. We have already laid the groundwork for preparing for our next contract negotiations by conducting a strategic planning retreat, which took place last month (Sept. 16-18). The idea for this newsletter is only one of the outcomes of the planning retreat. We will be focusing on a number of other recommendations at our membership meeting in December. Another major development that affects our bargaining unit is the early retirement incentive that we negotiated with the AFT this sum-

mer. Eight AFTSU members (six in the field staff unit and two in the administrative staff unit) have retired or will be retiring before May 2012 (see related story). We are going to lose about 200 years of AFTSU institutional memory. We will sorely miss the contributions of our colleagues as they transition to another phase of their lives.

Team “AFT Making a Difference Every Day” took to the D.C. streets Oct. 29 for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. Left to right are Jenn Porcari, Rebecca Hockfield, Lauren Samet, Sharon Wright, Mary Traeger Pascale, Jack Nightingale and Barbara McKenna. Darryl Alexander, Leonard Edmonds and Lynne Mingarelli were also on the team. The team raised $2,686 for breast cancer research and showed support for AFT colleagues and other loved ones battling cancer.

We have a lot of work to do and many challenges to face, but we’re getting off to a great start. I would like to thank our executive board, stewards and committees for making this truly a team effort. I’d also like to recognize all the members who have stepped up to participate in various AFTSU activities, including the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. It is an honor to serve as AFTSU president.

Got a great idea? If you have news you’d like to submit, or ideas for member profiles, items of interest or subjects for our standing columns, please contact Sharon Wright at or 202/879-4432.


JOHN DOMINGUEZ has been a national representative for nine years and is currently the project director for the Texas AFT Northside PEG project. John is proud of the gains made while he was lead organizer—building membership and structure as the foundation for a local in the Northside school district of San Antonio. With more than 100 campuses, it is the third largest district in Texas and the 10th largest in the nation. When he started the project last fall, there were 400 members, and nine months later, membership had increased to 1,800. Developing leaders and activists at each campus was key, he says. They now have a districtwide organizing committee of 70 activists. John said the project’s success was due to the resources and the great team made possible by the national and Texas AFT.

From time to time, we will be shining our light on AFTSU members—all of whom make AFTSU and the AFT a growing and successful union. In this issue, we’re highlighting John Dominguez and Darryl Alexander.


DARRYL ALEXANDER is a 22-year veteran of the staff union and is director of the AFT health and safety program. Darryl says she is proud of her program’s efforts to shine a light on the effects of work (and workplace) on our members’ health and safety. Darryl and her team have established an AFT indoor air quality task force of AFT members, which has already held two meetings with Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials. As a result, OSHA has published a guide on indoor air quality—a first of its kind. Also, in a breakthrough on workplace violence prevention, Darryl’s team worked with National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to conduct the first workplace violence survey with education employees in Pennsylvania. Our local affiliates in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are actively supporting the distribution and collection of the surveys.

Did you know? Rosalind LaRocque’s book, Reform vs. Dreams—Preventing Student Failure, is scheduled to be released in February 2012.

John Dominguez has been a nat rep for nine years and is currently the project director for the Texas AFT Northside PEG project.

Darryl Alexander is a 22-year veteran of the staff union and is director of the AFT health and safety program.


Pension Update

Changes Coming to Retirement Plan Limits You might have heard recently that Social Security benefits will go up 3.6 percent in 2012. Around the same time, the IRS announced new and higher limits on retirement plans that affect AFT plan participants. A few of the changes: • Maximum limit to defined-contribution plans, employer and employee combined: $50,000 (up from $49,000). • Maximum employee deferral for a 401(k): $17,000 (up from $16,500). The catch-up contribution for those 50 and older remains at $5,500. • Contribution limits will not change for IRAs— still $5,000 per year plus an additional $1,000 in allowed catch-up contributions—but the income limits for contribution to traditional and Roth IRAs have gone up, so that might make a difference for some AFTSU members. • One Social Security change that will affect some current employees is the increase for 2012 in the maximum taxable earnings, from $106,800 this year to $110,000. Once your salary for the year exceeds that amount, no more Social Security payroll tax (4.2 percent this year) is deducted for the rest of the year.


for travel, per diem payments are meant to cover your personal expenses for such things as meals, tips, dry cleaning, parking meters, pay phone calls and Internet charges. It is not meant to cover your hotel or transportation. Out-of-town per diem is paid at different rates depending on when you leave or return. If you stay overnight and either depart after 2 p.m. or come home earlier than 2 p.m., then you receive $40 for that day. If you have to travel 50 miles or more from home, and are gone for two meals, but don’t spend the night, you also get $40 for the day. You receive $80 for all other out-oftown overnight assignments. For your in-town expenses, per diem payments allow for $10 a day, unless you are working at home. No per diem is paid for working at home. When in town, you may be reimbursed for parking expenses or taxi fares for assignments away from your of-

fice as long as you have receipts. No matter what the amount, you must have a receipt. Employees in the information technology department will get per diem whenever they are on call. When filling out your expense forms, if you were on leave, you must choose $0 per diem for that day. If you were out-oftown and choose the $80 per diem rate, you will have to fill in information about your flight—whether it was inbound or outbound—and the time of day of the flight. Some portion of your per diem is always taxable. What’s taxable depends on the city you are traveling to and what the government per diem rate is for that city. All intown per diems and the $40 per diem when you don’t spend the night are fully taxable.

Contract talk Your AFT/AFTSU Contract : • Entitles you to reimbursement for annual credit card fees up to $125 per year. • Requires you to have a credit card that provides primary insurance coverage for your rental car—when used for AFT business. • Requires you to have a cell phone and to provide the number to the human resources department. • Allows each member reimbursement up to $150 (once during the life of the contract) to defray the cost of purchasing a cell phone.* • Provides a quarterly allowance of $150 for maintaining a cell phone or $300 for maintaining a cell phone/e-mail communication device. • Does not allow reimbursement for Internet connection charges but does provide a quarterly allowance of $180 for an aircard if required for your job. * If your cell phone purchase is less than $150, you also can be reimbursed for phone accessories.


Social Media for Beginners

THE TROUBLE with Facebook, Twitter and the lot is that they’re constantly changing. This is wearisome to those who use them and off-putting to those who don’t. That said, you know you have to take the plunge, for the sake of your career. Here’s a primer: Facebook: Start with a personal page. You only need two things: an active e-mail address—one you actually use—and a photo of yourself. No one wants to interact with faceless people, or your pets or kids. They want to talk with you. You also need to know two basic things: a message is private (in theory), while a wall post (the prompts are “What’s on your mind?” or “Write something”) is public to friends and whoever else is allowed to see it. If you’re not sure whether you should post something, don’t. Basically, everything on the Internet is public. LinkedIn: For now, this is the default career site for professionals. It houses your

resume (with a more formal photo), features testimonials about your work and can become a launching pad for ideas. Making introductions is a snap. Post the basics and start exploring. Something you might enjoy is clicking on the groups tab, joining “groups you may like” and dropping in on discussions.

This is a column about social media for people who hate social media.

Twitter: The beauty part here is that you can start out quietly following experts on labor issues, education and other progressive causes as they share insights or lead you to useful stuff. It’s like hiring consultants for free. Once you get the knack, you may want to start doing some tweeting yourself.

Or at least are ambivalent.

NEXT TIME: What exactly is Twitter, and how can it help you in your work?

Tips & tricks: LeaderNet Survey Maker DOES YOUR JOB require you to create forms or surveys? Did you know that there is an electronic survey and form creator right on LeaderNet that staff can use? AND, you can send the survey or form you create to anyone—even if they’re not a LeaderNet user. You can access this LeaderNet tool by going to survey_form_creator/. Both the form and the survey get posted to a specific Web address that you either link to from a website or send as a link through an e-mail. Surveys: You can create a survey from scratch or use one of the 30 templates. If you decide

to use a template, you can edit it. Five types of questions are available: multiple choice, check all that apply, open-ended short answer, ranking question, and open-ended comment. You can preview your survey and save a PDF to your computer or print it out for distribution. Once you finish your survey, you will open it up for data collection. The AFT’s survey-creation tool automatically tallies all multiple-choice and multi-select questions and downloads the results to an Excel file. Forms: The form creator can help you set up simple online forms. You can collect the responses in an Excel spreadsheet or get them

via e-mail. There are no templates for creating a form. You just come up with the questions you want to ask and the response categories you plan to provide with each question. There are four kinds of questions available for forms: multiple choice, check all that apply, open-ended short answer and open-ended comment. You can also combine text blocks with the different question types. At any time, you can click the “preview” option to see how your form will look to potential respondents. Once the form is finalized, you go “live” and open your form for data collection.

Both tools on LeaderNet have tutorials that you can run through to learn everything you need to know to create either a great survey or tailor-made form.


OPEIU negotiations


AFTSU shows solidarity with OPEIU members IN THE MIDST of collective bargaining rights being torn away from union members all around us, our OPEIU brothers and sisters are maintaining their strength and solidarity while negotiating their agreement with the AFT. The previous contract agreement expired on Sept. 30, 2011, but they continue to make a good faith effort to come to reasonable accord.

AFTSU Happenings!

AS A WAY OF showing union solidarity, AFTSU has asked our members to wear black (that was a weeklong effort), wear daily stickers and join OPEIU in an informational picket (picketing took place on Oct. 5), and to stand with them and rally the OPEIU negotiating team Nov. 7. Here are some pictures from our members showing their solidarity.

Brown Bag Lunches

Events Dec. 6, 2011 AFTSU meeting 12 p.m. - 5 p.m., during national staff meeting, Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C. office Nov. 16, 2011: Benefits Dec. 21, 2011: Leave Jan. 25, 2012: Other Reimbursements Feb. 22, 2012: Facebook 101 Mar. 21, 2012: AFTSU Do’s and Don’ts Apr. 25, 2012: AFTSU Resources

Angela Esther Marilyn




Lisa Pat




The AFTSU Union Line | Fall 2011  

AFTSU's quarterly news publication