State Employees Association of North Carolina, SEIU Local 2008 1621 Midtown Place, Raleigh, NC 27609 • www.seanc.org 800-222-2758 • 919-833-6436 • Circulation 55,000
• Vol. 33, Issue 2
EMPAC scores 73-percent win rate in elections By Toni Davis
EMPAC-endorsed Winners from 2014 Election
SEANC Director of Communications
On Nov. 4, SEANC’s Employees Political Action Committee (EMPAC) scored a 73-percent success rate for its 81 endorsed bipartisan candidates. “SEANC made its voice heard this election season,” EMPAC Chairman Tony Smith said. “Lawmakers know if they value vital public services for North Carolina and the people who provide them, our members will support them. We look forward to working with all of the new and returning legislators next year on our members’ priorities, including pay raises for state employees and retirees, employee due process rights and pension transparency.” SEANC Election Efforts With so few competitive General Assembly races, SEANC focused its efforts on key races in Wake and Watauga counties. SEANC helped House Appropriations Chairman Nelson Dollar of Cary and Rep. Jonathan Jordan of Jefferson. Activities included poll workers, telephone calls and mailers. SEANC also produced a radio ad in support of Rep. Dollar, who led the effort to provide state employees with an additional five days of leave in addition to a pay raise. Both Dollar and Jordan won their races and will be returning to Raleigh. GOP Supermajority Continues Republicans continued to maintain their supermajority to override any legislation vetoed by Gov. Pat McCrory. A legislative supermajority in North Carolina means that 3/5 of present and
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D3: D4: D5: D6: D7: D10: D13: D14: D17: D22: D23: D26: D30: D33: D39: D48: D49:
• • • • • • • • • • •
D5: D7: D12: D13: D14: D15: D22: D23: D24: D26: D27:
(Listed by district) N.C. Senate Erica Smith-Ingram (D-Northampton) Angela Bryant (D-Nash) Don Davis (D-Greene) Harry Brown (R-Onslow) Louis Pate (R-Wayne) Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) Jane Smith (D-Robeson) Dan Blue (D-Wake) Tamara Barringer (R-Wake) Mike Woodard (D-Durham) Valerie Foushee (D-Orange) Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) Shirley Randleman (R-Wilkes) Stan Bingham (R-Davidson) Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe) N.C. House Howard Hunter III (D-Hertford) Bobbie Richardson (D-Franklin) George Graham (D-Lenoir) Pat McElraft (R-Carteret) George Cleveland (R-Onslow) Phillip Shepard (R-Onslow) William Brisson (D-Bladen) Shelly Willingham (D-Edgecombe) Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson) Leo Daughtry (R-Johnston) Michael Wray (D-Northampton)
voting members can vote to override a gubernatorial veto. When the legislature convenes on Jan. 14, the Senate will have 34 Republicans and 16 Democrats and the House will be dominated by 74 Republicans compared to 46 Democrats. Of the 170 members in the legislature, 20 will be incoming freshman. The Senate will welcome six new members and the House will add 14 new members. Moving Forward EMPAC’s endorsements and the subsequent turnout of SEANC members to the polling places is the first step in the association’s efforts to lobby the General Assembly, which returns
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D28: J.H. Langdon (R-Harnett) D30: Paul Luebke (D-Durham) D31: Mickey Michaux (D-Durham) D32: Nathan Baskerville (D-Vance) D36: Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) D38: Yvonne Lewis Holley (D-Wake) D39: Darren Jackson (D-Wake) D40: Marilyn Avila (R-Wake) D43: Elmer Floyd (D-Cumberland) D45: John Szoka (R-Cumberland) D46: Ken Waddell (D-Columbus) D48: Garland Pierce (D-Scotland) D50: Graig Meyer (D-Orange) D51: Brad Salmon (D-Harnett) D56: Verla Insko (D-Orange) D60: Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford) D65: Bert Jones (R-Rockingham) D67: Justin Burr (R-Stanley) D70: Pat Hurley (R-Randolph) D71: Evelyn Terry (D-Forsyth) D75: Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) D78: Allen McNeill (R-Randolph) D83: Linda Johnson (R-Cabarrus) D84: Rena Turner (R-Iredell) D87: Edgar Starnes (R-Catawba) D89: Mitch Setzer (R-Catawba) D91: Bryan Holloway (R-Stokes) D93: Jonathan Jordan (R-Ashe) D108: John Torbett (R-Gaston) D111: Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) D116: Brian Turner (D-Buncombe)
By the Numbers
SEANC election activities on behalf of EMPAC-endorsed candidates: • 2,882 campaign mailers sent to public • 2,500 phone calls made • 900 mailers sent to SEANC members • 24 radio spots
to Raleigh on Jan. 14 for one day and begins its normal schedule on Jan. 28. SEANC members, now is the time to make plans to visit Raleigh and speak directly with your elected officials. It’s time to make a difference in your lives and in your community. To learn more contact email@example.com. firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @tonicdavis
Counselor’s Comments By Tom Harris
SEANC Chief of Staff/General Counsel
A Day in the Life of SEANC’s General Counsel
My work days are filled with many different activities, but none is more important than answering calls and emails from SEANC members who raise a wide range of concerns, from personnel issues to the state’s compliance with federal laws and regulations. As an in-house counsel, North Carolina law does not permit me to give specific legal advice or represent individual members, but I am able to share general principles of applicable law and help members find an answer or assistance from an appropriate Harris agency or private attorney. Here are examples of some of the recent member questions and my responses. Question: I work in a job classification that has positions in practically every county of the state. To discourage employees from seeking frequent transfers to different parts of the state, my agency has implemented two rules for employees seeking transfers: you can only apply for a transfer once per year and then you can only apply for a position in one county, not multiple counties at the same time. Are these restrictions legal? Answer: No. State employees are free to apply for any state job they want in any location. I reported these practices to the Office of State Human Resources, which apparently notified your agency that the rules were improper. You have told me in a follow-up message that your agency has stopped enforcing these rules and you and other employees are now permitted to apply for any multiple jobs in multiple counties whenever you wish.
Question: I am seeking clarification on an issue we currently are experiencing. We (police-sworn personnel at a university in the UNC system) work a 28-day cycle. When we work from 160 to 171 hours, we receive “gap time” for hours worked, which is straight pay. Any time over 171 we receive overtime pay at time-and-a-half. My question is does the original 160 hours have to be actual physical hours worked or can they be a combination of hours worked, vacation or any other approved leave. We have been given several different answers by our human resources. Answer: The federal overtime law, called the Fair Labor Standards Act, allows government employers to pay overtime
The Reporter • December 2014
to public safety officers after 171 hours in a 28-day work cycle rather than after forty hours in a work week, like most everyone else must be paid. But either way, the hours that count toward the 40 hours per work week or 171 per 28-day work cycle must be actually worked. Leave time does not count as hours worked for determining if overtime pay has been earned. Question: At our last district meeting, one of our members who worked for a community college reported that he was discharged from his job without any reason. Are community college employees not covered by the same job protections as other state employees? If not, what can we do about it? Answer: Community college employees are among several large categories of employees who are exempt from the protections of the State Human Resources Act, including the right given to non-exempt career state employees to be discharged from their jobs only for “just cause.” Other exempt employees include those of the judicial and legislative branches and UNC hospitals. These exemptions are statutory and can only be removed by the General Assembly. If you believe SEANC should give priority to lobbying for legislation to repeal these exemptions, you can propose a policy platform objective at your district meeting. If your district supports your proposal, it will be sent to the SEANC Policy Platform Committee for further consideration. Policy platform objectives approved by that committee are sent to the SEANC annual convention for approval and priority ranking by the delegates. The SEANC staff lobbies for the adoption of legislation to accomplish those approved objectives based on the priorities set by the convention delegates. This is the process whereby any SEANC member can suggest and influence SEANC’s legislative goals. email@example.com The Reporter, USPS 009-852 (ISSN 1069 2142), is published nine times a year in the months of February, March, April, May, June, July, September, November and December for $2.50 per year, per member, by the State Employees Association of North Carolina, Inc., 1621 Midtown Place, Raleigh, N.C. 27609. Periodicals postage paid at Raleigh and additional offices. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: THE REPORTER 1621 Midtown Place Raleigh, NC 27609
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New committee looks for growth, expansion By Matthew Whittle
SEANC Digital Communications Specialist
A new statewide committee has been added to SEANC’s ranks this year and Chairwoman Gloria M. Upperman of District 26 is looking for your help. President Wayne Fish created the Growth and Expansion Committee to focus on two areas: recruiting local government members and collegiate scholarship student athletes. Last year, the Board of Governors and convention delegates made the decision to open this association up to these new members. A bylaws change at the 31st Annual Convention in September opened membership up to local government employees, and UNC System scholarship student athletes received the right to join through a Board of Governors vote in May. With approximately 4,000 student athletes on scholarship at any given time in the University of North Carolina system, and up to 100,000 local government employees in North Carolina, new SEANC members from both groups could help increase workers’ voices in the General Assembly and beyond. THE
Toni Davis, Editor-In-Chief Jonathan Owens, Managing Editor Beth Dew, Associate Editor Alicia Miller, Associate Editor Matthew Whittle, Associate Editor State Employees Association of North Carolina 1621 Midtown Place • Raleigh, NC 27609 Telephone 919-833-6436, 800-222-2758 www.seanc.org
Advertising Policy SEANC accepts advertising material from companies and persons seeking to communicate with SEANC members. Acceptance of this advertising does not indicate SEANC approval or endorsement of any representation that the message, product or service is as represented by the advertiser. SEANC accepts no responsibility and shall not be liable for any use of or reliance on any such information, product or service. SEANC is a private entity and is under no obligation to carry advertisements of any nature, political or otherwise, that may be viewed as contrary to the interests of the association and its membership.
The Reporter • December 2014
“I am excited by this opportunity, and I want to make sure we go about it the right way,” said Fish. “That’s why I created this committee — to help us find the best ways to approach and recruit these new members.” Currently the committee is in the early stages of researching the next steps to take. “Right now we’re still in the baby steps of figuring out how best and when to recruit local government employees and college athletes,” Upperman said. “SEANC lobbyists have a proven track record of being effective advocates for our members, and I’m sure we can help local government workers and scholarship athletes as well.” If you have been looking for a way to become more involved in SEANC and have an interest in helping to grow the association’s membership, are familiar with local government systems or know somebody who is, or know a UNC System collegiate scholarship student athlete, the Growth and Expansion Committee could use your help. Contact Member Action Director Lynn Cote at email@example.com or call (919) 833-6436. firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter @mwwhittle
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Welcome New Members!
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY HENRY BELADA
SEANC has added 1,159 new members since July 1 from a wide range of agencies, including: • Dept. of Administration • Dept. of Agriculture • Dept. of Commerce • Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources • Dept. of Health & Human Services • Dept. of Insurance
As part of a restructuring effort, EMPAC areas were renamed by letters at the October SEANC Board of Governors meeting and each area was asked to select its leadership before Jan. 1, 2015. Area C met on Nov. 6 to elect officers. Pictured standing from left are District 5 Chairwoman Sherry McCracken, Georgia Stapf of District 5, Scott McMahan of District 7, District 6 Chairwoman Sonya Akbar, Wayne Freeman of District 6, Sherry Helton of District 6, Nick Fox of District 5, Johnny Burnette of District 5 and (sitting) District 7 and Area C Chairman Henry Belada.
• Dept. of Justice • Dept. of Public Safety • Dept. of Revenue • Dept. of Transportation • The Administrative Offices of the Courts • Office of Administrative Hearings • Office of Information Technology Services • Office of the Secretary of State • Office of the State Auditor • Office of the State Controller • Office of the State Treasurer
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY LYNN TUTHILL
• N.C. Wildlife Commission • Appalachian State University • East Carolina University • Elizabeth City State University • Fayetteville State University • N.C. A&T State University • N.C. Central University • N.C. State University • N.C. School of Science & Math
District 65 collected more than 200 items during a hygiene drive held on the East Carolina University campus in September to be donated to the Pitt County Department of Social Services Adult Services Unit.
SEANC Scholarship Bowl-a-Thon
• UNC-Charlotte • UNC-Greensboro • UNC-Pembroke • UNC-Wilmington • Winston-Salem State University • UNC Hospitals
Saturday, Feb. 28 1-3 p.m. or 3-5 p.m. Buffaloe Lanes North - Raleigh, NC Proceeds from the event will be used to award thousands of dollars in educational scholarships to SEANC members, their spouses and their dependent children.
• UNC-Chapel Hill
Tickets: $20 per person or $100 per team of six To register, sponsor a lane or for more information visit www.seanc.org/bowl-a-thon
• Asheville-Buncombe, Bladen, Brunswick Technical, Caldwell, Cape Fear Technical, Central Carolina, Central Piedmont, Craven, Davidson, Durham Technical, Fayetteville Technical, Johnston, Martin, Pitt, Robeson, Rowan-Cabarrus, Sandhills, South Piedmont, Southwestern Technical, Tri-County, Wake Technical and Wayne community colleges • Schools in Alamance, Anson, Burke, Catawba, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Chatham, Cleveland, Cumberland, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Greene, Guilford, Harnett, Henderson, Hoke, Johnston, Lenoir, Moore, Nash, Orange, Pitt, Scotland, Randolph, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland, Union, Vance, Wake, Wayne, WinstonSalem/Forsyth counties, and Clinton and Weldon city schools
The Reporter • December 2014
Impartial OAH protects your rights By Matthew Whittle
What is the OAH?
For state employees, one of the most important state agencies is one they hope they never need to use. But if they do, Judge Julian Mann II, director of the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings, wants them to be confident in the impartiality of his agency. “Is there just cause or not?” he said, explaining the basis on which all OAH state employee disciplinary determinations are made. “It’s just that simple.” The OAH, which was established by the General Assembly in 1985, is an independent, quasi-judicial agency created to protect the due process rights of North Carolinians during interactions with state government. The more than 100 different causes of action for the agency includes the due process rights of businesses challenging regulatory decisions, citizens challenging licensure decisions and, of course, state employees challenging employment decisions. Judge Mann, who has been the director for 28 years, said making sure the 11 administrative law judges who serve in the OAH are independent arbiters is his main focus. “I had no idea the difficulty of this job and how difficult it would be to create a system that is fair and impartial, and I never dreamed it would become my life’s work,” he said. “But I think we’re very close to getting it right.” Still, Mann recognizes that because the OAH is a state agency there are political threats to its survival, despite — or perhaps because of — its impartiality from any other state agency. Such was the case during the most recent budget negotiations when Gov.
The Office of Administrative Hearings seeks to protect due process and property rights of North Carolinians during interactions with state government. The OAH is divided into three divisions — Hearings, Rules and Civil Rights. n The Hearings Division hears contested cases in which a citizen claims a state agency deprived him/her of property, required him/her to pay a fine or civil penalty or substantially prejudiced his/her rights. Petitioners must prove that the agency exceeded its authority or jurisdiction, acted erroneously, failed to use proper procedures, acted arbitrarily or capriciously and/or failed to act as required by law. Petitioners in these cases can include businesses, private citizens or state employees. n The Civil Rights Division was created specifically to deal with discrimination claims forwarded to it by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from previous and current employees and applicants covered by the State Human Resources Act, as well as some county government employees. If alleging employment discrimination, employees can file an EEOC charge directly and confidentially with the Civil Rights Division without exhausting all of their agency’s in-house procedures. However, if employees want to preserve their right to appeal to the OAH Hearings Division, they must first exhaust their agency’s internal grievance process, which is started by filing a complaint with the agency’s EEO officer or affirmative action officer within 15 calendar days of the alleged discriminatory or retaliatory action that is the basis of their complaint. This applies to: • Non-exempt state government employees • Non-exempt UNC employees • County employees in social services, mental health, public health and civil preparedness n The Rules Division also has an important impact on state employees, as well as other North Carolina citizens. Its role is to review and approve the rules governing the operations of all state agencies and licensing boards.
SEANC Digital Communications Specialist
The Reporter • December 2014
Pat McCrory attempted to remove two administrative law judges from OAH and place them in the Office of State Human Resources where they would have been the sole hearing officers for state employee appeals. That provision, which SEANC opposed, would have eliminated the impartiality necessary to protect due process. Fortunately, thanks in large part to SEANC’s lobbying efforts and the leadership of
Sen. Tommy Tucker (R-Union), this provision was eventually dropped by the General Assembly. “I feel like we’ve gained credibility with the legislature over the years,” Mann said. “When you come to an administrative hearing in this office, the decision will be based upon the record. And if you depart from that, then you lose credibility.” email@example.com; Twitter @mwwhittle
Better investments would equal larger COLAs By Jonathan Owens
SEANC Asst. Director of Communications
With stronger returns and lower fees, retired state employees could receive a larger cost-of-living adjustment without costing the state any more money than it appropriated last year. But according to an actuarial report delivered by Buck Consultants at the Retirement Systems Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 29, the systems’ gains would fund just a 1-percent COLA this year, and only if the General Assembly funds the retirement system at the same rate it did last year. What’s more, the consultants recommended that the General Assembly reduce its annual required contribution (ARC) to 8.69 percent of payroll rather than offer any COLA at all. If the General Assembly in the 2015 session, which starts
in January, retains the ARC at the current level of 9.16 percent, $46 million would be available for a COLA. The Board of Trustees will vote on its official recommendation to the General Assembly at its January meeting. With a soaring stock market over the last year, investment gains — and the COLA — could have been much higher had State Treasurer Janet Cowell not opted to invest in high-risk, high-fee alternatives such as hedge funds. Cowell’s investments came in below the national median and North Carolina’s returns were more than $1 billion behind its peers. Her investments were 9 percentage points below the stock market’s gains in the same time period and lower than the average return for pension plans nationwide. Not only does the state pension perform below average, but Cowell
pushed — unsuccessfully thanks to SEANC — for the General Assembly to give a legislative stamp of approval to her practices of keeping secret those losing investment contracts and the hundreds of millions of dollars in fees paid to those money managers. In our ongoing effort to improve the future financial security of state employees and retirees, SEANC will continue to advocate for an end to the sole fiduciary model that allows the state Treasurer to continue to make such poor investment decisions alone, as well as an end to the secrecy that surrounds those decisions. True pension transparency with a system of checks and balances is the best — and the only — way to ensure that North Carolina’s pension fund continues to remain fully funded and well maintained. firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter @jonbowens
Quotes to Note
“It’s all cloak-and-dagger and very hidden with the fees. We have a right to know where our money is. I’m planning on that money.” District 24 member Anne Marie Bellamy in the Nov. 5 Wall Street Journal article, “Buyout Firms Push to Keep Information Under Wraps”
“If it’s not illegal, it should be. Either State Treasurer Janet Cowell was asleep at the switch or she allowed it to happen.” SEANC Government Relations Director Ardis Watkins, in the Oct. 21 International Business Times article “Pension Deal Spotlights ‘Placement Agent’ Business, Raises Conflict-Of-Interest Questions”
“Athletes who join SEANC would immediately be given a voice in an organization that employs professional lobbyists and has expressed interest in representing athletes’ interests. As things are, almost all power in the relationship lies with the NCAA and its member schools.” From an opinion article from the Daily Tar Heel, UNC-Chapel Hill’s student newspaper, on Oct. 22 titled “UNC athletes should unionize” The Reporter • December 2014
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Bonus leave can now be used at any time By Matthew Whittle
SEANC Digital Communications Specialist
After hearing many complaints from state employees, the Office of State Human Resources announced in late October that the rules surrounding the use of the five bonus days that were granted in this year’s budget have been changed. Previously, those bonus days, which were part of the largest compensation increase for state employees since 2008 and have no expiration date, could only be used after all vacation time was exhausted. Now, though, the OSHR says that eligible employees (any full-time employee of the state or community college as of Sept. 1 who is eligible to earn annual leave time) can use those days before their vacation time if they so choose. If you are interested in using these bonus days now, here is the order in which time off can be taken: Holiday Comp, Overtime Comp, Gap Hours, Callback Comp, On-Call Comp, Travel Comp, Emergency Closing Comp, Incentive Leave, Vacation/Bonus Leave and then Advance Leave. Sick time applies separately to illness and funeral leave. email@example.com; Twitter @mwwhittle
It’s vacation time, right?
Not so fast. Consider this advice from SEANC General Counsel Tom Harris before you rush to use up your 40 extra hours of bonus leave: “It may not be in your best interest to use your bonus leave when you have vacation leave available for use because this year’s bonus leave is permanent. Since it never expires, all special bonus leave saved until you retire or otherwise Harris leave state employment will be paid to you at the salary that you are making at that time, in addition to up to 240 hours of unused vacation leave you may have at that time. Therefore, you could end up being paid as much as 280 hours combined special bonus and vacation leave when you leave your job. If you are retiring at that time, this extra pay will likely increase your retirement benefit, which is an added reason for holding onto your special bonus leave.” Read more advice from Tom Harris in “Counselor’s Comments” on Page 2. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have more questions on using your bonus leave or anything else pertaining to your job.