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. 32, Issue 8
General Assembly at stalemate over state budget
With the House and Senate locked in a standoff over the state budget, what was thought to be a “short” session of the General Assembly has extended further into the summer. With little compromise between the two sides, Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), president pro tem, said on June 30 the session may stretch to the end of July. The true cost of a Medicaid shortfall is the biggest source of contention for legislators. Both sides seem to agree that state employees and retirees deserve a pay increase, though they differ on just what that amount should be. The House is pushing for a true recurring $1,000 salary increase and five days of bonus leave for active state employees, and a 1.44-percent costof-living adjustment for retirees. The Senate and the governor both proposed giving state employees a $1,000 “salary and benefits” raise, which equates to an $809 increase in annual salary. The Senate proposed an .8-percent COLA for retirees. House leaders and the governor joined forces to pass a “mini-budget” in late June that included only pay raises for state employees, retirees and teachers, in hopes of ending the stalemate. That proposal was marked “return to sender” by the
Treasurer Pushes for Pension Secrecy
SEANC also is keeping a close watch on legislation that deals with secrecy surrounding investments with the state retirement system. SEANC is pushing for a simple two-page bill, House Bill 1237, which states that all investment contracts are matters of public record and are immediately open for scrutiny. But State Treasurer Janet Cowell’s office is pushing House Bill 1209 and its companion Senate Bill 878, which include provisions that would make all contracts open to the public after they end. The statute of limitations on any wrongdoings found in the contracts runs out just two years after they are signed. This would give taxpayers no recourse to recoup losses should wrongdoing occur. SEANC Legislative Affairs Director SEANC Lobbyists Mitch Leonard (left) and Ardis Watkins told the Senate Chuck Stone discuss pension reform with Committee on Pensions & Retirement Sen. Shirley Randleman (R-Wilkes). and Aging on June 25 that the Treasurer’s bills are losers for taxpayers, and that legislators would ultimately be to blame when there is a problem with the retirement system. “This bill would give a bad, anti-taxpayer policy a legislative seal of approval,” Watkins said. “This is between you and the taxpayers. I urge you to stand up for the taxpayers and vote no on this legislation.” At that same meeting, SEANC’s position of total transparency found a champion in Sen. Shirley Randleman (R-Wilkes), who doggedly stood up for state employees’ retirement security against the leadership of her own party. She shared with her fellow committee members her own frustration in attempting to get information from the Treasurer’s office on real estate holdings with the state pension system. “As of today, I have never received any information on our real estate holdings,” Randleman said.
PHOTO BY JONATHAN OWENS
By Jonathan Owens
SEANC Asst. Director of Communications
Senate, though, without a vote. As the stalemate drags on, SEANC’s lobbyists are at the General Assembly every day meeting with leadership to make sure state employees have a voice in the process and are not left behind or used as bargaining chips in the negotiations.
Be sure to subscribe to the SEANC Scoop and read our weekly Legislative Update, which is posted on seanc.org each Friday when the General Assembly is in session, to stay informed. firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @jonbowens
How can I be more active in advocating for my own pay and benefits as a state employee? By opting in for SEANC’s new text messaging program to receive special action alerts straight from SEANC! Just text 787753 with message “SEANC”.
Text SEANC to 787753
Counselor’s Comments By Tom Harris
SEANC Chief of Staff/General Counsel
Adverse Weather Policy Changes Detrimental to Workers This column follows up on the December 2013 issue of The Reporter regarding SEANC’s role as a watchdog over boards and commissions that set policies and adopt rules that impact state employees’ working conditions and benefits. As you may recall, that column dealt with policies and rules proposed for adoption by the State Human Resources Commission (SHRC) to implement the changes made by the General Assembly last year to the State Human Resources Act (SHRA). During that process, one of the major points raised by SEANC was that, under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), the Office of State Human Resources (OSHR) could not legally adopt generally applicable policies until it had adopted administrative rules embodying those policies. The APA rulemaking process requires publication of the proposed rules and a public comment period, which is when SEANC normally Harris gives its input, while simple adoption of a policy lacks those requirements. The rulemaking process also provides the public, including SEANC, a way to delay the effective date of adopted rules until the General Assembly has had an opportunity to review and change them. Once again, OSHR recently proposed changing a policy without following the APA requirement to adopt the policy as a rule first. This time, at least, the OSHR allowed SEANC to make comments on the proposals before they are adopted. The specific policy proposed for amendment governs adverse weather and emergency closings. In reviewing amendments, I try to consider the following questions: • Is the proposal clearly stated, practical and easy to apply? • Is there a fair balance between the needs and interests of management and employees? • Are employee benefits not diminished by the proposed amendment except for a compelling reason and then preferable with an offsetting benefit added? • Is there is consistency and fairness for employees in the substance and application of the policy? • Has the appropriate administrative procedure been followed to adopt the policy?
The Reporter • July 2014
Several changes proposed to the adverse weather and emergency closings policy are at odds with these principles. Two of the most troublesome are the elimination of snow and ice from the definition of “emergency closing conditions” and the addition of “adverse weather closings” to the policy. As a result, whenever state offices are closed due to snow or ice, affected non-emergency state employees would no longer be entitled to time off without having to make up the time, use leave or lose pay. There is no valid reason to remove snow and ice from the list of weather conditions that can create catastrophic conditions necessitating the closure of state offices, and it is an unnecessary diminishing of benefits to nonemergency state employees. In general, state employees are paid lower salaries than are paid to their private sector counterparts performing similar work. Thus, it is important that state employee benefits be maintained to help offset that difference. Another proposed change significantly detrimental to employees needs is the reduction of the time in which an employee must make up adverse weather leave from 12 months to 30 days. The make-up timeframe should remain at 12 months. Most jobs do not present a lot of overtime work opportunities. Without overtime, Fair Labor Standards Act non-exempt employees are basically left to make up adverse leave in weeks when they are scheduled to work less than 40 hours due to a holiday. Many adverse weather days occur in late January through March. It is likely that there would be no holidays occurring in the first 30 days after an adverse weather event in these months. Moreover, there are only four holidays scheduled between mid January and November, a period of nine and one-half months. Thus, to give the employees fair and adequate time to make up adverse weather, the make-up time allowed should stay at 12 months. SEANC raised other concerns with the proposed policy, primarily dealing with the policy’s lack of proper guidelines to ensure fair and equitable application of the policy and the failure to use the rulemaking process prior to adopting changes to policy. email@example.com
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919-836-9993 or Toll Free: 1-800-788-7771 email@example.com The Reporter • July 2014
District 65 members volunteered during the Children’s Miracle Network Celebration broadcast May 30-June 1. The total raised during the weekend by the telethon was $1,775,481, all of which stays in eastern North Carolina to provide much needed programs, equipment and services for children that are being treated in the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at Vidant Medical Center. Pictured (from left) are District 65 members Debbie Austin, Conya Owens, Brenda Boklage, James Willis and Lynn Tuthill.
PHOTO BY JONATHAN OWENS
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY LYNN TUTHILL
Statewide EMPAC Chairman Wayne Fish signed up newly appointed Sen. Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe) for a SEANC membership at her legislative office on June 18. Van Duyn was appointed to the seat in April following the death of Sen. Martin Nesbitt.
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY STEVE LAWSON
Toni Davis, Editor-In-Chief Jonathan Owens, Managing Editor Alicia Miller, Associate Editor Beth Dew, Associate Editor Matthew Whittle, Associate Editor
District 19 member Dorothy Bumphus speaks to members at the district’s annual retiree picnic on May 27 at Cedar Grove Park in Hillsborough.
State Employees Association of North Carolina
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.
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The Reporter • July 2014
1621 Midtown Place • Raleigh, NC 27609 Telephone 919-833-6436, 800-222-2758 www.seanc.org
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.
Be a star in SEANC’s $1,000 video contest! By Matthew Whittle
SEANC Digital Communications Specialist
You have the chance to be the star of the 31st Annual SEANC State Convention — and win money to boot! Simply shoot a video explaining what this year’s convention theme, “Building a Better Tomorrow … A Work in Progress,” means to you in the context of SEANC and the state of North Carolina. How has SEANC made your life better? What needs to be done to make your future and North Carolina’s future stronger and better? Videos can be submitted by individuals or by districts and must be no longer than three minutes. They must be submitted by Aug. 27 as either mp4 files or QuickTime movie files (.mov or .qt). The top three videos will be chosen by the Board of Governors to be shown at the convention. Delegates will vote for the best, which will receive $1,000. Videos can be submitted either to the SEANC Vine account, named SEANC2008, as private messages, or they can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. email@example.com; Twitter @mwwhittle
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Belada’s passion for discounts pays off By Jonathan Owens
SEANC Asst. Director of Communications
If there’s one thing District 7 Chairman Henry Belada is passionate about it’s saving SEANC members money. Belada is known for his tireless efforts to procure discounts at stores, restaurants and other vendors all across the state. He’s also a prolific user of discounts himself, and that paid off for him recently. Belada repeated as winner of SEANC’s member discounts contest for saving the most money in March by using his SEANC card, receiving a $50 gift card. He said he averages about $14 in savings Belada per month with SEANC discounts, mostly in the Morganton area. As a retiree, he pays just $5 per month for a SEANC membership, meaning he makes a $9 profit each month from being a SEANC member. “I can’t imagine life without SEANC discounts,” Belada said, “but I know I’d be broke. I’ll even go to another town if I know I can get a better price. It’s worth it.” Belada, who also serves on the state Member Discount Committee, has signed up everything from restaurants to lawn care businesses. The pharmacy where his daughter works – Cannon Pharmacy in Morganton – and his other daughter’s pottery shop also offer discounts at the insistence of dad. Most recently, Belada pulled off what he considers his crowning achievement, convincing Sam’s Club to offer discounts to SEANC members at all of its 23 locations in North Carolina. “The big chains are tougher. Some times I have to go back three or four times,” he said. “That deal took me two months of work. But once I got to the right person and told them how many members we had all over the state, they jumped at the chance.” firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter @jonbowens
Time To Save! All members of SEANC will receive deep discounts on 1,100 frequently-used products: Paper—Ink—Toner—Furniture—Janitorial supplies Copy & Print Discounts 0.02¢ Black & White copies 0.19¢ Color copies 40% off finishing services (binding, laminating and more)
Get your Store Discount Card at the SEANC Member Discounts Page and start saving today! http://seanc.org Contact Michael Higgins at Michael.Higgins@officedepot.com
The Reporter • July 2014
Report: Privatization a loser for prisons By Jonathan Owens
The Department of Public Safety has confirmed what SEANC has said all along — privatization of prison maintenance is a losing proposition for the state and for taxpayers. A report, issued May 19 by the Department of Public Safety to Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg), showed no benefit in contracting out prison maintenance. “Based on the analysis contained in this report, the department concludes that there are no significant savings to be realized through the privatization of prison maintenance operations,” the report stated. State employees provide a more efficient operation and allow the department to maintain a higher level of internal security, among many other advantages, according to the report. Further, it stated that in studying privatized operations already in place at three state prisons, “there is no conclusive evidence that privatized maintenance produces significant savings benefits over in-house, departmental maintenance operations.” But even after the report, budget proposals from both the N.C. House and Senate included language that would permit the state to privatize maintenance at prisons if it can be proven that it would save the state money.
SEANC Asst. Director of Communications
SEANC members turned out in droves in 2011 to lobby legislators not to cost taxpayers by privatizing prison maintenance.
SEANC commends David Guice, commissioner of the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, and Joe Prater, Juvenile Justice Deputy Commissioner, for the thorough and detailed study of this critical operation and recognizing dedicated, professional state employees who provide these vital services to help keep North Carolinians safe. The report stemmed from a contentious debate in the General Assembly in 2011, when a bill to privatize all prison maintenance operations in the North Carolina, House Bill 335, was introduced. SEANC members turned out in droves to lobby legislators not to make this costly mistake, while SEANC’s lobbyists worked to defeat it behind the scenes. In the end, the bill’s language was replaced to
restrict the department from privatizing any additional prisons while the issue was studied, which resulted in the recent report. Wayne Talbert, who retired in 2012 as the Assistant Superintendent of Custody and Operations of Dan River Correctional Institution, said the findings were common sense for the people in his department. “We’ve always known we can do a much better job than some private company can,” Talbert said. “Hopefully legislators will take this report to heart and realize that privatization is costly and dangerous in our prisons. For a private contractor, it’s just a job. But as a state employee, we serve the people of North Carolina and help keep our neighborhoods safe.” email@example.com; Twitter @jonbowens
Student-athletes at UNC schools can join SEANC At its May meeting, SEANC’s Board of Governors voted to allow scholarship student athletes at North Carolina’s public universities to join the association. The decision is a first step to let the student-athletes know SEANC will welcome them with open arms and is a response to the National Labor Relations Board’s decision to allow football players at Northwestern University to unionize. Any scholarship student athletes at one of the UNC system’s 16 campuses is eligible to join SEANC thanks to the decision. Since SEANC is a member-driven organization, we
The Reporter • July 2014
will rely on the athletes themselves to determine their priorities. They will also be eligible to take advantage of SEANC’s low-cost insurance programs and member discounts on everything from theme parks to restaurants. Student-athletes will pay a $9 per month membership fee like any other active state employee. If you know a scholarship student athletes who would like to join, please direct them to seanc.org to check out all the association has to offer! — by Jonathan Owens
Quotes to Note
“It seems that this budget proposal by the (N.C.) Senate is rewarding the powerful at the expense of the powerless, and I think taxpayers are going to reject it. This is a budget dance. At the end of the day ... I think they will choose to value public services, not make as many cuts as they have proposed and take care of the state’s valuable resource, which is its people. SEANC Executive Director Dana Cope on a June 2 episode of Capital Tonight on News 14.
“(The bill) serves no public policy purpose other than to guarantee excess profits to some optometrists, while adversely impacting North Carolina’s citizens and businesses.”
“If student scholarship athletes wanted to be represented by a union or an association, we wanted them to know that SEANC was ready to invite them into our association with open arms.”
SEANC Lobbyist Chuck Stone in a June 4 WRAL-TV story, “Bill restricts discounts insurers can require optometrists to offer”
SEANC Communications Director Toni Davis in a May 29 story in The Technician (NCSU) titled “State’s largest union invites UNC athletes to join association”
“Politicians often say they’re open to doing something later. What should matter to you is what is a politician willing to do now. Anybody interested in our pension fund should demand to see exactly what’s going on with our dealings with them. We should put blind faith in no one.”
“I don’t know if I’d necessarily say they haven’t been treated fairly. But I don’t think they’re represented as a collective group, student-athletes as a whole. I don’t think they’ve been represented and I don’t think there’s a structure in place that looks out for them individually.”
SEANC Legislative Affairs Director Ardis Watkins in a May 24 Associated Press Article, “NC treasurer: cut in authority might be good idea”
SEANC Past President Charles Johnson in a May 19 Associated Press article “Union in North Carolina welcomes college athletes”
FROM SOCIAL MEDIA
State giving millions to Japanese candy company in Orange County. Sweet for pvt biz. Sour for state employees, retirees & taxpayers. #ncga A tweet from @seanc2008 on June 6
Troopers spending #FathersDay Sunday in Pinehurst keeping patrons at the #USOpen safe #ncgov #ncga #theydeservearaise A tweet from @seanc2008 on June 11
The only reason people keep secrets is because they’re doing something wrong!! District 7 member Sheila Roberts in a June 11 post on pension fees on SEANC’s Facebook page.
A huge thank you to (Lobbyist Chuck) Stone and Rep. Farmer-Butterfield for all they’ve done to save our CDSAs District 22 member Kimberly Duross-Webb in a June 11 post. The Reporter • July 2014
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Win money with EMPAC! By Jonathan Owens
SEANC Asst. Director of Communications
A chance to win a whole bunch of money could be waiting in your mailbox this summer. SEANC’s Employees Political Action Committee (EMPAC) recently mailed out 12 tickets for its fourth annual sweepstakes event to all members, each with an opportunity to win up to $5,000 simply by returning them. While donations to EMPAC are gladly accepted along with returned tickets, no contribution is necessary to enter. All that is necessary is mailing in the completed tickets in order to be eligible. The drawing for prizes ranging
from $500 to $5,000 will be held on Sept. 6 at the 31st Annual SEANC Convention in Greensboro. You do not have to be present to win. Funds raised from the sweepstakes will be used by EMPAC, the member-driven political arm of SEANC, to support candidates that understand the value of the public services that state employees provide. Tickets must be returned with a postmark dated no later than Aug. 23 to be eligible. Details and rules are posted on the EMPAC section of the SEANC website. firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter @jonbowens
Sign up today for SEANC texts! How can I be more active in advocating for my own pay and benefits as a state employee? By opting in for SEANC’s new text messaging program to receive special action alerts straight from SEANC! Just text 787753 with message “SEANC”.