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 4
Leonard Named SEANC’s Interim Director By Jonathan Owens
SEANC’s Executive Committee voted on Feb. 9 to hire longtime SEANC member and staffer Mitch Leonard as Interim Executive Director. The change in leadership for the association was necessary when Dana Cope resigned following a story on alleged fiscal impropriety in The News & Observer on Feb. 8. A former state employee, Leonard has spent 38 years working for SEANC and its predecessor organizations. He was the association’s first field representative, and with his appointment as interim director, will now have held nearly every position in SEANC. He received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 2012 for his service to SEANC and the state of North Carolina. Leonard will continue to lobby for state employees in the General Assembly as well.
Independent Review Commissioned Leonard wasted no time, making it his priority “to establish a renewed sense of confidence in our organization and its leadership by our members and the various stakeholders important to fulfilling our mission.” A special Board of Governors’ meeting was convened on Feb. 14. At that meeting, the board voted to order an objective, independent and thorough review of all policies, procedures and practices of SEANC. In addition to SEANC’s annual audit by the independent accounting firm A.T. Allen of Raleigh, the firm Bond Beebe of Washington, DC, is conducting its own investigation and will report its findings and recommendations to the board. In a statement to the membership, Leonard stated the purpose of these independent investigations will be to determine what, if anything, could have been done to prevent this situation from happening and to guard against such events in the future. “Based on their findings and the objective counsel we receive as a result of the independent reviews, we will be taking absolute steps to ensure that our operations and
PHOTO BY JONATHAN OWENS
SEANC Asst. Director of Communications
SEANC Interim Executive Director Mitch Leonard discusses retirement with state Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger.
“There is no one we trust more to help us lead SEANC as we move forward. Mr. Leonard is a tireless watchdog and advocate for state employees and retirees with longstanding relationships with our members and lawmakers and other officials in state government.” Statement from SEANC’s Executive Committee on Jan. 10
finances are sound, safeguarded from abuse and work to fulfill our important mission,” he stated. “We will report on our progress and any relevant actions taken as soon as possible.” Representatives from both firms have begun their reviews. Leonard also promised the membership that SEANC would continue to advocate for public services and the people who provide them. “As a 38-year veteran of SEANC, I am confident that our organization will continue the important work of protecting and defending the interests of retired, current and future state employees,” Leonard stated. firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @jonbowens
Be a Hazard Hero in your workplace By Matthew Whittle
SEANC Digital Communications Specialist
The Office of State Human Resources Division of Safety, Health & Workers’ Compensation has launched a new program intended to empower state employees to keep themselves and their coworkers safe on the job. The program, called Hazard Heroes, was launched in June 2014 as a way to reduce workplace injuries and workers’ compensation claims in state government. John Bogner, the division’s director, said the goal is to “engage and empower employees to identify hazards and fix them on their own, and if they can’t, report them to their supervisor. “If an injury does occur, we certainly want to make sure employees get the best care possible. Their welfare is our concern. But, there is also a business side to workplace safety,” Bogner said. “State employees are an extremely valuable asset and are essential in providing services to the citizens of North Carolina. If they are out of work due to an injury, we don’t have access to that valuable asset. So, it is important that we facilitate getting them back to work as soon as possible.” To that end, the Hazard Heroes program was created with the guiding principle that “employees can eliminate or minimize hazards” because they are best positioned to identify and help correct them. A hazard is anything that creates an unsafe workplace, whether it’s a frayed rug, a damaged sidewalk, a tree obstructing a person’s view, or even common behaviors such as standing on a chair to reach a high shelf or leaning off the side of a ladder to change a light bulb. The program, Bogner explained, seeks to equip employees to proactively look for and fix the hazards that can lead to accidents and injuries. Management and employees are encouraged to participate in online and in-person training modules, keep safety at the forefront of employees’ minds through daily reminders, and to give employees an easy way to report when hazards are identified. 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
The Reporter • March 2015
Through its first six months, the program’s training modules have focused on identifying and preventing the most common type of workplace accidents leading to workers’ comp — slips, trips and falls. Coming soon will be modules focused on improving employees’ ergonomics. The program also focuses on other simple reminders such as wearing the proper personal protection equipment and not taking unnecessary risks. “We want people to look around, not take shortcuts, watch their step, be aware of their surroundings, use their senses and ask themselves what could go wrong,” Bogner said. To learn more about the Hazard Heroes program or to report a hazard, visit http://www.oshr.nc.gov/Support/ Safety/hazard.htm. email@example.com; Twitter @mwwhittle 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.
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919-836-9993 or Toll Free: 1-800-788-7771 firstname.lastname@example.org The Reporter • March 2015
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY SHARRON PATTERSON
District 65 signed up new members at a Benefits/Membership Fair on Jan. 14 at East Carolina University’s health sciences campus. Pictured from left are SEANC members Lynn Tuthill, Jessica Mitchell, Laranda Boone, Member Action Coordinator La’Taun Danns, District 65 Chairwoman Alicia Simpson, new member Jeffrey Jones, Member Action Coordinator James Vaughan, Glenda Daniels, Delores Bowling and Cynthia Hart.
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY RUTH ASHBURNER
District 12 members Martha House, Ruth Ashburner, Warren Welsh, Ray Pethel, District 12 Chairwoman Marilyn Jean Martin, Verna Wade, Tim Kye and Ashley Fenton planned a membership drive at the district’s January meeting.
The Reporter • March 2015
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY NICOLE HUNTER
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY LYNN TUTHILL
District 18 members distributed gifts to residents at two retirement homes over the holidays. At left, members Annette McCoy, Larry Miller and Dewey Brower are seen with a representative of Autumn Care Retirement Home in Troy on Dec. 18. At right, members Lisa Martin, Dewey Brower, Vivian Little and Annette McCoy delivered gifts to residents at Hermitage Retirement Home in Rockingham on Dec. 22.
District 43 raised $300 and donated gifts to the DMV Angel Tree on Dec. 19. Pictured are members Deborah Dunston, Willie Dunn and Nicole Hunter.
Show off your district Submit a picture from a district activity (fundraisers, membership drives, advocacy efforts, etc.) by email to email@example.com or by mail to: SEANC c/o The Reporter 1621 Midtown Place Raleigh, NC 27609
Be sure to include names of all members pictured as well as when and where it was taken. Also include any important information about the event.
PHOTOS BY BLAISE KAZADI
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY PAM HAILEY
SEANC First Vice President Ross Hailey and his wife, District 58 member Pam Hailey, presented snacks and Valentine’s Day treats to the SECU Hospice House in Smithfield on behalf of District 58 on Feb. 11. Also pictured is Wanda Johnson, Volunteer Coordinator at SECU Hospice.
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY LYNN COTE
District 13 members and Central Piedmont Community College library staff formed a partnership and collected Christmas gifts for the Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Center in December. Pictured with library staff are District 13 Chairwoman Linda Colbert and member Angela Eddie (wearing SEANC shirts).
District 20 member and super recruiter Ron Fields recently signed up Gerardo Rojas, a correctional officer at Harnett Correctional Institution, his 125th new member of the year.
Welcome New Members!
SEANC has added 372 new members since Jan. 1 from a wide range of agencies, including: • Dept. of Agriculture
• N.C. Wildlife Commission
• Cape Fear Community College
• Pamlico Community College
• Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources
• Division of Employment Security
• Central Carolina Community College
• Robeson Community College
• Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners
• Dept. of Health & Human Services
• East Carolina University
• Dept. of Insurance
• Fayetteville State University
• Dept. of Public Instruction
• N.C. A&T State University
• Dept. of Public Safety
• N.C. Central University
• Dept. of Revenue
• N.C. State University
• Dept. of Transportation
• Fayetteville Tech. Community College
• UNC-Chapel Hill
• Administrative Offices of the Courts
• Forsyth Tech. Community College
• Office of the Secretary of State
• Winston-Salem State University
• Office of the State Treasurer
• UNC Hospitals
• Central Piedmont Community College • Craven Community College • Durham Tech. Community College
• Halifax Community College • McDowell Tech. Community College
• Rowan-Cabarrus Community College • Wilson Community College • Schools in Bladen, Buncombe, Burke, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Duplin, Durham, Granville, Guilford, Henderson, Hoke, Lenoir, Mooresville, Mount Airy, Onslow, Pender, Pitt, Randolph, Sampson, Stanly, Surry, Tyrell, Union, Wake and Winston-Salem/ Forsyth County • State Employees’ Credit Union
The Reporter • March 2015
SHP premiums, surcharges may increase By Matthew Whittle
SEANC Digital Communications Specialist
Members of the State Health Plan will see higher premiums and new wellness surcharges in 2016-17 after the Board of Trustees’ unanimous vote Feb. 11, unless the General Assembly can be persuaded to make changes. Among the most significant changes in addition to overall cost increases for all plans, is the addition of a premium to the popular 70/30 PPO plan for members. At its January meeting, the board heard a proposal to add a $60 premium to the 70/30 PPO, which is currently premium-free. That plan came under fire from several trustees, including SEANC member Charles Johnson, and those who spoke during the public comment period, including SEANC lobbyist and health care expert Chuck Stone. The board voted instead to establish a $40 premium that could be reduced to $0 through wellness activities. However, even though it now has a premium, it is still grandfathered in under the Affordable Care Act and will not include any free preventative health care benefits.
Dependent care not addressed Dependent coverage was not improved by the changes and still remains a major problem for employees according to Stone and Johnson. The burden of dependent coverage is placed entirely on the member, Stone said. He asked that the trustees implement direct premium subsidies for member dependents. According to a recent comparative study of state health plans by the SHP, North Carolina ranks last in affordability of total family coverage. The SHP is projecting a 3.37-percent dependent coverage premium increase for 2016, with even higher ones to come. “The proposals before you today still do not make the plan affordable. They
The Reporter • March 2015
Key Changes to Your SHP Options
Here are the highlights of the changes, broken down by plan option: Enhanced 80/20 PPO Plan • Double premium surcharges from $40 per month to $80 or more per month • Allow premium surcharge credits to reduce premium to $15 • Possibly add new wellness requirements, which may or may not include one or more biometric screenings such as blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and possibly BMI (body mass index) • Increase Tier 5 (non-preferred specialty medications) pharmacy co-insurance maximum from $125 per month to $132 per month Traditional 70/30 PPO Plan • Establish a $40 premium surcharge (active employees) • Allow premium surcharge credit to reduce premium to $0 (actives) • Establish premium surcharge credit — tobacco attestation (actives) • Increase generic drug co-pays from $12 to $15. • Increase co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance maximum & pharmacy out-of-pocket maximum (active employees/retirees) Consumer-Directed Health Plan (CDHP) with HRA • Add a premium surcharge of $40 • Allow healthy activity credits to reduce premium to $0 • Increase state HRA contributions from $500 to $600 for individuals and from $1,500 to $1,800 for families • Increase member out-of-pocket expenses from $3,000 for individuals and $9,000 for families, to $3,500 for individuals and $10,500 for families • Additional, to-be-announced, state HRA contributions for members with chronic conditions and those enrolling in healthy lifestyle programs
[state employees] can’t afford it for their dependents and it’s a major deficiency,” Stone said in February. “Increased cost sharing by State Health Plan members needs to be linked to their pay increases and what they have in their paychecks.” Stone reminded trustees that SEANC has made numerous recommendations to save the health plan upwards of $300 million, such as eliminating overpayments for outpatient hospital care. His comments were echoed later by Johnson who urged his fellow trustees to consider actions in the future to make the plans more affordable, especially for dependents, even as he said he would support the 2016 changes. “Our plan is not affordable. It’s too expensive,” Johnson said. “Revenues have to be found somewhere else other than the workers.”
Johnson said plans need to be cost effective enough to encourage members to use the options available to lead healthier lifestyles. Until then people can’t — and won’t — take advantage of them. “At some point the plan has to become affordable, especially in dependent coverage,” Johnson said. The General Assembly will have the final say in its new biennium budget what the state’s employer contribution will be in 2016-17. Once that happens, the State Health Plan Board of Trustees will meet to finalize premium levels. SEANC will continue to advocate for lawmakers to increase or at least maintain its contribution level, as well as contribute to members’ dependents. If you have any questions or concerns, contact Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-222-2758. email@example.com; Twitter @mwwhittle
Adverse weather policy gets an overhaul By Matthew Whittle
SEANC Digital Communications Specialist
The Office of State Human Resources announced earlier this year the long-awaited update to its Adverse Weather Policy, as well as the creation of a new Emergency Closing Policy. The Adverse Weather Policy applies only to road conditions, while the Emergency Closing Policy applies to dangerous workplace conditions. In order to fall under this policy, the weather event has to be such that the National Weather Service issues severe warnings for conditions that may adversely impact an employee’s commute to and from work. The new policy means that if employees leave work or are unable to report to work due to adverse weather, the time missed will be charged to accrued compensatory time, or if none exists, employees may be approved to make up the time using overtime within 90 days — unlike in the past. SEANC had advocated allowing the use of overtime to make up this time missed. Under the separate Emergency Closing Policy, if the work site is closed because it dangerous for the public and
New Adverse Weather Policy
• All employees fall into one of two categories in this policy: Mandatory and non-mandatory. Mandatory employees perform jobs that the agency has notified them as being essential to agency operations. Non-mandatory employees perform non-essential duties. • If non-mandatory employees take leave, lost hours will first be charged to existing comp time (holiday, overtime, gap hours, callback, on-call, travel or emergency closing). • If an employee’s comp time does not cover the entire period of absence, the employee can either use vacation leave, bonus leave, request leave without pay, or make up the lost time through overtime with supervisor approval within 90 days. • Legitimate purposes for overtime include making up the missed work, special projects or trainings that are difficult to fit into regular work day, and work on any existing backlogs. • Each hour of overtime is worth 1.5 hours of regular time. So, for example, only two hours of overtime will be required to make up three hours of regular time. • In some instances, particularly when the governor declares a State of Emergency, non-mandatory personnel may seek approval from their supervisor to work from home or an alternate work site. • Mandatory employees are required to report to work under adverse weather conditions. If conditions cause an employee to be late reporting to work, the time may be made up with a supervisor’s approval without using leave time.
New Policy at a Glance
• Unless your agency is under an emergency closing and you were told not to report, any time missed due to adverse weather must be made up within 90 days or covered by leave. • Overtime can now be used to make up time.
employees to be there, no work time will be required to be made up. If you have any questions, contact SEANC General Counsel Tom Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-222-2758. email@example.com; Twitter @mwwhittle
Emergency Closing Policy
• Emergency conditions are those that are “hazardous to life or safety of both the general public as well as employees at a specific location or work site.” • All employees fall into one of two categories in this policy: Emergency and non-emergency. Emergency employees perform jobs that are necessary in response to the emergency in compliance with the agency’s emergency response plan. All other employees are deemed “non-emergency.” • Non-emergency employees not required to report to an alternate work site will not be charged leave time or required to make up lost hours. • In addition to their regular pay, emergency employees will receive time off on an hour-for-hour basis for all hours worked. That time must be used within 12 months and should be used after comp time, but before vacation, bonus or sick leave. It is non-transferable and will not be paid out. • Non-emergency employees who are called in will be compensated the same as emergency employees. • Designated emergency employees are responsible for reporting to work. Failure to do so may result in discipline action and/or requiring the hours to be made up in accordance with the adverse weather policy. • The only exception is if an employee notifies his/her supervisor that conditions will make them late and the supervisor agrees, the lost time will not be charged. • Non-emergency employees assigned to alternate work sites will be paid regular salaries and will not receive time off.
The Reporter • March 2015
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Trustees vote to return retirement funds By Jonathan Owens
SEANC Asst. Director of Communications
Despite a plea from SEANC to do otherwise, the Teachers’ and State Employees’ (TSERS) Board of Trustees voted on Jan. 15 to recommend the General Assembly reduce its annual required contribution (ARC) to the retirement system, essentially giving back $6.9 million of the money allocated for the retirement system in last year’s budget. The board also requested a 1-percent cost-of-living adjustment for retirees. The recommendation comes after an actuarial report in October 2014 showed that the system would require funding at 8.69 percent and would not need $45.5 million of the funds allotted in last year’s budget. The TSERS board can only make recommendations, and does not determine COLAs or funding. The legislature will decide how to fund the system and whether or not to give COLAs as part of the state budget. Before the vote, SEANC Governmental Relations Director Ardis Watkins stood up for state employees and retirees, imploring the board to ask legislators for an increase in the retirement formula to 1.83 percent and a 2-percent cost-ofliving adjustment.
The state could pay for this, she said, by keeping the ARC at 9.15 percent and renegotiating the high fees the system is now paying on investments. A 1-percent COLA amounts to around $17 more per month for the average retiree, according the Treasurer’s office. SEANC’s proposal would equate a 2.5 percent increase in retirees’ checks on average, or around $42 more per month. “A 2.5 percent difference is not as large as our members would want, but we believe it is reasonable,” Watkins told the board. “Employees and retirees want to see that their system is doing something and taking care of them the way it is intended. They’ve gotten lost in the shuffle.” Presented with four options by the state Treasurer’s staff, the board was split on which to choose. One option — to “give back” the entire $45.5 million to the legislature — failed by a 5-4 vote by the board, as did another to keep the ARC and use the extra funds for a 0.55 percent COLA and an increase to the retirement formula. The motion that eventually passed did so with a 5-4 vote as well. SEANC will continue to work with legislators to ensure that state employees and retirees have a say in those negotiations. firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter @jonbowens