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DHHS Joint Committee Develops Caseload Standard Recommendations

Report Developed After Months of Cooperative Work Between DHHS, Union Members

Last week, the state Department of Health and Human Services and SEA/SEIU Local 1984 released a report on the work of a joint workload standards committee. Created as a provision of collective bargaining, the committee set out to identify caseload standards for workers in several divisions at DHHS.

The joint committee worked throughout 2016, eventually agreeing on caseload standards for positions such as Assessment Child Protection Workers and Family Service Child Protection Service Workers. The idea of a committee to review workload standards is not new — it’s been in the Executive Branch collective bargaining agreement for years — but it came to the fore when Chapter 41 adopted a resolution asking the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 president to populate the committee.

“Caseloads had become the No. 1 workplace complaint, and with worsening staff shortages, we thought that committee was a good place to start,” said Peter Brunette, president of Chapter 41.

What that committee would look like, and how it would go about its work, remained to be seen. Field Representative Andy Capen got to work to bring more workers into the conversation, which Brunette said led to a series of meetings with DHHS employees from around the state.

“We narrowed down the issues quite a bit and got a sense of what people were saying,” Brunette said. “Two years ago, during collective bargaining, I was a member of the sub-unit team that negotiated a change to specify the makeup of the caseload standards committee and established deadlines for the committee’s final report.”

Brunette said the committee included representatives from all the major caseload-driven divisions, including child support, child protection, adult protection, and client services. Each of these representatives were tasked with going back to their division and coming up with working numbers of a maximum range of cases per worker. After some back and forth, the union and management sides agreed, and Chapter 19 member Karen Hebert — who served as the chair for the DHHS side — compiled the report. 

“This experience is a good example of how labor and management can work together on difficult, even controversial, workplace issues and reach a consensus,” Brunette said.

The SEA/SEIU Local 1984 team on the workload standards committee included Brunette, an attorney in the Division of Children, Youth and Families, chair Mary Thomas, an adult protective social worker, Jennifer Cheney, a family services specialist, Tammy Clark, a child support officer, Shawn Jones, also a child support officer, Demetrios Tsaros, a child protective service worker, and SEA Field Representative Andy Capen. The agency side included Hebert, who’s the chief administrator for the Division of Child Support Services.

We thank all of our members, as well as the leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services, for working so hard to complete this project.

You can find the full report on our website.

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Staples Ends Partnership with US Postal Service

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Had Joined Boycott Against Privatization Effort

The union that represents U.S. postal workers celebrated a major victory last week after a National Labor Relations Board effectively ended the partnership between the Postal Service and retailer Staples.

The partnership was announced in 2013, and while expanding access to USPS services is generally cheered, this arrangement was seen as an attempt to privatize the postal service, and threatened to harm good-paying jobs in favor of minimum wage retail jobs.

When the American Postal Workers Union launched an effort to boycott Staples, SEA/SEIU Local 1984’s Council approved a resolution to join in. The SEA hung a banner outside its office that stayed in place, unwavering, until last week. On Thursday, the Board of Directors officially ended the boycott.

“We were proud to walk the pickets and display a sign supporting our friends in the American Postal Workers Union and we’re thrilled to see this cherry-picking arrangement come to an end,” said SEA First Vice President Ken Roos.

While solidarity with other working people was a part of the boycott, Roos said, there is an even bigger issue at play.

“We should be as fearful of privatization of the US Postal Service as we are of privatization of prisons or other public services,” Roos said, recalling New Hampshire’s fight against prison privatization just a few years ago.

“We need to stand together to protect good paying jobs with quality benefits that allow hard-working people to thrive; we need to prevent blindly outsourcing public sector jobs,” he said.

The USPS program, which after a pilot had expanded to 500 Staples stores, is expected to be completely wrapped up by March. You can read more in the Washington Post (subscription may be required).

 

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DHHS Has Some Winter Health Tips For You

HealthBuzzNow that we’re well into winter – not that the last few days have felt like it – it’s worth your time to refresh your memory on how to stay healthy and warm through the long, cold New England winter.

Luckily for you, the state Department of Health and Human Services has pulled together in one place all sorts of helpful winter health tips. Tips include:

  • Preventing the flu (it’s not too late to get a flu shot)
  • Staying active all winter and staying warm outdoors
  • Carbon monoxide safety
  • Food safety for those inevitable power outages

You can find these winter health tips, plus many more, at www.dhhs.nh.gov/tips/wintertips.htm.

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SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Statement on SB 11

For immediate release
Contact: Andrew Toland
603-271-3411, ext. 108

The following is SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla’s statement in response to the Senate Commerce Committee’s vote on SB 11:

“I am disappointed the Commerce Committee voted on a 3-2 vote to send SB 11 to the full Senate “Ought to Pass”, despite the compelling testimony offered today in opposition of so-called Right to Work legislation. SB 11 is a tired, recycled bill that has been defeated time after time in New Hampshire with significant bi-partisan support. Yet, extreme conservative out of state special interest groups are pushing it once again.

NH legislatures, regardless of political party, have struck this type of legislation down repeatedly because they understand that Right to Work is Wrong for New Hampshire families and businesses.

It is wrong for NH families because studies show states with similar legislation have lower wages, less economic opportunity, and higher unemployment rates.

It is wrong for NH businesses because it is an overreach of government into private business affairs. In fact, the bill calls for fines and even jail time if businesses do not fully comply.

I urge our Senators to see beyond the misinformation and say no, again, to this recycled bill. It’s time to address issues that actually help NH families and businesses, such as resolving the opioid crisis, extending broadband services to all of NH, and addressing our skyrocketing energy costs.”

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President Gulla’s Testimony on SB 11

The following is a written version of the testimony SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla delivered Tuesday to the Senate Commerce Committee on SB 11, a so-called right to work bill. 


Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commerce Committee.

For the record, I am Rich Gulla, President of the State Employees Association and also resident of Hillsborough.  I am here in opposition to SB 11. On behalf of the 10,000 members of the SEA, I urge you to vote this bill Inexpedient to Legislate quickly so this legislature can focus on important bills which actually help New Hampshire citizens.

Senate Bill 11 is a tired and recycled bill pushed by out-of-state interests, which has been defeated year after year. New Hampshire has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation because our previous legislatures made wise decisions that strengthen our economy and working families. At a time when we should be bringing people together to help solve the devastating opioid crisis – which is ripping families apart and is one of the first bills in the 2017 session – we are hearing instead a controversial bills that deeply divides workers against this legislature.

Speaking on the specifics of SB 11, this bill is the same language we have seen year after year. The arguments against it are the same.

The bill is written solely to take away the rights of private businesses to negotiate work provisions with their employees. In other words, this legislation would regulate a private corporation from running their business in a manner which they believe is in the best interest of their business. In fact, this bill as written, would on page 3 starting on line 3, charge an employer with a misdemeanor, with a fine and possible jail term, for the new regulation.

New Hampshire and this legislature have tended to create less regulation on businesses. By supporting SB 11, you will be forcing new regulations without clear and quantifiable proof that the legislation has real benefits to New Hampshire businesses and workers. There are reams of studies showing that SB 11 type language does not help the economy and actually has the opposite effect of lowering wages for workers, producing higher unemployment in states that have these laws.

With low unemployment and one of the higher state per capita wages, SB 11 should not be pushed forward for political gain, like it has been recently in Kentucky and Missouri because they are under Republican control. I would like to believe that New Hampshire is different and this legislature does not act out of partisanship – but in the best interest of the citizens of this great state.

In my experience, having worked in law enforcement and in retail sales, if something seems too good to believe, it probably should not be believed. The sponsors of SB 11 want you to believe a few myths:

  1. That New Hampshire’s economic growth is being hampered without the new business regulation, because they refuse to consider moving into New Hampshire.
  1. That upon passage of SB11, businesses will be flocking to New Hampshire, although no one is naming any of those businesses, when or how many jobs they represent, or what wages they will be offering.  It doesn’t take an MBA to see our state is still severely impacted by crushing electric rates and a lack of extended high speed broadband in many areas. Looking at the over 800 LSR’s this session, I see a number of bills similar to SB 11 but none to address our high energy costs or expanding broadband to more towns in the state.
  1. That workers will have free choice with their employers and will not be forced to join a union. That sounds great, but current law already does that. No matter how many times it has been said, here we are again listening to the same old rhetoric and misleading statements. No one is ever forced to join a union. Ever! No worker can ever be forced to join a union yesterday, today or tomorrow.

So why are we still having to debate this bill? I guess that’s a rhetorical question. As long as there is the Virginia-based National Right to Work Committee and partisan politics, there will be this legislation aimed at hurting workers and putting burdensome regulations on businesses.

I ask you to see beyond the misinformation behind this bill and vote against SB 11.

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Sununu Officially Takes Office of Governor

New Governor Vows to Adopt Right to Work During Inaugural Address

Earlier today, Chris Sununu, a two-term Executive Councilor, was inaugurated as the 82nd governor of New Hampshire. He enters the office 34 years after his father, three-term Gov. John Sununu.

The inauguration ceremonies before a joint session of the House and Senate followed the traditional breakfast gathering with state employees. SEA/SEIU Local 1984 represents a large majority of state employees.

Sununu began his address by saying that we can’t afford to be divisive or let politics get in the way as we prepare for our children’s future. Later in his speech he declared, “We’re going to pass right to work and let’s tell these businesses that New Hampshire is open for business.”  Right to Work is a hugely divisive issue that comes up in our legislature year after year; and it does not and will not entice businesses to move to our state.

“I wish the new governor well as he begins his term,” said SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla. “Our union will support him on common goals like recruiting and retaining a well-trained workforce and putting forward a state budget that provides the resources state agencies need to fulfill their missions.  Having said that, clearly, we disagree on Right to Work. We urge the Governor to work quickly and decisively to address our current opioid crisis, our failing transportation infrastructure and high energy costs, rather than focus on Right to Work, which will harm working families.”

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Senate Commerce Committee

Sen. Daniel Innis – 271-3077 – daniel.innis@leg.state.nh.us

Sen. Harold French – 271-4063 – harold.french@leg.state.nh.us

Sen. Andy Sanborn – 271-3042 – andy.sanborn@leg.state.nh.us

Sen. Donna Soucy – 271-3207 – donna.soucy@leg.state.nh.us

Sen. Bette Lasky – 271-3091 – bette.lasky@leg.state.nh.us

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After 20 Years, Floor Hockey Game Keeps Going

New Players are Welcome to Join In for Friday Afternoon Activity

At least once a week for more than 20 years, a group of state employees has gathered to play floor hockey on the grounds of the State Office Park South in Concord.

Tony Cacciola, a member of Chapter 5, has been part of it since the beginning. At the time, Cacciola was working at the State Hospital, and he said it started as something to do other than playing volleyball. Having grown up in Massachusetts playing hockey, floor hockey was a natural choice.

“At the time, it was folks from the hospital,” he said. “Then we got a couple from the admin building and so on and so forth. Later, we ended up sending out emails trying to recruit people.”

The group initially played three days a week, but as people moved on to new jobs, that began to change. Finally, when Cacciola went back to school and got a new job working for DoIT, he had to scale back to just one day a week. They’ve kept up that Friday game ever since 2004.

With people coming and going, and others getting injured, bringing in new players is always helpful. After the DHHS online messageboard included a photo and blurb about the weekly game, Cacciola said they’ve gotten nine or 10 potential new players. He added that they’d welcome even more interest, and said all experience levels are welcome.

“You really don’t have to have a lot of experience playing hockey,” Cacciola said. “We’ll work with you. We’ve got a guy who’s still trying to figure out if he’s a righty or a lefty. We just want to make sure everybody’s involved.”

Games are 40 minutes and, as you might imagine, are played on the gym floor. Recommended equipment includes a stick and shin guards. Gloves and eye protection are advisable but not required. Cacciola said any public sector worker is welcome to join up, and help keep the game going.

“It’s a great thing we’re doing, and I’m glad it’s still going on,” he said. “As far as I know, it’s the longest running activity in the office park.”

If you’re interested in checking out the league, you can start by contacting Cacciola at 271-2613, ext. 3 or anthony.cacciola@doit.nh.gov.

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Executive Branch Wage Increase to Take Effect

You’ll See Cost-of-Living Adjustment in Feb. 3 Paycheck

The Executive Branch master 2015 – 2017 contract included two raises of 2 percent each, and the second of those two raises is set to go into effect this week. The raise goes into effect at the beginning of the first pay period after the first of the year, meaning tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 6. That means you’ll see the raise in the Feb. 3 paycheck.

These raises, known as cost-of-living adjustments, wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 master bargaining team, as well as the countless members who called and emailed their legislators — and turned out for meetings and rallies at the State House — to make sure the contract was funded in the current state budget.

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SmartShopper Adds More Ways to Earn

HealthBuzzWorkers covered by the State Employee Health Benefit (as well as under-65 state retirees) have access to the Vitals SmartShopper program, which can earn you money by helping you shop for more cost-effective medical options. As of Jan. 1, even more procedures are included in the SmartShopper program.

The program works like this: say your doctor requests an MRI or even routine lab work. You can call SmartShopper or go online to find which provider is the most cost-effective. By choosing one of the more cost-effective providers, you can earn a cash reward.

New additions to the program include X-rays and knee and hip replacements, the latter of which could earn you up to $500 depending on the facility you choose. There are dozens of services included in the SmartShopper program, everything from back surgery to ultrasounds, so it makes sense to shop around.

You can see a full list of services you can earn rewards for, along with an FAQ, here.

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