Runners from State Agencies Again Compete to See Which Agency is Fastest
Lace up your running shoes and get moving: the 24th running of the SEA 5K Road Race and Fitness Walk is just over two months away, set for April 1.
The SEA 5K covers a fast and flat course through the State Office park East on Hazen Drive in Concord and is the second race in the Capital Area Race Series (CARS). Because the race is part of the series, you can sign up for the entire series or just for this one race. You can read more about the CARS series here.
SEA 5K race director Jennifer Day said it’s a great, family-friendly race that draws top runners and casual walkers alike.
“The great thing about the SEA 5K is that whether you’re winning in record time or walking across the finish line with your whole family, everyone is welcome,” Day said. “Because this is a smaller race, it maintains a very welcoming feel.”
Part of the reason for that welcoming feel is that the race is a fundraiser for Operation Santa Claus, which, like the SEA 5K, is organized and operated by members of SEA/SEIU Local 1984. Every year, thanks to the generosity of Granite Staters, Operation Santa Claus is able to provide gifts for families in need all over the state. Day said that many of the volunteers for Operation Santa Claus are there to help out on race day, as well.
“They’re dedicated to helping the children any way they can, and because this race supports their mission, they’ve always been a big part of it,” Day said. “We love to have them here and we wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”
The race falls toward the beginning of the running season for many, when people are finally able to hop off their treadmills and head outside to walk or run. Day said whether you’re a regular runner or just getting started, the SEA 5K is a good race to begin the season with.
“The weather that time of year can be tricky, but it helps that the course itself isn’t especially challenging,” Day said. “Since this comes at the beginning of race season, it’s a great motivator to get out and get moving.”
As is the custom with the race, there is a team competition for state agencies. Last year, the runners from the Department of Health and Human Services broke the stranglehold long held by the runners from the Department of Environmental Services. Will DES reclaim its crown this year or will another agency take the win? We’ll find out on April 1.
You can sign up for the SEA 5K Road Race and Fitness Walk at www.runreg.com/sea-5k.
SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Team Preparing Counter-Proposals
The Executive Branch collective bargaining process is now well under way, as the state’s negotiating team has begun responding to proposals from all of the unions that represent state employees.
Jim Nall, the chair of the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Master Bargaining Team, said the bargaining process is fluid but that some early themes have started to develop.
“The state’s team has expressed repeatedly that there is no surplus of funds,” Nall said. “It’s clear that the state’s team has priorities, and has indicated there are several concerns they feel must be addressed in the new contract. It’s early in the process right now, so we’ll have to wait to see what is offered as compensation for any concessions that the state may ask for.”
The bargaining team is keenly aware, Nall said, of the many issues related to the state’s difficulty in recruiting and retaining workers.
“People are consistently being asked to do a lot more with a lot less,” he said. “We’re attempting to address some of that through the collective bargaining agreement.”
Nall said the bargaining process will continue with the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 team preparing counter-proposals to the state’s responses.
“We plan to meet with the state’s team again Tuesday to continue to work toward finding solutions that meet their needs while recognizing the challenges that state employees are facing on a daily basis,” Nall said.
The bargaining process, like any at the union, requires lots of member involvement. While many responded to the survey that helped establish bargaining priorities, there are other ways to help. Nall said members’ involvement needs to go beyond bargaining, as things happening at the Legislature could have a massive impact.
“Our membership can’t sit idly by and watch the negative actions that are affecting our workforce,” Nall said. “Whether it’s right to work, or the proposal that would prevent unions from collecting dues through payroll deduction — these bills would have no lasting benefit to our employees and, worse, they’ll cause them harm.”
Nall encouraged his fellow SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members to get active and make their voices heard. An easy way to be involved is through the Collective Bargaining Advisory Committee or the Contract Action Team (CAT).
“While I have a bargaining team of 14 people standing behind me at the negotiating table, there are 10,000 state employees out there,” he said. “Each and every one of them needs to make it clear that they expect to be treated with respect as hard-working employees of the state of New Hampshire.”
Change Acknowledges Risk Road Crews Face Every Day
Every day out on the roads, whether in vehicles or on foot, Department of Transportation workers face potentially life-threatening situations when out on the roads helping keep them safe and passable. Say nothing about bad weather — a driver reaching for a phone or who’s fallen asleep could have disastrous consequences.
Accidents happen all too frequently for often defenseless road workers. That’s the rationale behind a bill that would issue hazardous duty pay to certain DOT workers, according to Chapter 17 President Dan Brennan. The first hearing for that bill is set for next week.
“DOT workers are sitting ducks out there at times,” Brennan said. “Our cones don’t stop anything, and we have no offensive means of protecting ourselves. Anything we do is defensively precautionary. We can set up all the road signs and arrow boards we want, but at the end of the day, there’s little we can do to make it safer.”
HB 426, which is sponsored by Chapter 1 member and Rep. Alan Turcotte, doesn’t lessen the danger the workers face, but offers some compensation to acknowledge it. The bill, as written, would pay workers whose “primary job responsibilities involve maintenance or construction on state highways, roads, and bridges in the normal course of their duties” $20 a week in hazardous duty pay.
Brennan, who worked for eight years as a firefighter in Long Island, said DOT workers who put themselves at risk to help the public deserve the same respect as police officers and firefighters.
“Like them, we took the job knowing that it can be dangerous,” Brennan said. “We hope the Legislature will show that they understand the risks in what we do and recognize that by approving this bill.”
The hearing for HB 426 is set for 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, in Room 201 of the Legislative Office Building. Brennan is organizing turnout through his chapter, but given the potential for bad weather pulling workers away, members are encouraged to stop by the hearing and sign your name in support of the bill.
Members of SEA/SEIU Local 1984 and their family are eligible for several higher education scholarships, two of which are funded by SEA/SEIU Local 1984 and administered by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Another scholarship is available through Union Plus, and the deadline for this one is fast approaching. In other words, if you haven’t applied yet, you should do so quickly. Here’s how:
Union Plus: Deadline is noon on Jan. 31. One-time cash awards range from $500 to $4,000 for the fall 2017 semester. Students can reapply each year. You can complete your application here.
SEA/SEIU Local 1984 scholarships: These scholarships – the Joan Dolloff Scholarship Fund and the State Employees of NH, Inc. Scholarship Fund – are administered by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. That means you can apply for both of them, along with any other scholarships you might qualify for, at one time. The Charitable Foundation application asks a range of questions to determine eligibility for various scholarships. Deadlines vary depending on the type of student, but regardless of that, the Charitable Foundation recommends applying immediately. You can complete your application here. If you have questions, call the Charitable Foundation at 225-6641.
Temporary Measure Should Help with Recruitment, Retention at Prisons
On Wednesday, the Executive Council unanimously voted in favor of a wage enhancement for nurses working for the Department of Corrections. The 15 percent enhancement is effective immediately and continues through Jan. 17, 2019. Similar wage enhancements have been put in place for nursing staff at New Hampshire Hospital and the New Hampshire Veterans Home.
Nursing is an in-demand profession, which makes it tough to fill positions. Making things tougher is the fact that a prison is far from a traditional environment. Ryan Landry, SEA Chapter 33 member and nursing coordinator at the State Prison in Concord, said the enhancement is purely a market adjustment.
“In my mind it’s important to keep up with the market,” he said. “Nurses can work anywhere. To get them to choose to work in a very challenging environment, you have to make it competitive.”
Landry said the prison in Concord is currently down two nurses (out of 14), but the prison in Berlin is having an even harder time staffing up, with four or five vacancies. Even fully staffed, Landry said, they’re running short at the State Prison, with 14 nurses for 1,700 prisoners. The nursing staff is part of what Landry best describes as a mini-doctor’s office.
“We do everything from medicine and insulin administration to handling medical emergencies,” he said. “What we do is pretty broad.”
That the patients are all prisoners makes it difficult not only to recruit nurses, Landry said, but to retain them, as well.
“If you worked in a hospital or a nursing home, you get to have personal relationships with your patients, and that doesn’t happen in a prison,” he said. “We work with challenging clients, and they challenge us every single day. This isn’t your grandmother we’re taking care of here, but someone needs to care for them.”
Workers covered by the State Employee Health Benefit have a new option for completing the Know Your Numbers screening, which is part of the Health Rewards program. Anthem has a new arrangement with ConvenientMD to provide Know Your Numbers screenings at any ConvenientMD location.
Know Your Numbers screenings check your weight, height, blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index and glucose. Knowing these numbers can help you prevent health issues as you make improvements to your health and well-being. As part of the Health Rewards program, you can earn money for completing the screening. It’s a win-win for you.
If you want to complete the screening at ConvenientMD, there’s no appointment necessary, but you do have to follow two steps:
Completing this activity will earn you $100 on a gift card or Visa debit card. It’s important to remember that before you can earn money for any Health Rewards activities, you’ll need to take the Health Assessment Tool (HAT). You can see the whole Health Rewards process in more detail here: https://das.nh.gov/wellness/wellness_rewardprogram.html.
Joint Statement of the leaders of New Hampshire AFL-CIO and its Affiliates, the National Education Association of New Hampshire, the State Employees Association, the New Hampshire Carpenters, and the New Hampshire Teamsters following the Senate passage of so-called “Right-to-Work” legislation
Concord – “Today the New Hampshire Senate passed the so-called “Right-to-Work” bill. This bill is not about improving New Hampshire’s economy or increasing the freedoms of any worker in the Granite State. Instead it is an attack on all working families by special interests seeking to lower wages for everyone and undermine worker protections. This bill is designed to do one thing and one thing only: limit employees’ ability to advocate on behalf of what’s best for their families and communities.
This bill will silence the teachers who advocate on behalf of smaller class sizes for our children, the transportation employees who negotiate for the equipment they need to keep the roads clear after a blizzard and the police and firefighters who negotiate for the staffing levels they need to keep us safe. It would take away the voices of tradespeople like ironworkers, pipe-fitters and line workers who negotiate the safety standards that keep entire industries safe.
When working people aren’t able to have a voice in what’s best for our communities, we all lose.
New Hampshire deserves real solutions to real problems, not attempts to limit working people’s voice in their communities. The legislature was elected to advocate for the best interests of all New Hampshire working families, and we urge them to remember that. As the bill moves to the House we’ll continue to do what we’ve always done: Stand with working families across the state to create a New Hampshire that works for everyone.”
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.