Act now: Finance Committee closing in on final budget proposal
As the Senate Finance Committee continues work on its version of the budget, state retiree health care has remained a major concern. This concern was not alleviated by the committee’s vote this week along party lines to adopt a plan that still raises health care costs for many state retirees.
There’s still time to make a difference, so we need you to contact your senator and the members of the Finance Committee.
The plan adopted by the Senate Finance Committee is the same one the House Finance Committee approved. It would exempt some retirees—those who were born before Jan. 1, 1949 —from paying a premium for health insurance. However, drawing such a line would mean someone could miss being exempted if they were born on Jan. 1, 1949 instead of Dec. 31, 1948. The plan may be an improvement from Gov. Chris Sununu’s proposal, but it still places an unnecessary burden on state retirees.
Many of you have made calls and sent emails, but we need to keep the pressure up. We need you to reach out to the members of the Senate Finance Committee, as well as your own senator, as soon as possible. Tell them the state must keep its promise to the retirees who worked for decades in service of their state. Putting the burden of rising health care costs on fixed-income seniors isn’t only unfair, it’s just plain wrong.
We’d like you to join in welcoming the newest member of the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 staff, David Holt.
As the Lead External Organizer Holt, joins the SEA after working as an organizer with Protect New Hampshire Families, fighting so-called Right to Work legislation.
“Unions mean being able to stand together – to have a fair say in the wages, benefits, safety and environment in your workplace. They allow working people to bargain for their resources, time, skills and creativity. I’m proud to be a member of SEA as the Lead External Organizer.”
Before becoming an organizer, Holt spent 12 years in the software industry and as a Project Manager for Tyco International.
A New Hampshire native, Holt currently lives in Somersworth with his two dogs, Sephin and Petey. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with friends and family. He’s also very active in his local community fighting for social and economic equality.
Currently, Holt is working on a campaign aimed at helping members increase involvement in the SEA community. His ultimate campaign goal is working toward the common good for all our neighbors.
“I look forward to working hard on behalf of local workers while fighting to improve the quality of life for both union and nonunion members.”
Want to introduce yourself? Send David a note!
New website and videos highlight the benefits of union membership
Today, we’re excited to announce the launch of UnitedNH.com, a new website with information and videos focused on highlighting the benefits of union membership. It’s more than just our union, though. It’s about the entire organized labor movement.
We’re a community united in fighting for New Hampshire workers and their families. We’re putting out the call to educate Granite Staters on the issues that matter to them and how to get involved.
As we work to grow our movement, this website will be a useful tool to attract new allies and develop strong voices. In the three videos we’ve developed, four of our members raise their voices to advance the fight for fair wages, benefits and equality.
You can watch the videos here:
We’re standing in solidarity to fight for New Hampshire. Will you join us?
SEA/SEIU Local 1984 issued the following press release for the endorsement of Dave Boutin for New Hampshire State Senate.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Endorses David Boutin For State Senate
Boutin running to replace the late Senator Scott McGilvray in Senate District 16
Concord, N.H. – May 12, 2017 – Today, the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Board of Directors announced their decision to endorse David Boutin (R-Hooksett) for state Senate District 16, following the recommendation of the organization’s Political Education Committee.
Boutin previously served as the state senator from District 16 from 2010-16. During his four terms, he was an open-minded, outspoken advocate for the residents of Bow, Hooksett, Candia, Dunbarton and Wards 1 and 12 in Manchester. SEA/SEIU Local 1984 member Pam Sullivan of Hooksett said after meeting with Boutin it was clear he was the best choice to represent District 16.
“In his time as state senator, David Boutin has consistently made decisions based on impact for New Hampshire rather than personal ideology,” Sullivan said. “He listens to his constituents and extends his hand across the aisle to fight for issues that matter to Granite Staters.”
Political endorsements made by SEA/SEIU Local 1984 require the Political Education Committee to vet and vote on endorsements in national, state, and local elections. In this instance, the committee met with all major candidates in this race before sending its recommendation to the Board of Directors for final approval. The board then voted to endorse Boutin. SEA/SEIU Local 1984 does not base endorsements on political party affiliation. It endorses candidates who support and will continue to fight for the working people of New Hampshire.
About The State Employees’ Association/SEIU Local 1984
SEA/SEIU Local 1984 represents over 10,000 public and private-sector employees across the Granite State. First formed in 1940 as a social organization, the SEA won passage of New Hampshire’s Public Employee Labor Relations Law in 1975. Since then, the union has negotiated hundreds of contracts with state, county, municipal and private-sector employers. The SEA affiliated with the Service Employees’ International Union in 1984. With 2 million members, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas.
Tonight SEA members will take part in a meeting from a remote site, as a test run of a draft policy to increase participation in committee meetings, Council meetings, and in tonight’s case, Bargaining Senate meetings.
In addition to hosting the Bargaining Senate at the main site – 29 Hazen Drive in Concord – there will also be a satellite site at White Mountains Community College in Berlin. That will allow members in that area to gather in a common location for the meeting via videoconference.
Getting to this point has been easier said than done. For years, the SEA has worked to integrate new technology to make participating in meetings easier. For example, members can currently connect to meetings by phone or videoconference, but there was no policy in place to officially allow them to participate.
Eric Ferren, the chair of the Constitution and Bylaws Committee, said members were increasingly asking President Rich Gulla about participating in meetings remotely. “Rich approached the committee about developing an official policy,” Ferren said.
The committee’s first move, Ferren said, was to see what other unions were doing, but that didn’t prove fruitful.
“We couldn’t find any local unions that have a policy for us to follow,” Ferren said. “We even approached the SEIU about theirs, only to discover they didn’t have a policy either.”
So the committee had to start at square one, drafting a policy from scratch. That hasn’t occurred without roadblocks along the way.
“The biggest difficulty in developing the policy was how to handle elections at multiple sites and still follow the Department of Labor’s requirements for our elections,” Ferren said. “We approached the Department of Labor several times, but ultimately received no guidance.”
Eventually, the Department of Labor suggested that the SEA develop a policy, which the department would later review. The committee researched software that would allow people to vote online, but the cost of the software was prohibitive. As such, the voting part of the equation remains unresolved.
Committee member Avis Crane stressed that the goal was to approach this incrementally, and that this is just one step in the process.
“Because it is a policy rather than a Constitutional change, there is nothing to prevent us from continuing to work on changing or improving the policy,” Crane said. “Having a few tests of virtual meetings will help those of us who have little experience with it to understand the process better.”
If you live in the Berlin area and want to take part in tonight’s Bargaining Senate meeting, you can email email@example.com.
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry sent the following message in response to the tragic death of North Carolina Corrections Officer Sgt. Meggan Lee Callahan, an SEIU member.
Corrections Officers all across our country brave some of the toughest working conditions on any job. They put their lives on the line everyday to make our communities safer. I am very sad to tell you that one of those valiant officers was killed last week in the line of duty.
Sgt. Meggan Lee Callahan, a Corrections Officer with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and a member of SEANC SEIU Local 2008, was attacked and died as she worked to protect her community and her fellow officers.
Sister Callahan’s life was cut short by an inmate at Bertie Correctional Institution in Windsor, North Carolina. Sister Callahan was 29 years old and had worked for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety since 2012.
Our hearts go out to her parents, her two sisters, her fiancé, all her family and friends, and to her brothers and sisters in Local 2008 who knew her as a smart, dedicated, and fun-loving colleague who was a joy to work with.
Sister Callahan’s tragic and unforgiveable death is a reminder for us all that Corrections Officers like Sgt. Callahan face arduous working conditions without the kind of support they need and deserve. They are literally on the front lines of a broken prison system, which puts employee safety at risk.
Not only do we owe them gratitude for their sacrifice, but we must work tirelessly to address the safety, staffing and overcrowding issues that our members continue to face in an already dangerous workplace.
On Sunday, the Michigan Corrections Officers will be dedicating a Fallen Officers Memorial in Lansing, a dedication I will be honored to attend.
The Memorial is a tribute to Corrections Officers who – like Sister Callahan – have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their communities. The Memorial is designed to lift up the work that brave Corrections Officers do every day and remind the public of the perils Officers face everyday to keep them safe.
This Memorial and the tributes that are pouring in to support Sister Callahan’s family are vivid reminders of the work we need to do to make sure our Corrections Officer members know that we have their backs and will fight for the working conditions and support they need to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.
SEANC has set up a memorial fund for any individual or Local who would to donate money to help with funeral and family expenses for Sgt. Callahan.
To make a donation online, click here. You can also mail checks, payable to SEANC with “Sgt. Callahan Memorial Fund” in the memo line, to:
Sgt. Callahan Memorial Fund
1621 Midtown Place
Raleigh, NC 27609
Please share the online donation link on your various social media platforms.
Especially at this time of grief and sadness, we must resolve to do all we can to support our Corrections members and their families. We must recognize the dangers they face every day when they put on their uniforms and we must work to win better working conditions, training and support for these brave public servants.
Mary Kay Henry
SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members can save on tickets to some of the most popular theme parks in the region. You and the family can enjoy the rides at Canobie Lake Park, StoryLand, or Six Flags, and cool down at Water Country, all while saving some money.
These discounted tickets are a members-only benefit, made possible thanks to the SEA’s collective buying power. If you’ve never seen the full list of members-only discounts, you can find it on our website.
Here are the theme park discounts available this season, along with when they are available and how and where to purchase them.
Canobie Lake Park: Salem, N.H. Discounted tickets must be purchased at the SEA office. Tickets are $31 each (a savings of $7 over the regular price) and are available May 6-Sept. 17. Only cash or check are accepted for payment.
Six Flags New England: Agawam, Mass. Discounted tickets must be purchased at the SEA office. Tickets are $42 each (a savings of $24 over the regular price) and are available May 5-Sept. 22. Only cash or check are accepted for payment.
Water Country: Portsmouth, N.H. Discounted tickets must be purchased at the SEA office. Tickets are $32 (a savings of $7 over the regular price) and are available June 10-Sept. 4. Only cash or check are accepted for payment.
StoryLand Bartlett, N.H. Discounted tickets must be purchased online. Tickets are $28.99 ($5 discount). Important note: We have not yet received coupon code. Please contact the SEA office and we’ll get you the code once it’s available.
Sen. Gary Daniels (chair)
Sen. John Reagan (vice chair)
Senate President Chuck Morse
Sen. Bob Giuda
Sen. Dan Feltes
Sen. Lou D’Allesandro
The following is the prepared testimony President Rich Gulla delivered Tuesday, May 2, at the Senate hearing on the budget (HB 144 and HB 517):
Mr. Chairman and honorable members of the Senate Finance committee, my name is Richard Gulla and I am president of the NH State Employees’ Association, SEIU Local 1984. We represent over 10,000 state, county and municipal employees in collective bargaining. I am here however to testify about the over 9,000 state retirees who are relying on you as stewards not of any collective bargaining agreement, but of an agreement made to these employees by the state the day they were hired and throughout their careers. It was the promise of a fully paid health benefit in retirement in acknowledgement of the fact that while they may have better paying options in the private sector, a career with the state meant that they could count on health care in retirement.
Over the course of the last 8 years, early retirees have had their health benefit go from fully paid, to $65/month to 12.5% to 17.5% and even talk about raising that even further. Meanwhile all retirees have seen their cost sharing go up on the deductible side as well as on prescription drugs.
The Governor’s proposal would set a 10% floor on the over 65 group which includes retirees all the way up to over 100 years old. Many of the retirees in this group have been retired for well over 20 or 30 years and in no position to raise their income to accommodate such a change after a career and now a lifetime of planned stability in their health care costs. Having a 10% premium thrust upon this group threatens their ability to keep and afford their health plan at all.
According to the NH Retirement System, the average pension for a state employee is currently $13,823. This budget proposal could cost the average retired state workers one full month of their fixed-income. These retirees have not seen a cost of living increase in their pension since 2009, so their ability to keep up with a 10% and rising floor of a premium will be extremely challenging to nearly impossible.
I would also respectfully remind the committee that the state has done away with the under-65 retiree health plan. That has a date certain that it will no longer exist. So as the state operates to try and recruit and retain workers, what will it offer to compete with private industry. I would suggest that this benefit needs to be maintained so that the state can stand behind its word when it touts this as a benefit that workers can count on.
I appreciate the work that this committee and the senate has done in the past to help mitigate the financial impact of rising costs on state retirees. I know that each member of this committee recognizes the contribution these workers have made to our state and will do their best to work on this issue and you have my commitment that I will work with you to best serve this group so that we can honor the promises made to them.
I look forward to working together so that we can hopefully give some security and certainty to our state retirees who year over year constantly wonder what will the state of their health care be and will they be able to afford it. Thank you.
Take action: We need members to call the Senate Finance Committee
Twenty years ago, an overhaul at DHHS flipped the agency upside down
The news that the commissioner of the Department of Education is seeking broad powers to reshape the department as he sees fit should set off alarm bells for many reasons. Chief among them is that we’ve seen what the result can be if this happens.
It was nearly two decades ago, in 1997, that the legislature granted Health and Human Services Commissioner Terry Morton the ability to bypass state laws and personnel rules to reshape the department. The resulting 58 layoffs, and others who were demoted, set off a firestorm across the state, and led to a campaign to “Reinstate the 58” employees. All told, the mess took nearly eight years to clean up.
“It was huge,” said John Avlas, who was a steward and a supervisor at DHHS at the time. “It was all over the newspapers. I think it was a shock to the commissioner that it caused such a furor. I think to an extent he felt betrayed by the legislature. He didn’t know what he was getting into.”
The 58 layoffs represented a small fraction of the thousands of DHHS employees at the time, but the manner of the layoffs and the subsequent creation of high-salary management positions fueled the outrage. Newspapers in the state followed the issue closely, and the SEA newsletter ran headlines screaming “Local 1984 fights millionaire Morton’s layoffs.”
Targets for layoff
To DHHS employees at the time, the layoffs and demotions were clearly targeting certain individuals. The powers given to Morton made that targeting possible. Chapter 45 member and SEA Past President Diana Lacey said obvious examples were everywhere.
“In my division, my director was demoted in lieu of layoff and a new director was appointed,” she said.
The two had butted heads in the past, Lacey said, and the new director had a good relationship with Morton and his inner circle.
“From that perspective, the individuals that were demoted often disagreed — from a collegial standpoint — with the new director, so it seemed to be retaliatory,” she said. “We had a few people laid off from the field and those tended to be people who were in disagreement with the new director.”
In other cases, targeting of specific people was apparent for other reasons.
“In one part of the department, a husband and wife were both laid off, which seemed beyond chance, beyond reason, that they would both be laid off,” Lacey said.
‘People were crying’
The handling of layoffs was also questionable, with contractor Snowden Associates providing assistance to the department. Avlas said, as a supervisor, he sadly had a first-hand view.
“Employees were told to pack their things and leave immediately,” he said. “They sent security over. People were crying, because they’d known them for years.”
Ken Roos, now First Vice President of the union, wasn’t a member at the time, but that soon changed. When the layoffs were announced, Roos said his supervisor told him it was the task of the immediate supervisor to notify affected employees and escort them out of the building.
“Instead of the commissioner or upper management contacting the individuals, it was left to the immediate supervisors who didn’t really know what was going on,” Roos said. “I remember saying to my supervisor that this wasn’t my choice, why isn’t someone higher up doing this?”
‘Reinstate the 58’
Within a week of the layoffs, SEA members took action. More than 150 rallied on the grounds of the State Office Park South, officially beginning the “Reinstate the 58” movement. The union was active on multiple fronts, petitioning Gov. Jeanne Shaheen to reinstate the employees and fighting the issue all the way to the Supreme Court.
In the midst of all of this, Morton stayed mum. That wasn’t the case for the commissioner’s boss, however.
“Gov. Shaheen come over to my building, and stood right in the middle of the cafeteria, telling employees that she was there and was available,” Avlas said.
Meanwhile, the commissioner was left fairly isolated.
“Not one legislator came to his defense because the outrage was so intense,” Avlas said. “That was the end of Morton. It was pretty amazing.”
Morton soon after received a vote of no confidence from DHHS employees, with a stunning 96 percent voting, “Commissioner Morton is NOT doing a good job and I wish to express my lack of confidence in his administration.”
The fight against Morton’s layoffs and demotions dragged on for years, and the toll was heavy. Nearly all laid off employees were hired back and the demotions were overturned, all with back pay. Tragically, one of the workers who was laid off, a hearings officer by the name of Peter Prescott, took his life by suicide.
“He’d been told he was safe as he was the only non-lawyer in his department,” Avlas said. “They found some way to isolate him and terminate him.”
Cleaning up the mess
The entire episode took years to clean up and caused more endless problems. The new high-level positions created at the agency were staffed mainly by workers with no public sector experience.
“The new people that were brought in didn’t want to deal with the constructs that had been put in place by the legislature, and that eventually hurt the organization,” Lacey said. “Much of that was undone, but it took close to eight years for everything to be resolved, and it cost a fortune.”
As for Morton, he stayed with the agency up until his term ended at the beginning of 1999 and Gov. Shaheen did not reappoint him. Avlas said he recalled Morton’s successor, Don Shumway, saying that on the day he reported for duty, he found Morton still in his office doing work.
“Here’s a guy who apparently really loved the job, but just had no sense of the political aspects,” Avlas said.
Roos said it ended up creating a lot of work for everyone involved.
“Those who were terminated got their jobs back eventually, but other people had to do the work they were doing,” Roos said. “And there was even more upheaval after people were brought back, and had to be trained on new jobs.”
Now, just as it was with DHHS in 1997, Roos said plans to reorganize the Department of Education are an attempt to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.
“This has all the earmarks of a power grab,” he said. “Government agencies may not be perfect, but they’re still working well. When things need fixing, we need to do so thoughtfully. Hopefully, this time we’ll be smart enough to make the right decision.”