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.”
You can take action by attending the hearing, calling your senator
Next Tuesday, the Senate’s Education Committee will hold a hearing on a plan that would drastically overhaul the Department of Education at the request of new Commissioner Frank Edelblut.
The plan was proposed by Sen. John Reagan, as an amendment to an unrelated bill. The proposal provides the Department of Education commissioner broad authority to reorganize the department, without oversight or consultation. This kind of an overhaul, giving vast authority to the commissioner, is not a great idea. Ramming it through this late in the legislative process is an even worse idea.
“We’re shocked something of this magnitude could come in this late in the session, although we are pleased they will at least hold a hearing,” said SEA President Rich Gulla. “The bottom line is that this kind of drastic overhaul requires thoughtful consideration and strong knowledge of the agency. With zero experience and only being on the job for a couple months, Commissioner Edelblut couldn’t even have learned everyone’s name yet, let alone how the agency works.”
Instead of approving Sen. Reagan’s amendment, the Senate should instead take the suggestion of Sen. David Watters and create a study committee for the proposed reorganization. Here are a couple of steps you can take to push back against this power grab:
Be at the hearing: We need you to be at the hearing on Tuesday, to make sure the Senate Education Committee knows this is unacceptable. If you can’t stay, please try to drop by and sign your name in opposition to the amendment. The hearing is at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Room 103 of the Legislative Office Building.
Call your senator: In the meantime, you can call your senator and let them know you strongly oppose this power grab. You can find your senator’s information here.
For more information
Nominations will be accepted through close of business on May 9
Nominations are being accepted for an open position on the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Board of Directors. The seat will be filled by a special election at the June Council meeting.
This seat was left vacant when Cindy Sanborn-Dubey, a longtime member leader at the Liquor Commission, left state service. The winner of the special election would fill out the remainder of her term, which runs through 2019.
If you’re interested, you’ll need to submit your declaration of candidacy no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 9. That form has been mailed out to members, but you may also print out the form and mail it back. Alternatively, you can fill out the form and submit it entirely online.
The June Council meeting is set for Thursday, June 8, at the DES/DHHS auditorium, 29 Hazen Drive, Concord. Registration begins at 6:30 p.m., the meeting at 7.
On Wednesday, the Executive Council confirmed Ken Merrifield as Commissioner of the Department of Labor. Merrifield is in his fifth term as mayor of the city of Franklin, and also currently works in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Earlier this week, Merrifield met with SEA leaders and members from the Department of Labor and answered their questions. The SEA holds these meetings when nominees for state agency positions are brought forward, to give employees an opportunity to pose questions before the Executive Council votes on the nomination.
Merrifield was confirmed by a vote of 4-1, with Executive Councilor Chris Pappas providing the dissenting vote. He’ll step down from his post as mayor next month when the takes the reins at the Department of Labor.
You can read the Concord Monitor’s report on his confirmation here.
In an alarming move, Gov. Sununu’s Education Commissioner, Frank Edelblut, has moved to drastically overhaul the education department – while simultaneously executing a huge power grab.
At the request of Edelblut, Sen. John Reagan (R–District 17) introduced an amendment to vastly expand the role of the Commissioner of Education. This move would allow Edelblut an unprecedented amount of authority – despite zero previous public education experience and having only been on the job a couple months.
Even the Union Leader’s editorial page is suggesting that Edelblut slow down and “provide a more detailed road map” of how he would restructure the department. We need the Senate to give this the attention it deserves, not allow it to be rushed through at the last minute. The Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing on this bill next Tuesday — we’ll have more details in Thursday’s SEA News.
In the meantime, you can call your state senator and tell them you strongly oppose this attempt at a power grab. You can find your senator’s information here.
Members covered by the State Employee Health Benefit have access to numerous great “fringe benefits” as part of the health coverage. This includes things like Healthy Rewards and the fitness club reimbursement. Unlike the health benefit, however, “fringe benefits” are taxable under IRS guidelines. The state processes the withholding for these taxable items once a quarter, and for the most recent quarter, that withholding will happen in this week’s (April 14) paycheck.
The most recently completed quarter includes any fringe benefits received between November 2016 through January 2017. If you have questions about the amount withheld, you can contact Anthem directly or your HR/payroll office.
You can see the complete notice from the state below:
ANTHEM and HEALTH REWARDS
PAYROLL PROCESSING PLANNED FOR THE 04/14/2017 PAY CHECK
Those employees that have been reimbursed directly (paid to employee) or indirectly (paid to facility/organization on behalf of the employee) for fitness club, equipment and education expenses and gift card issuances for Nov 2016 through Jan 2017 are planned to be processed with the pay check dated 4/14/2017. This process will report the first quarter of fringe benefits for Anthem Rewards reporting year.
These dollars are considered a fringe benefit and will increase taxable wages and withholding for all Federal, Social Security and Medicare Taxes. Pursuant to IRS guidelines, the value of these taxable benefits received by employees in the period of November 2016 through October 2017 will be included in the employee’s 2017 wages. This process is being performed to meet Federal fringe benefit reporting requirements. The dollars associated with this process are listed below as pay code number, long description and check description:
- 702 HEALTH CLUB REIMBURSEMENT “HLTHCLNF”
- 703 HEALTH EDUC REIMBURSEMENT “HLTHEDNF”
- 704 HEALTH EQUIP REIMBURSEMENT “HLTHEQNF”
- 712 HEALTH REWARDS “HLTHREW”