PEP Squad Episode 4 – Elections and Legislative Priorities

P.E.P. Squad: Episode 4 Transcript

By Kendle Zdunich, Sam Unruh, and Hannah Gorski

Produced by Christy Berk

Introduction

Kendle:

Hello everybody and welcome back to the PEP Squad. First of all, we want you all to know that our second VP elections are coming up, we have three candidates running in our primary election this year.

Sam:

The candidates running are Wayne Anderton who works at Tooele County, Desmond Lomax who works for the Department of Corrections, and Christie Workman who works at the Office of Rehabilitation. You can find the candidates’ bios on our website.

Kendle:

Ballots will be sent out two ways this year. You will get your ballot via email or postal mail if you do not have an email address. Regardless, you will have received your ballot by Monday, December 16 and they will need to be submitted (postmarked or emailed back in) by January 15th at the latest for your vote to be counted.

If any candidate gets 51%, they will be the win and become the 2nd VP. If no one gets 51% of the vote, then there will be a runoff election in March.

Hannah:

Reach out to Kendle (kendle@upea.net) if you have questions regarding 2nd VP elections.

District Elections

Hannah:

We have elections that will be going on for all of our districts in January. Your Employee Representative will be sending out an email to you and talking with leadership and individuals within the districts to come up with a date in January to hold elections. District leadership includes chair, vice-chair, secretary, treasurer, and Advisory Council.

Kendle:

Look out for emails regarding elections and if you have any questions about the responsibilities involved in those positions or you’re interested in running, please reach out to us. We would love to get anyone that wants to be involved more involved; it’s a great opportunity to kind of get a better grasp on what UPEA does and it’s a really good way to learn more about it before jumping into some of the bigger responsibilities like Second VP or Advisory Board.

Hannah:

It’s a great opportunity to become more involved with what’s going on at your worksite as well as local politics.

Pre-Legislative Update

Hannah:

Okay, we’re going to step away from elections and talk about our legislative package a little bit. The Governor’s budget is going to be coming out this month; we aren’t sure the exact date yet but will keep everyone posted and once the budget comes out. Once it is released, we will know a little bit more about the specifics of some of our lobbying topics.

Kendle:

We will be sending out that information and it’ll all be online as well, in our next newsletter. The Newsletter goes out in mid-January.

Hannah:

Now to our legislative lobbying package, starting with healthcare. We always lobby for the State Legislature to fully fund any health insurance premium increase and maintain the current structure of the health insurance coverage. This means that we want individuals to be able to choose between the STAR Plan and the Traditional Plan. You can switch between the plans during open enrollment after the Legislative Session is over. Currently state employees share 92/8 health insurance split in which the employer pays 92% of premiums and the employee covers the rest. We want to maintain the out-of-pocket maximums on both plans. One thing we’ve added to our package this year is lobbying to secure more funding for increased mental health benefits such as PTSD and anxiety.

Kendle:

Retirement is next. There are no proposed changes to the contribution rate this year. And they’re also leaving the assumed rate of return (ROI) at 6.95%. This is good news because State employees are very safe when it comes to retirement. Utah has one of the most well-funded state retirement systems. Utah does well largely because URS is cautious with retirement money and the assumed rate of return is kept low. If anything comes up during the Legislative Session regarding retirement, we will let everyone know. The Bill Tracker on our website is a great tool to use to help you stay up to date.

Hannah:

If you have any questions regarding your health insurance please contact PEHP, similarly, if you have questions about retirement, contact URS.

Sam:

Next on the list of lobbying items is Merit Status Preservation. Most of you are Merit or Schedule B employees and that means that you are protected in the workplace. You have access to the grievance process, job protection and the right to progressive disciplinary actions. We want to preserve the Merit System to keep those rights intact for you.

Next is payroll deduction. Payroll deduction is how UPEA receives its dues from our members. Dues will come out automatically from your paychecks so that you do not have to ever write UPEA a check. If we did not have a payroll deduction than we wouldn’t be able to have as many members from all across the state. Occasionally we see bills where a legislator tries to target this and take power away from associations similar to ours; so, we want to fight this.

Kendle:

Another item in our package is paid parental leave. We have supported this bill for the past few years, helping Rep. Weight run the bill. It would be a great thing for the workforce and could really help with recruitment and retention to offer this benefit. Each year the problem is the fiscal uncertainty. However, this year, the Governor has signaled that he will include paid parental leave in his budget. Implementing this policy would really help Utah stay competitive with the market where many private industries have already implemented this policy.

Hannah:

Along with leave, we want to support enhancements to the current leave (sick and vacation) structure. We haven’t heard any employees expressing desire for PTO (paid time off) but we also have not seen any bills to change leave.

That’s about all we have the legislative package. We want to ensure everyone is aware of what is going on. Stay tuned on the podcast so you’ll be informed!

Just to reiterate, we are asking for a 5% pay increase. Please reach out to your legislators to help us achieve this goal (on your own time and resources).

Kendle:

We have posted a lot of informational videos about how to talk to your legislator, how to be effective and get your point across. You can access those videos on Facebook and our website.

Christy:

Just a quick thing to mention is a common misconception surrounding calling your legislators. This issue came up when Sam and I visited Roosevelt a few weeks ago; and that is that when we say to contact your legislators, we mean your State legislators (those who represent your individual cities where you live. An employee asked me if Senator Romney and Lee represent Utah at the national legislature in DC, but we are talking about your local representatives. If you need to know who state representatives are, please look on our website as well as le.utah.gov. If you go there, you’ll put in your home address and your legislators’ name, number and email address will pop up.

Wrap Up

Kendle:

Our Holiday Open House is next Wednesday, December 11th. We will have great food, raffle prizes and a lot of other fun. That is held at our office in Murray from 11am-2pm. Please stop by, bring your coworkers and enjoy the holidays with us.

Hannah:

Staff still is giving pre-legislative updates over the next few weeks so keep an eye out for those. If you would like a pre-leg update at your worksite, please reach out to us and we will work with you to make that happen.

If you aren’t receiving updates from us via email, please reach out so we can keep you updated.

Finally, just so you know, our office hours can be erratic so we will try our best to keep you apprised of when we will be closed. On December 25th and January 1st, we will be closed.

Kendle:

Thanks for listening! Please share this podcast with others so that everyone can stay informed on all things UPEA.

 

UPEA Backs Bill That Would Create a Statewide Pay Plan for Public Safety Officers

The Utah Public Employees’ Association (UPEA) and Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, on Thursday announced a plan to pursue a statewide pay plan for law enforcement officers.

The announcement followed a town hall meeting UPEA hosted earlier in the day at the UPEA offices, during which state public safety employees discussed recruitment and retention of quality employees within the existing state employee pay structure. They overwhelmingly agreed that public safety employees need a separate pay plan.

“Public safety and law enforcement employees are at a critical crossroads” said Perry, a Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) lieutenant. “Better pay is essential to address the challenges they face.”

Perry said he will sponsor a bill, Law Enforcement Salary Plan Amendments, during the 2020 legislative session, which begins in January. If approved, the legislation will direct the Utah Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) to create a career ladder system for all Peace Officer Standard and Training (POST)-certified officers employed by the state.

Perry has long been an advocate for better pay for public safety employees. He supported a legislative appropriation to fund a career ladder system for UHP officers. During the 2019 Legislature, he also cosponsored Senate Bill 129, Public Safety and Fire Fighter Tier II Retirement Amendments, with Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville. The legislation passed and enhanced retirement benefits for public safety officers and firefighters in the Tier II retirement system.

Like UHP officers, correctional officers also have a career ladder system, but officers who work in Division of Wildlife Resources, Adult Probation and Parole, State Parks, and the Tax Commission are not included in any such system.

Todd Losser, executive director of UPEA, said UPEA will lobby lawmakers to adopt Perry’s bill. “This is an important issue and part of UPEA’s mission.”

UPEA is the largest association representing public employees in the state of Utah.

UPEA 2nd Vice President Primary Elections Begin Dec. 15

Primary elections for the Utah Public Employees’ Association (UPEA) second vice president position will be held Dec. 15 – Jan. 15. Please familiarize yourself with the candidates and make an informed decision. Within UPEA, the second vice president’s responsibilities include:

    • serving as chairman of the Resolutions Committee, which reviews resolutions and makes recommendations to the General Council and proposes a platform for the coming year
    • Represent the State Board as a voting member of the Citizen Action by Public Employees’ (CAPE) Committee

All UPEA members will receive ballots by email when it is time to vote.

Here are the three candidates and their platforms:

 

Wayne Anderton

Hi, my name is Wayne Anderton. I have been employed by Tooele County for the past 22 years, and I’ve been a member of UPEA for 20 years. I have spent the past several years as an active member of UPEA in Tooele County, working full time and pursuing my bachelor’s degree in natural resource management. The experience I have gained through my employment, my higher education, and the opportunities I have had working with UPEA on issues such as wage disparity, cancellation of post-retirement benefits, and leave compensation changes give me the confidence and leadership skills to help guide the Association for the next four years. I have confidence in my ability to work with UPEA’s officers and leadership to make the organization stronger and more unified. I intend to focus on the following objectives as second vice president:

UPEA has a diverse membership that includes state, county, local government, public safety, and retired members. The Association has something to offer every public employee, and I am committed to work with UPEA staff to create a strong voice for all public employees. Through communication and representation, I will work to increase UPEA’s membership.

Utah’s greatest asset is its public employees. As an officer of UPEA, I am committed to create a positive public perception for public employees through education of both the public and elected officials.

I will work with the excellent UPEA staff and leadership to effectively communicate to elected officials the economic position and needs of Utah’s public employees. I will help create a plan to educate policymakers and other stakeholders about the tremendous work public employees do for the citizens of this state. In return, public employees’ pay and benefits need to be at the forefront of discussions, and I will help organize and implement a long-term plan to address the pay and benefit needs of public employees.

Desmond Lomax

Hi, my name is Desmond Lomax. I have been employed by state of Utah and Utah for the past 20 years, and I’ve been a member of the Utah Public Employees’ Association (UPEA) for five years. I have spent the past several years as an active member of UPEA in the Law Enforcement District. I am currently on the Advisory Council and I love it! I hope to expand my role with UPEA by helping to support the following initiatives:

I want to reach out to all facets of government to encourage UPEA membership. I believe in using technology and providing future members with a better understanding of the benefits UPEA offers. I believe sharing our personal stories of the benefits of UPEA on our online newsletter for current and incoming members would be a powerful start.

I have a degree in political science with an emphasis in American government. I believe I have the tools to add new ideals to our representation at the Capitol. We need to be seen as a whole body or collective of people with a desire to change and improve our government for the benefits of our membership. We can and will do this!

With enhanced representation, I believe better compensation and benefits will be accomplished.  We need to improve the benefits for our retired people. (I soon will be one of you.) We also need to improve the day-to-day salaries of all employees. While the growth of the state is evident, the state has fewer employees. We are doing more with less and we need to be compensated for this.

I invite you to vote for me. I can be reached via email, desmondlomax@gmail.com. I would be happy to answer any other questions you may have.

Christie Workman

My name is Christie Workman and I am thrilled to be running for UPEA second vice president. I have worked for the state of Utah with the Office of Rehabilitation for 23 years. I joined UPEA during my first year with the state and I’ve been participating and supporting ever since. Currently, I serve on the UPEA State Board of Directors and am chairwoman of the General Council Committee. I truly believe in the Association and its ability to enact positive changes for public employees, and I feel proud to be involved.

If elected as second vice president, I would prioritize educating employees about UPEA’s importance. There are several employees who are unaware of what UPEA does to protect the workforce and enhance all aspects of our jobs. We are stronger in numbers and I want all individuals to know that their membership is important to UPEA’s success. I will work to increase awareness and support for the Association.

Additionally, I will support the legislative goals of the Association, especially increasing total compensation. In my 23 years with the state, I’ve seen a lot of changes when it comes to employee compensation. During the recession and all of the benefit changes that followed, employees were promised increased compensation when the state recovered. Now is the time to make good on that promise. Compensation should not take a back seat during the legislative session and I intend do everything I can to increase legislators’ awareness.

I’m humbled to be a candidate for UPEA second vice president. Thank you.

Compensation Study Shows State Worker Salary Remain Below Market

State employees on average earn 11 percent less than the market average, according to results of a new compensation study performed by a third-party consulting group.

However, they fare slightly better when total compensation is considered, according to the study performed by Gallagher Surveys. Total compensation, which includes health, dental, and vision insurance, and retirement benefits in addition to salary, is 2% below market for Tier I state employees and 10% below market for Tier II employees.

In addition, state employees’ leave accrual outpaces that available in the market overall as demonstrated by the graphic below.

DHRM will use Gallagher’s findings to recommend what lawmakers should focus on as they consider state employee compensation. The Legislature’s Retirement and Independent Entities Interim Committee on Sept. 19 discussed the study. Paul Garver of the Division of Human Resources Management (DHRM) and Mark Goldberg of Gallagher led the discussion.

Based on study results, Gallagher recommended that the state focus on addressing salaries for positions for which pay is 15% below market. Because the state is more competitive when it comes to total compensation and leave accrual, it made no recommendations in those areas.

Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, took issue with the salary recommendation. He explained that Box Elder County is unable to recruit or retain employees for positions that pay 10% below market. Addressing only positions with an even greater disparity does nothing to solve the problem, he said.

Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, agreed. “Until we increase the number of dollars in people’s paychecks, we will not be able to retain our employees.”

Hall addressed the idea that the state offers an above average total compensation package. “I believe that people should evaluate benefits and retirement when considering working for the state; however, it doesn’t matter what I think they should value. When it comes to recruitment and retention right now, what matters is the pay.”

Garver agreed that younger workers do not value benefits as much as previous generations. Salary is the main driver, he said.

“However, the state will never compete with the private sector on pay alone,” he said.

The private sector moves too quickly and can match any increase the Legislature passes. “We cannot erode our competitive benefits as a means of closing the gap on salary” Garver said. “We must focus on increasing base pay and giving employees more flexibility in their benefits.”

He noted legislation passed during the 2019 Legislature that allows employees on the STAR plan, PEHP’s high deductible plan, to convert half of their Health Savings Account (HSA) contributions to cash. He also noted Gov. Gary Herbert’s push for more state agencies to allow for telecommuting options.

Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, said lawmakers need to address both salaries and benefits. “You’ve got to get people in the door; a strong, competitive salary will do that. Then strong benefits will help to retain them.”