UPEA Blog

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.

 

Celebrate the Holidays with UPEA

Join us for our annual Holiday Open House at the UPEA office on Wednesday, December 11th, 2019. Stop by anytime from 11:00am-2:00pm for food, treats, and prizes for celebrate the season!

Members and non-members are welcome – so bring your coworkers and families!

If you have questions, please call Kendle at 801-264-8732 ext. 209 or email kendle@upea.net.

We hope to see you on Wednesday!

Happy Holidays!

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 Joins Lawmaker to Advocate for Higher Caseworker Pay

Caseworkers for the Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) have specialized skills that qualify them to work with a vulnerable population. They are  vital in the services they provide to Utah families. To perform their role successfully, caseworkers must have bachelor’s degrees and spend years learning on the job.

Unfortunately, DCFS is experiencing high turnover and has difficulty recruiting qualified caseworkers. Since 2014, turnover has increased 52%.

Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, brought this to the attention of the Legislature’s Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee during its interim committee meeting on Oct.  15. She emphasized the importance of continuity of care when working with distressed families but said caseworkers aren’t paid enough to stay.

DCFS Director Diane Moore said her department has enough full-time caseworker positions, but DCFS can’t fill the positions or retain the employees once hired. With frequent caseworker turnover, efficiency is lost, and costs rise. On average, cases take six to nine months longer to complete. Last year the Salt Lake Valley had 12 caseworker positions open and had to leave half of these positions vacant due to a shortage of qualified applicants.

The recruitment and retention challenges can be attributed to inadequate compensation. Caseworkers employed by the state make $32,000 annually, compared to Idaho, where caseworkers make $51,000 annually. In Idaho, the turnover rate is just  16%. The turnover rate has not been this low in Utah since 2010.

UPEA is dedicated to continue working with Judkins on this issue. Updates to members will follow throughout the 2020 legislative session.

 

Salt Lake County 2020 Mayor’s Budget Recommendations

The budget season is upon us at Salt Lake County. Over the past few weeks, the Salt Lake County Council has heard the budget portfolios of various Salt Lake County agencies. On October 18th, UPEA Salt Lake County employee representative, Christy Berk, participated in a meeting hosted by SLCO HR Director Kathleen Johnston for Employee Groups. During the meeting, Mrs. Johnston discussed the recommendations HR made to Mayor Jenny Wilson to incorporate into her proposed 2020 Budget.

The Mayor’s budget proposal included these HR recommendations:

  • No change in health insurance benefits or premiums
  • Indexation of both General Structure and Trades/Technical Structure
  • A 2.75% Market Adjustment for merit employees with a 2020 performance evaluation of at least 3
  • Establish a minimum Living Wage of $12/hour
  • A mid-year budget review to determine whether there is enough money for a compression adjustment in 2020
  • 1% lump sum for red-lined employees

Additionally, Mrs. Johnston asked for comments and feedback from the employee groups. UPEA brought up concerns over employee compensation, benefits and retirement. Specifically, advocating for HR’s fullest attention to be paid towards the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, which is experiencing some of the highest turnover rates and compression issues in the County.

On October 22nd, Mayor Wilson released her budget proposal to the public. Later that afternoon, UPEA participated in the roundtable discussion with the County Council to give feedback directly to the councilmembers. UPEA representative, Christy Berk, mentioned that while UPEA supports the budget, she urged the Council to do what they can to ensure that there is enough money in the budget to pass a compression adjustment come next year. Compression is a complex issue that is very important to employees. It deserves proper attention, and budget-willing, needs to be addressed in the coming year.

After the 2020 Budget is passed by the County Council in November, Christy will be making lunchtime visits to SLCO agencies to explain how the budget will affect County employees and what to expect in the coming year.

If you have any questions or concerns about the budget process or other employment issues, please contact Christy Berk, 801-264-8732 ext. 212 or at cberk@upea.net.