In the news - "MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants to create nearly 200 new transportation engineering positions. The budget Walker released Wednesday call for adding 180 engineering and engineering support positions within the state Department of Transportation. The governor says the move would reduce costs for outside consultants by $5.6 million annually." - Bloomberg Businessweek News (February 21, 2013)
April 29th, 2013
MGEC is excited to announce we have commenced the process of updating our website. Please be patient with us during this transition. Thank you.
March 25, 2013
MGEC Contract continues to move ahead.
MGEC members ratify the 2-11-2013 contract. The Legislative Subcommittee on Employee Relations approves of the contract. The bill still faces votes of the House and Senate after which it goes to Governor Dayton for signature.
Insurance Changes Effective April 1, 2013With the new contract ratified by membership, changes to health insurance will take place April 1. Employees may switch clinics within their provider network (Health Partners, Blue Cross Blue Shield or Preferred One) if they want to move to a lower cost clinic. Expenses paid by the employee since January 1, 2013 will continue to count toward the new plan deductibles for 2013. If an employee switches to a lower cost clinic before April 1 they can avoid paying the new higher deductibles of higher cost level clinics.
March 5, 2013
Ballots are out for the 2011-2013 contract - Full members should have received a ballot from “firstname.lastname@example.org via surveymonkey.com on behalf of MGEC”. The balloting process for voting will be open through 4:30 p.m. March 15, 2013.
Welcome to Cammie LaValle who began working with MGEC this week as our Administrative Assistant. Cammie comes as an experienced Paralegal with a strong interest in mediation. She will be working part-time for MGEC assisting in many areas beginning with the MGEC membership records.
MGEC 2013 Compensation Study is underway. Yesterday the survey was sent out to nearly 400 recipients from the private sector, cities, counties, other state, the feds and other public organizations. Hopefully the results will be in by late March and then can be analyzed and summarized and available to members sometime in April. This survey compares wages for classifications represented by MGEC with those of other employers. For a look at the results of the last survey go to: http://www.mgec.org/pdfs/2008Survey.pdf
2013-2015 Insurance Bargaining – March 4th MGEC joined the other state bargaining units in discussions about contract proposals related to insurances for the next contract. Such proposals could take effect January 1, 2014. Your input is welcome. As in the past, many members have already provided input using the 2013 MGEC membership Survey, or having contacted MGEC separately. Please pass any suggestions or questions along to Dana.Wheeler@mgec.org.
Did You Know – You may need to stop paying premiums when the coverage for Children/Grandchildren Life Insurance or employee or spousal Accidental Death & Dismemberment coverage stops. Some employees sign up for optional child life insurance, their children/grandchildren. The child is covered through age 24 (MGEC Contract, Article 18, Section 7B). Other employees sign up for Accidental Death & Dismemberment (MGEC Contract, Article 18, Section 7D) coverage which ends at age 70. In both cases, coverage ends at the max age but we are hearing that the insurance company may continue collecting premiums unless you stop them.
MGEC 2011-2013 Contract Tentative Agreement
Vacation - allow prior public sector or US armed forces length of service credit for purposes of vacation accrual if appointed to state service within four years of separation from other public employer.
Sick Leave - allow sick leave use for care of foster children. Allow up to five days sick leave use to arrange for necessary nursing or hospice care for members of the family including parents not living in the employee’s household.
Wages - Across The Board Wage increases of 2% on 1/2/2013; Steps both years for those not at the top of the pay scale; change severance payout from one year to within six months. Complete 2013 Salary survey before making insurance changes. Do a follow up salary survey before 4/15/16.
Professional Organization Membership Fees – increase the amount an employee may be reimbursed from $155/$225 to $200/$250 and resolve the grievance filed based on this language.
Insurances - changes to co-pays (same as other bargaining units) with details available by contacting email@example.com or as outlined when ballots are sent out.
MGEC Elections results are in. Congratulations to the following new elected MGEC Board members: Blake Nelson, Vice President; Michael Lownsbury, Secretary; Chu Wei, Director; Susan Aylesworth, Director; Gene Hicks, Director; Scott Knowles, Director and Eric Anderson, Director. The first meeting of the new board will be January 28th at 3:30 p.m. New MGEC President Jerry Kotzenmacher reminds members that they are always welcome to attend these meeting in person or by phone.
Deferred Compensation Match – The State will match the employee’s first $300 contribution to their Deferred Compensation Plan (MGEC contract, Article 17, Section 13). Sign up for the plan to get your $300 match.
Know Your Contractual Rights
Caring for a parent - As employees start down the path of caring for a parent, they often feel they need to start from scratch. The state does provide some benefits to caregivers. For example, you and your dependents all have free access to LifeMatters, your employee assistance program. You also have the ability to use sick leave to care for a parent who is living in the same household, or to arrange for nursing care.
Representation - Article 14, Section 3, Council Representation
The Agency shall not meet with an employee for the purpose of questioning the employee during an investigation that may lead to disciplinary action without first offering the employee an opportunity for Council representation. Any employee waiving the right to such representation must do so in writing prior to the questioning. A copy of such waiver shall be furnished to the Council. The employee shall be advised of the principal allegations being investigated and, if known, the alleged time and place of the occurrence prior to questioning.
Volunteer Opportunities - There are continuing opportunities for engineers to volunteer their time, both in supporting their fellow engineers and also in helping develop interest in engineering among our youth. Please check out the MFEST website for information about the various programs that are available and really want our support. http://www.mfests.org/
Lost Money - Sometimes Minnesotans lose financial property because of a change of address, death, or forgetfulness. What happens to these forgotten funds? The Commerce Department is responsible for holding unclaimed property until the rightful owner or heir is found. To see if you have a claim go to: http://mn.gov/commerce/topics/Unclaimed-Property/
Health Facts - Over the past 30 years, Americans have doubled the amount of soda and other sugary beverages they consume to an all-time high of 7 percent of daily calories. (That amounts to about 40 gallons of sugary drinks in a year.) Sugary beverages are now the single biggest source of calories in Americans’ diets and the largest source of added sugar in the United States. Soda and other sugary drinks are also the only food or beverage that has been directly linked to obesity. In fact, 20 percent of the weight increase in the United States between 1977 and 2007 is estimated to be due to sugar-sweetened beverages, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Sign up for a free Food@Work assessment (for worksites physically located in Hennepin County) to find ways to help your employees eat and drink healthier while at work. Contact Maia Seitz, Hennepin County Public Health, at 612-348-7045 or <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Sleep problems and depression - Chicken or egg?
Open Enrollment for Insurances
· November 1 – 14
· Preferred One cut a deal with Fairview Clinics. After open enrolment, Fairview clinics will become Level 1 if you are in Preferred One. If you are in HP or the Blues the Fairview clinics will be Level 3. Preferred One has the same deal with Health East Clinics. This provides twin city members with lots of level one choice.
· There will be open enrolment opportunities for dental, employee and spousal optional life. Those with coverage will be able to add to their level of coverage. This option is allowed every few years. Dependent life insurance coverage his expanded to ago twenty-six for children.
· The pretax medical account maximum set aside is reduced from $5,000 to $2,500. That is the maximum an employee may elect.
· Tdap tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis and flu shots can be gotten at no charge to employees. There has been an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) in the use lately. Some of the older vaccines may be losing their effectiveness.
· Expansion of women’s preventative health care services covered at 100%. Many of them were already covered by SEGIP at 100%
· Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) will make it easier for someone to understand what their benefits are. It’s a format provided by the federal government as part of health care reform. If all plans do this, it should make it easier for people to compare health plan benefits.
· There will be a new “Acceptance of Elections” page added to the electronic open enrolment process this year.
· An employee should print out or save their “Confirmation Statement” after making changes. The State will not be mailing out a confirmation of changes statement anymore.
· Open enrolment information on MMB website in mid-October.
· Anyone adding a dependent in open enrolment will have to go through a verification process.
MGEC Activities: Golf Tournament: INFORMATION WILL BE POSTED SOON!
Professional Membership Reimbursement
MGEC filed a class action grievance over the inconsistent denial of reimbursement of professional organization membership fees. Some employees were appropriately reimbursed this fee. In MnDOT most employees were not. The next step for the grievance is arbitration. If you requested your $225 professional membership fee be reimbursed and were denied, you may consider asking the employer to reimburse $155 of that fee. MGEC will make that argument in arbitration because the MGEC contract states, “In each fiscal year, the Agency shall reimburse employees in the bargaining unit for membership dues paid to professional organizations related to the employee’s job up to a maximum of $155 each fiscal year. At the discretion of the Agency up to $225 may be reimbursed each fiscal year” (MGEC Contract, Article 19, Section 10, Membership(s) in Professional Organizations). Please keep MGEC informed of the status of your reimbursement request.
2011 Shutdown Grievances Proceed to Arbitration
MGEC filed a class action grievance and additional individual grievances related to events of the 2011 shutdown. We believe the shutdown was a violation of the contract and so the grievance is proceeding to arbitration. Compensation for lost time and benefits will be sought for anyone who was not allowed to work during the shutdown.
MGEC Reaches Settlement with the Department of Public Safety on multiple Grievances
MGEC filed a class action grievance and an individual grievance pertaining to hours of work, over time, Office of Pipeline Safety policies and other issues. After a thorough investigation and working closely with DPS management, compromise solutions were found that met the interests of the parties.
Improving Your Health
Nearly 70% of eligible employees qualified for the reduced office visit copay in 2012 and benefit eligible employees who have not taken the assessment can still do so. More good news...employees are finding that partnering with a personal health coach is an asset to their well-being. Coaches are experienced registered dietitians, health educators, exercise specialists and pharmacists, all with behavior change expertise. This year round experience helps employees find ways to move more, eat well, stop smoking, sleep better and feel great.
After completing the health assessment, employees can join any JourneyWell wellness program throughout the year - at no cost!
Employees can sign up for phone based health coaching by calling JourneyWell at 952-967-5128 (metro area), 1-866-977-5128 (outside the Twin Cities metro area) or toll-free TTY line at 1-877-222-2794. To register for an online program go to http://www.journeywell.com/SEGIP
MGEC filed a class action grievance pertaining to an employer policy limiting reimbursement for safety boots to $100 ever two years. This is a violation of the MGEC Contract which states the following: “Article 16 – Job Safety. Section 1. General. It shall be the policy of the Agency to provide for the safety of its employees by providing safe working conditions, safe work areas, and safe work methods. The employees shall have the responsibility to use all provided safety equipment and procedures in their daily work and shall cooperate in all safety and accident prevention programs.” “Section 2, Employees Safety. B. Any protective equipment or clothing shall be provided and maintained by the Agency whenever such equipment is required as a condition of employment either by the Agency, by OSHA, or by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.” The State has denied full reimbursement based on a policy they created outside of negotiations with MGEC. The policy, based on Minnesota Statutes 182.655 subd. 10a requires employers to pay for all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), including safety shoes. However, the employer is only responsible for paying the minimum cost of a safety shoe that provides the necessary protection. If an employee wants a more expensive pair of shoes or boots, the employer has the option to either pay the full amount or require the employee pay the difference. The contract language takes priority over the MMB policy and the law does not limit such contract language from a higher standard (i.e. providing for protective clothing without dollar limitation.) It is fair for the employer to direct employees not to purchase boots that are more expensive than needed. However, they must also recognize that there will be many situations where the features required, either due to job related needs or employee fit needs will cost more than $100. In such situations, it is incumbent on the employee to point that out to the supervisor before purchasing needed equipment and again when expensing the purchase. In order to resolve this grievance, MGEC will survey members about their last purchase of safety boots and employer reimbursement. Your response will be appreciated and help MGEC to enforce your contract rights.
Professional Membership Reimbursement
MGEC filed a class action grievance over the inconsistent denial of reimbursement of professional organization membership fees. A new organization providing professional development benefits to members in the technical professions was recently developed to offer several new benefits to its members. For more information on these benefits, go to www.mapd.us. Hopefully, this matter will be settled soon and those employees who joined MAPD as well as those waiting to do so will be reimbursed their due.
Opportunity to address limitations or possibilities
During recent worksite meetings, MGEC President Mohammad Dehdashti and Vice President Jerry Kotzenmacher asked participants to address things that are “road blocks” to getting the job done most efficiently or better and what improvements they suggest their Agency consider in the work, work processes or workplace. Suggestions are still encouraged. The more detail the better. By sharing them with MGEC you can remain anonymous and yet get your message delivered and hopefully work on cooperatively. As a result of sharing issues already brought up MGEC and MnDOT have:
MGEC Membership in Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) - UPDATED INFORMATION COMING SOON.
Gain-Sharing Program - the employee gain-sharing program, in which state employees are provided the opportunity to contribute ideas for reducing the costs of operating state government or for creating efficiencies in state government, was also changed. The maximum award to an employee or group of employees can receive was increased to $50,000.
Pension Formula Change - the omnibus pension bill uses the “select and ultimate plan” to lower the preretirement interest rate assumption for the five-year period of June 30, 2012, through June 30, 2017, to 8 percent. Unfortunately, the 2012 Omnibus Retirement Bill will delay the full funding of our retirement plan, because the bill lowers the assumption rates of the Minnesota State Retirement System (MSRS) and MSRS-Corrections pension plans. The assumption rate is also called the “investment rate of return.” The current investment rate of return for MSRS and MSRS-Corrections is 8.50 percent. The consequences of the proposed changes to MSRS will decrease the funded ratio from 87 percent and increase the unfunded liability. MGEC members and the state may be affected because an increase in contributions may be needed to make up for the changes in proposed rate of return.
Safety Boots – The MGEC Contract states (Article 16 – Job Safety, Section 2. Employee Safety. B) “Any protective equipment or clothing shall be provided and maintained by the Agency whenever such equipment is required as a condition of employment either by the Agency, by OSHA, or by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.” In conflict with this contract language, the employer has a policy limiting reimbursement for safety boots to $100 every two years. This violates the MGEC contract which takes precedence. It’s difficult, if even possible, to find a decent boot for $100. Many employees have special criteria the boots must meet given the nature of their work and this drives up cost. Other employees have foot issues that require a boot with certain fit characteristics. That too may drive up costs. In these situations, employee should make their supervisor aware of circumstances that prevent them from finding boots for $100. They should ask the employer to respond to the situation. Upon purchasing needed safety boots, any employee denied reimbursement beyond $100 should contact MGEC ASAP (within 20 days) following such denial so that MGEC may seek full reimbursement for the employee.
Expense Reimbursement– The MGEC Contract provides for reimbursement of work related expenses (Article 19 – Expense Allowances) If you incur an expense as covered by the contract and are denied full reimbursement for the expense, contact MGEC immediately upon denial to learn if your request was treated improperly. MGEC recently grieved expenses in MDH and MnDOT where employees were denied full reimbursement for legitimate expenses. The employer has crafted policies that are more restrictive than provided for in their contractual agreement with MGEC. We want to address those issues and to do so need employees to contact us as soon as they become aware of the issue. No issue is to small as long as it is timely.
EPW's Spotlight Turn. Boxer is hosting, along with EPW ranking member James Inhofe, R-Okla., because last time there was a highway bill to negotiate those talks were run by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. EPW, as the Senate's lead panel on surface transportation, takes the honors now. It slotted the initial all-hands meeting into a large room in Hart Building that is used for big crowd draws such as Supreme Court nomination hearings. This meeting could even be the only time the full conference convenes, since most negotiations will involve small groups haggling over separate issues. They can use conference calls and emails as well as face-to-face meetings to keep moving things along toward a final bill.
Til May 8, What's Up? Short answer: Plenty. Some lawmakers and staffs are already scrambling to organize and sketch out negotiating points. Although the formal meeting will be on the second day after Congress returns, key staffers will not get a break next week. Some conferees are already huddling informally to take each others' pulse and get things started. They are trying to keep up the recent momentum, while facing hard facts of the political calendar. Given that the second half of May will be interrupted by more scheduled breaks and since lawmakers also need to tend to re-election campaigns, conferees must make a lot of progress in a very short time to get off this infrastructure griddle before program authority runs out June 30. Sure, Congress could extend once again, but each day the talks reach into summer increases the risk that in a big election year Congress could finally opt to kick the can down the road rather than pass a major infrastructure bill.
These Are the Times That... Boxer tried to set the tone by urging conference members to keep their sights fixed on the national purpose. "Now is the time to set aside our personal wish lists and focus on the issue at hand -- the reauthorization of a bill that is absolutely essential to our economy," she said. "Controversy should not be part of the conference and we should come together for the good of the country." For weeks now, Democrats and Republicans have reported more states suspending or outright canceling infrastructure projects they could have begun this spring or summer if Congress had already acted. Some estimate that 100,000 potential construction jobs have been lost so far for 2012.
What, Controversy in a Highway Bill? Boxer's clarion call could be seen as a reference to the House's push to fast-track the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. But beyond Keystone and other energy policies that conservatives want, conferees have plenty to hash out between the Senate's two-year highway and transit bill (S 1813) and the House 90-day extension (HR 4348) of current funding. For instance, the House in passing its measure voted to curb lengthy environmental impact reviews for road and transit projects, and to head off EPA regulation of coal ash from power plants. Those are popular with construction firms and easily passed the House, but will have more trouble with the Senate. The House also voted to force the feds to spend money collected for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, a popular measure that could free up billions for more harbor dredging, and to ease a congressionally mandated safety deadline for railroads to deploy collision avoidance gear across the nation by the end of 2015.
Many House members find plenty in the Senate bill to dislike. And they are still lodging complaints: This week Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., criticized a Senate provision for passenger cars to soon come with event data recorders. And while the Senate passed its bill on a strong bipartisan vote, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was among those voting no over language that would penalize states that sell off state-owned turnpikes to private firms, by shrinking their federal allocations based on road miles that need public funding. So buckle up; this could be bumpy.
Trust Fund Travails. A looming issue is what to do about the Highway Trust Fund. States have already slowed their demands on it by curbing projects they could be launching, but the highway account's spending is still outrunning fuel tax collections and could run very low within months. That would force the feds to start a second-phase slowdown for the industry by delaying project payments. You think states and construction firms are screaming now, imagine if they enter a slow-pay zone. Even such stretchouts would only delay things a little while. So, while conservatives deride the Senate bill for tapping revenue unrelated to transportation, the conference would have to accept them or come up with other pay-fors to keep the HTF from running out of cash early next year.
Skip Recess? Not that it's gonna happen, but Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, looked at the agenda facing Congress and asked Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to cancel next week's recess for senators. Roll Call reports Snowe had her eye on amount of work that could hit lawmakers after the November elections, if Congress waits until then to begin tackling major spending and tax issues. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke warned the government could go over a "fiscal cliff" of contractionary tax hikes and spending cuts at year's end that hurt the economy. Snowe does not mention the highway bill, but cites that cliff and wants Congress to thoroughly vet other big issues rather than cram them through late this year. Here's her letter (PDF).
Go Forth With (out?) Earmarks. CQ's Nathan Hurst looks into the congressional earmark ban, and how — or whether — it's really holding up. There's plenty of pressure to end it. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., urged Transportation Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., on the House floor this week to join in a call to end the ban, though Mica was noncommittal. But Hurst delves into how lawmakers in both chambers are using other means toward the same end of targeting federal aid toward certain projects. Just don't call those efforts "earmarks."
Movement on Ex-Im Standoff. A group of 30 House Republicans urged leaders to work out a deal to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, CQ reports, as pressure from pro-agency business groups builds as the bank faces looming deadlines. It could bump against a lending cap even before its authority expires May 30. Some airlines and free-market conservatives oppose the agency, while manufacturers lose its trade-promotion assistance.
Stumble Over Apnea. Oops. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is withdrawing regulatory guidance on sleep apnea proposal that it issued just on April 20. The agency says in a Federal Register notice today that it was still reviewing the issues and "the initial publication was a clerical error." This is a big issue in the trucking industry and for bus drivers. The guidance — seen as a prelude to a formal rule — would have recommended apnea evaluations for drivers with a high body mass index.
Careful for those Cones. As Congress works on highway legislation, there is still plenty of infrastructure work under way this season, so construction firms and state transportation officials remind drivers to watch out for those workers. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association said industry also renewed a safety alliance with federal agencies to reduce deaths and injuries in work zones.
Transportation Finance Advisory Committee
To follow this committee, sign up for updates at their website: www.mndot.gov/tfac for dates and locations of upcoming meetings.
MGEC members continue to have the current contract terms in effect governing their employment. We are ready to negotiate a successor agreement when the opportunity for improving upon what we have now comes up. At the same time Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) sponsored HF1974*/ SF2078 that would provide that public-sector union contracts do not continue in effect after they’ve expired. The MN House passed legislation (68-63) that would prohibit employees from receiving automatic wage (i.e. step increases) or benefit increases even while their unions and employers are negotiating. We believe that state employees have unreasonably been made to suffer the effect of legislators’ misleading political emphasis of balancing the budget as if state employees were the cause of recent budget deficits. In fact the opposite is true. Hiring more engineers, engineering specialists and land surveyors would save the state money, as compared to contracting out for their services.
“The House could vote on permit streamlining, environmental deregulation and aquatic invasive species measures all contained in the omnibus environment bill approved by the House Ways and Means Committee. Among other provisions, the bill would require the Pollution Control Agency commissioner to approve or deny permit applications within 60 days. Failure to deny applications for a minor permit or permit amendment within that time would mean the permit is approved.” Minnesota House of Representatives Session Daily 3-30-12 MGEC members at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency are concerned that a 60-day timeline sounds great but it doesn’t take into account the routine instances where the permitee fails to submit all the needed information or have to make changes to the permit submitted. In those cases and in more complex situations, rushing to approve or deny a permit creates more problems for everyone. In the long run, work quality suffers and significant future time and expense are required to make up for the rush to permit up front.
MGEC opposes a “Right to Work” amendment to the state constitution
MGEC opposes any “Right to Work” bill that seeks to amend the MN constitution. Recent problems faced by the state were not caused by unions being too powerful – something very different caused our problems. We will not solve our problems by making unions weaker--quite the contrary. Twenty-three states have a similar law, 38 do not.
MGEC continues worksite meetings / letter to Governor
Good turnout has been prevalent at all worksite meetings. Employees have raised several areas of work concerns that we seek to address with agency management. It’s no surprise that a great level of frustration with the employer (governor and state legislators) continues as a result of the shutdown. Many employees put in a lot of extra work so that the state was in the best possible position should the shutdown occur and restarting and catching up after the shutdown. That good work allows state leadership and the public to take for granted all that is done behind the scenes for the state infrastructure and public services. MGEC members, please join us in drafting a letter to the governor and legislators sharing your message to them. MGEC believes they ought to compensate you for lost wages and benefits. Help us write the letter and we’ll put a form letter out to members using CapWiz that members can edit and send. Forward your suggestions to Dana.Wheeler@mgec.org.
Update your personal e-mail address in the MGEC CapWiz records
CapWiz has been a valuable tool for MGEC members to use to communicate with the elected officials and local media. In the last year, hundreds of emails have been sent from members. We believe each email counts as officials weigh their positions and learn who their constituents are. When forwarded such an alert from MGEC please consider taking action. You are encouraged to take a moment now to change your email to your personal non-state work email.
Instructions for changing your CapWiz email address: