What does the acronym MGEC stand for?
Minnesota Government Engineering Council.
I was a “Fair Share” Member of MGEC- and my dues were changed to $0 last summer. Am I still a member? Does MGEC still represent me?
If you were a Fair Share Member of MGEC, you should have been contacted by MGEC and been provided the option to join as a Full Member. If you were overlooked or have joined state employment since the summer of 2018 and don’t know your membership status- please contact us!
If you were a Fair Share member, and now do not contribute by payroll deduction or other means, you are a “Represented Non-member.” MGEC still represents you during bargaining and contract negotiations and in other situations where issues surrounding our labor contract are involved.
As a result of the Janus v. AFSCME ruling, MGEC made changes to our constitutional language in order to better define our membership levels. There are now 5 member grades- Full Members, Supporting Members, Associate Members, Honorary Life Members, and Represented Non-members.
Can I still be a “Fair Share” member?
No, that membership category no longer exists. However, a new category has been created for people who would like to support the union but do not want their union dues to support any lobbying efforts. This membership category is Supporting Member. Dues are about 85% of full dues. For more information or to join as a Supporting or Full Member, please contact us!
In some MGEC correspondence it seems like there are issues that don’t concern me like overtime and meal receipts. The contract is the same for everyone; why do there seem to be local problems? Isn’t the contract interpretation standardized?
Even for items covered in the contract, the MGEC bargaining agreement allows the employer some flexibility. In the case of overtime, there are various policies and procedures for how it is made available to employees, and if pre-approvals are required, and what form those approvals take. Among the 13 agencies with MGEC employees, procedures vary considerably. Meal receipts also provide a good example where policies can vary widely. The contract language simply states “the actual cost of meals.” Some offices, sections, or units require itemized original receipts and others do not. In one building, there could be several policies in place depending on the organizational structure and reportability. Local problems are surprisingly difficult to address as there is a relatively large degree of autonomy at the District or Office level within agencies. In many areas the contract interpretation is standardized, but there are many areas of the contract where local issues or interpretations are different from the majority. It is important that members contact MGEC if they feel policies or procedures in the workplace appear to be in conflict with contract language.
Why can’t the Health Care Savings Plan (HCSP) be an opt-in elective like deferred compensation? I know some members may want it, but I’d prefer the money now and hopefully I will be able to save more money later.
Employees are automatically enrolled and contribute to the Health Care Savings Plan (HCSP) as directed by the bargaining agreement. While employees can’t choose the amount to invest (per plan rules), employees can choose how your account balance is invested. There are a very limited, very specific, set of circumstances where employees are eligible to opt out- and once an employee opts out, plan rules specify that they may not opt in at a later time. Refer to the MSRS HCSP plan website for more information.
Health care costs continue to rise, and investing in an HCSP account is a good strategy to help. After you end employment, you may access the funds to reimburse eligible medical expenses. More of your money works for you in an HCSP account because you don’t pay income taxes on either contributions or eligible reimbursements. From the MSRS website- “Paying for health care may be one of your household’s largest expenses. According to Fidelity’s Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate, a 65-year old couple retiring in 2018 will need an estimated $280,000* to cover health care costs in retirement.”
Why are there so many requirements for the vacation to Deferred Compensation Conversion? Top step? Supervising 2 people? Must take 3X hours of vacation you intend to convert in previous fiscal year? Lose the $300 match?
During contract bargaining, there are negotiations which occur between MGEC representatives and State representatives. Insurance, compensation, contract language, and other items which are related to compensation (such as expenses, reimbursements, contributions, leave types and amounts) are all interrelated when it comes to negotiations. In the 2017-2019 negotiation cycle MGEC explored the opportunity to gain a benefit for our members which was in the managerial plan- the ability to convert vacation time to an equivalent monetary contribution to the employee’s deferred compensation account. After bargaining, during a mediation phase, the State agreed to a limited implementation of vacation conversion for MGEC employees. The State was generally interested in reserving this contract element for managers, and much of the language comes from the implementation in their plan (such as the loss of the $300 matching contribution). Other requirements were added by the State to limit the employees who were eligible to receive the benefit.
It seems like I don’t always get MGEC e-mail. How do I find out about MGEC news and events?
MGEC recently moved from Emma to Constant Contact for e-mail messages, but the message will usually display “Minnesota Government Engineering Council firstname.lastname@example.org” as the sender. Other e-mail comes from accounts at mgec.org. Please check your blocked e-mail or filter settings you may have set up in MS Outlook. Also check your quarantine/spam/junk e-mail folders to see if you need to make changes to blocked content. If you think your settings are correct, but you still aren’t getting messages that your MGEC colleagues do, please get in contact with us and we will try to see if we can tell what the issue (or issues) may be.
The new MGEC website, where you are reading this right now, is designed to be mobile friendly and updated frequently- so check back regularly to look at the events page and keep in contact with MGEC.
My employer doesn’t use some of the MGEC job classifications; I think I meet the job requirements for a higher classification- is there anything I can do?
MGEC staff or volunteers are available to review position descriptions and job duties to see if a job audit or a Hay review would be useful. Most job classifications don’t evolve over time- but position responsibilities do. Often employees will gain experience and begin to take on duties of higher classifications and then eventually be promoted with the original positions being filled again at the level vacated (and usually using the original position description). Some agencies with limited engineering responsibilities or tasks have determined that they will only use some job classes.
Does MGEC only know how to order pizza for lunch events?
We do know how to provide other types of food. In fact, we went to the PCA to provide ice cream treats on June 10. It was a success. We’re also planning on hosting a “BBQ @ HQ” event later this summer at the MGEC offices in Inver Grove Heights to allow members to meet one another and have a fun afternoon and evening of socializing. Pizza is easier to order and provide for large groups than some other catered selections, and we have found that it is relatively quick and easy to set out and allow members to pass through a buffet line quickly (as opposed to other items like tacos or sandwiches). We are exploring hosting other types of meeting events. If you’d like to see something different and help order and provide assistance with our next lunch event at your site, let us know!
Does MGEC have events outside the Twin Cities Metro area?
Most MGEC events are in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area as this is where most of MGEC members work and live. We are making an effort to visit more MnDOT Districts in 2019. Our next planned visit is to the MnDOT Mankato offices in July. We’re hoping that some of our members who work nearby for the DNR and the Minnesota State College and University system will be able to join us. We’re looking at the potential of organizing an afternoon or evening activity. If you have thoughts or suggestions let us know- we’d like it to be something interactive and social- all ideas are welcome- a local baseball game, meeting up for dinner and drinks, or canoeing on a lake.
The website has been under construction for what seems like years- what took so long?
MGEC is a majority volunteer organization, and as a consequence some things take longer to do than might be possible with more staff (and higher dues). The web project took some time to get started as we selected a vendor, and we slowly developed content for the roll out. We had a target date to go live with the website of April 15, and then the original date of the Annual Meeting (June 3). We hope you will agree it was worth the wait.
Can MGEC do anything outside of contract negotiations?
Yes! MGEC has quarterly meetings with management at MnDOT as well as meetings with other agencies. Topics of mutual interest are discussed at those meetings. There are also informal meetings and discussions on particular topics or issues that come up as part of investigations, grievances, or inquiries. In the summer of 2019 a new initiative will also be started based on the results of the MGEC compensation study. A new committee is being formed to lead a Pay Inequity study. This task group will be contacting neighboring city and county employers to gather information about their jobs and wages. We will also be collecting private employer information where possible. The goal will be to show that many of our job classifications are undervalued. Other unions have had success with these efforts outside of the contract negotiation cycle (although successful pay inequity process wage increases and other contract language changes are generally implemented in the next available contract).
I’ve contacted MGEC about an issue and I’m not sure where it stands, who can I check in with to find out what the status of an inquiry is?
Dana Wheeler and Kari Torkelson are our two full-time MGEC staff. You can contact them at their individual email addresses or the general email@example.com email address. If you have contacted MGEC and have not gotten a response, or it seems like an inquiry is taking longer to process than it should, you can also reach out to any MGEC Officer and we will be able to help. Occasionally voice-mail, e-mail, or other correspondence can be misdirected or misplaced. Please feel free to send an inquiry- our goal is to be responsive to our members.
Who from MGEC typically attends lunch meetings if I have questions on contract topics or other issues?
While it is great to have face-to-face contact, you don’t need to wait for a member meeting to ask questions. Please feel free to contact our staff, officers, or directors at any time and we will work to get your question answered by the most knowledgeable individuals. Typically, at least one MGEC staff member (Dana or Kari) and one MGEC Officer or Director along with a site Representative (who helps set up the meetings) will be in attendance. Through 2019 as we work to engage with more members we may have more MGEC staff and board members available at meetings to help answer questions and take notes on member concerns, bargaining ideas, and collect other member feedback.
Do I need to sign up annually with MGEC to stay a member?
Your MGEC membership continues automatically for as long as you are a state employee in a job classification which is represented by MGEC. You only need to sign up once, and unlike some other unions, MGEC allows you to cancel your membership at any time (although we hope you won’t because you feel you get good value for your money being a member. If you don’t feel you are getting a good value for your money, please provide feedback and suggestions for ways we can improve). Members who are promoted to management and wish to remain associated with MGEC are welcomed as Associate Members and contribute a reduced amount of money to MGEC. Members who change jobs to another union (such as MAPE or MMA,) or who leave state employment, no longer pay MGEC dues. Members who were in MGEC, left MGEC for any reason, and then return to MGEC will be asked to sign a new membership card to reinstate their MGEC membership.
Are there options or incentives for younger members, minorities, or those that work at smaller agencies to become involved on the MGEC board?
We are actively seeking interested Full Members to run for elected office, to participate as Representatives at buildings or offices where MGEC members work, and to help out on MGEC committees and task groups. Our next elections are in the fall- feel free to contact existing board members for information on the level of commitment or how they value their time contributing to the union.
MGEC has been improving its phone and internet capabilities to make remote meeting attendance a better experience. We recommend that volunteers are able to attend some meetings in person, but also recognize that work location can be a barrier for those in greater Minnesota. We are interested in an active, dynamic, and diverse board who can effectively represent all of our members and represented non-members. MGEC has a good working relationship with the employer; volunteering to serve on the MGEC board is a great resume builder and provides an opportunity to network with peers and colleagues in many different positions at many different work locations.
Is MGEC like other unions I hear about? Is it all about seniority?
It isn’t all about seniority- although how long you have been in state service does tend to govern how employees are compensated more so than in the private sector. Many state policies are rigorously codified- and this information is publicly available. You can look up union contracts on the internet and see the pay ranges and employee benefits such as vacation and expense reimbursements. A quick look at the contract will show that many benefits are based on the length of service (vacation, step-increases).
MGEC’s intents often line up well with the employer’s needs. Often there are procedures to ensure a systematic approach to Human Resource activities, such as job opportunities and promotions, and salary on promotion. Often, it is up to the supervisor to make a compelling case for unusual qualifications or something other than a standard salary increase on promotion. Supervisors also generally initiate job audits and Hay reviews for positions. There are sometimes minimum lengths of time an employee must be in a job to be eligible for promotion. Whereas the annual step increases are based on length of service, steps awarded on promotion tend to be merit based.
MGEC is interested in a well-educated, skilled, and diverse workforce. For a particular job, there may be times when a lateral candidate (transfer) is the most qualified, and there may be times when a promotional candidate (promotion) is the most qualified. Depending on the posting, there may be the opportunity for both internal and external interest. Generally, the minimum qualifications will govern which applicants receive interviews and consideration for the position. The employer can also look at work history and performance reviews when making determinations in filling positions.
Why does it seem like wages lag behind counties, cities, and the private sector?
The State of Minnesota is a large entity and employment language and compensation needs to be approved by both the executive branch (Minnesota Management and Budget) and by the legislature. The legislative approvals can be at different levels ranging from the Subcommittee on Employee Relations (SER) or the full legislature. This makes approval of contract language more challenging than on the city and county level- especially as it relates to the state budget and budget forecasting. Individual counties and cities often have more predictable revenue and can offer very competitive wages and benefits- particularly for starting or mid-level salaries. The opportunity for advancement may be more limited due to the smaller size and scope of projects- depending on location.
Another factor, oddly enough, is that MGEC members, overall, have a good retention rate, and ability to retain employees is a major factor in justification for salary increases. Even jobs with poor retention rates and hiring difficulties usually suffer through a long process for increased wages.
I do good work and believe that I could convince my employer I’m in the top 5% of workers in my job classification- why do I need MGEC to negotiate with the State for me for wages?
In general, wages are established by an employee’s job classification and the available pay ranges. Starting salary in a range is usually governed by an employee’s work history, education, training, degrees or credentials, and sometimes other factors such as relocation. Increases on promotion and regular progression increases are based in merit (although in practice progression steps are rarely withheld based on unsatisfactory performance reviews).
MGEC can be effective in advocating for adjustments in entire pay ranges for particular jobs classifications. This can be done during contract negotiations, in arbitration, or by engaging with the state in a pay inequity review. All of these paths require time and effort to document internal and external wages and prepare documents in support of wage increases. The State of Minnesota not only has internal policies about wages, it also has requirements set forth in state law. Other government entities and private employers don’t have this hurdle. Included below is an excerpt from Minnesota state statues M.S.43A.18, Subpart 8 which reads (in italics):
Subd. 8.Compensation relationships of positions. In preparing management negotiating positions for compensation, which is established pursuant to subdivision 1, and in establishing, recommending and approving total compensation for any position within the plans covered in subdivisions 2, 3 and 4, the commissioner shall assure that:
(a) compensation for positions in the classified and the unclassified service compare reasonably to one another;
(b) compensation for state positions bears reasonable relationship to compensation for similar positions outside state service;
(c) compensation for management positions bears reasonable relationship to compensation of represented employees managed;
(d) compensation for positions within the classified service bears reasonable relationships among related job classes and among various levels within the same occupation; and
(e) compensations bear reasonable relationships to one another within the meaning of this subdivision if compensation for positions which require comparable skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions is comparable and if compensation for positions which require differing skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions is proportional to the skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions required.
It takes quite a bit of effort to adjust the compensation packages for classes of workers. MGEC works on behalf of our members to help ensure that wages and benefits keep pace with inflation and attract, and retain, a talented workforce.
I’d like to have a workplace meeting in my office or District. Do I just ask for one?
Yes! MGEC is working to make sure that all of our members and represented non-members have an opportunity to meet MGEC staff and Board Members in-person. We’re working our way around the state in 2019. Recent lunch meetings in 2019 have included: MnDOT District 3 (Baxter), MPCA (St. Paul), DOL&I (St. Paul), MnDOT Metro (Oakdale), and are heading to Mankato in July.
It seems like the meal reimbursements are stagnant. A decent lunch or dinner in a metro area while on travel always seems to run more than the reimbursement amount- especially when you include the tax and a gratuity. Is MGEC looking at this?
Some contract items, like meals, are often discussed during bargaining, but movement on the issue is usually very slow. There are a large number of employees in other unions that are also eligible for these reimbursements, so the impact is greater than MGEC alone. Not all MGEC employees use the benefit, so there is some consideration during negotiating about how much effort to spend on meals (knowing it is a “heavy lift”). From informal meetings it is recognized that the meal reimbursements probably cover fast food and some buffet options adequately, but not meals at sit-down restaurants.
MGEC can always use good documentation to back-up our negotiations as exhibits. Do you have receipts that show meal reimbursements don’t adequately cover your expenses? Please collect and scan them and send them to us. The more evidence and documentation we can provide in negotiations, the stronger our arguments are.
Do I have to sign my performance appraisal? What if I don’t agree with it?
Signing your performance appraisal indicates you’ve seen it and perhaps received a copy. It doesn’t mean you agree with it. Refusing to sign a performance appraisal can create an adversarial tone and have other consequences. The performance appraisal should have a section where the employee can respond to the appraisal or directions for an alternative form of employee response.