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The presidents of the two largest Trial Court locals testified in support of a bill that would move their members into Group 4 of the state retirement system.
NAGE Local 229 President Margaret Thompson and NAGE Local 458 President Dave Abbott both testified before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Service on January 7. They both urged committee members to support passage of House Bill 2302, a bill that would move all of NAGE’s Trial Court members into Group 4. The committee has voted favorably on similar bills in previous legislative sessions, but the bills have not been taken up by the full House of Representatives or Senate.
Thompson testified in support of the bill on behalf of the probation department employees NAGE represents. She thanked committee members for their earlier support, but asked them to push the bill for passage by the full legislature.
“The level of risk and stress the probation officers encounter in the performance of our jobs has never been greater, as we supervise increasingly violent offenders,” testified Thompson.
“The popular lore among probation officers is that nothing will happen until one of us is seriously injured or, worse, dies in the course of our duties,” Thompson said. “I’m asking you to be proactive, not reactive, and recognize that the time has come to do the right thing.” (read President Thompson's hearing testimony)
Abbott, who represents a thousand court officers and associate court officers, also asked committee members to support H.B. 2302. He told committee members that there were over 500 reported assaults on court security personnel in Massachusetts courts last year. With 270,000 custodies in the courts in 2013, he said, the actual occurrence of violence against court security officers is most likely higher.
“My members proudly serve and take their jobs very seriously. Unfortunately, pride and the body’s aging don’t always pair up,” said Abbot. “With the influx of younger and more violent offenders, many under the influence of illegal substances, the court officer job is more dangerous than ever.” (read President Abbott's hearing testimony)
Probation officers and court security personnel are now classified in the state retirement system’s Group 2. NAGE is working diligently to move its Trial Court members into Group 4, like their peers in corrections, parole and the rest of the law enforcement community. Members who retire under the Group 4 classification can retire with full pensions at an earlier age because their jobs are presumed to be too dangerous or difficult to continue past a certain age.
The NAGE legislative team will continue to monitor the progress of H.B. 2302 and alert you to new developments as they happen.
We are pleased to advise you that you will see your next 1.5% raise reflected in your paycheck issued January 31, 2014. (The increase is effective on January 12th.)
The official contract covering the period July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2014 is posted above. Salary charts reflecting your raises are also posted on your individual NAGE local web pages.
Governor Patrick has appointed NAGE National Vice President Margaret Thompson to serve on the Group Insurance Commission. Thompson is also the president of NAGE Local 229, which represents Probation Officers.
"Margaret does an outstanding job representing members. She's hardworking, conscientious, and dedicated to improving the lives of her members and the people she serves. She'll do an equally outstanding job representing the interests of all Massachusetts state employees and retirees who receive benefits from the GIC," said National President David Holway.
Thompson will join GIC commissioner and NAGE attorney Richard Waring on the board. NAGE is the only labor union to have two representatives on the GIC.
Waring said, “We (commission) make major decisions that impact the lives of employees, retirees and survivors. It's important to have our members well represented on the commission, and I know Margaret will do an excellent job."
"I am honored to have been appointed to the GIC," said Thompson. "I look forward to working with Richard and all the commissioners to ensure that state employees and retirees receive the health benefits they have earned and deserve. I will do my best to represent the interests of NAGE Trial Court members and all employees to the fullest extent possible."
The Group Insurance Commission is a quasi-independent state agency governed by a seventeen-member Commission appointed by the Governor. The GIC was established by the Legislature in 1955 to provide and administer health insurance and other benefits to the Commonwealth's employees and retirees, and their dependents and survivors.
National President David Holway testified on House Bill 59 today at a hearing of the Joint Committee on Public Service. The hearing took place at the State House and was held to address the retiree health insurance bill that Governor Deval Patrick filed in January based on a report produced by the “Other (than pension) Post-Employment Benefits” Commission—or OPEB. The Legislature created the commission last year to study the state's unfunded liabilities for retiree health care benefits. If passed the bill could substantially change state employees' health care costs and benefits in retirement.
National President Holway was joined by the NAGE legislative team, Trial Court Local Presidents Margaret Thompson and David Abbott, and state presidents Theresa McGoldrick, Leo Munroe, Chris Grey, Greg Sorozan, and John Mann, along with several local executive board members. NAGE also submitted video testimony of two members who told their stories of making career decisions to work for the state only to see the state threaten to back down on their promises and commitments.
Photos from the hearing
"It is really appropriate that this hearing was scheduled for today—Halloween," said Holway in his testimony. "This legislation for public employees is all trick and no treat.
"First, let me state that whatever problems the Commonwealth has with the funding of the pension system is the fault of your predecessors in not meeting their obligation to pay their share into the fund. Public employees have paid every dime that they were obligated to pay since the inception of the retirement plan—the Commonwealth has not."
Local 229 President Thompson said, "Current employees came to work for the state under a contract that laid out certain provisions and promises at retirement. People made career and life decisions based on the terms they were offered when they were hired. It's unjust and unfair for the state to change those terms midway through people's careers."
Local 458 President Abbott agreed. "A deal is a deal. The state made mistakes along the way by not upholding their end of the deal and funding this liability, and now they want to punish workers who did nothing wrong. The burden is once again being shifted onto our backs and being sold to taxpayers as cost savings. It's not cost savings; it's cost shifting."
President Holway in further testimony warned the committee members of the dangers of allowing the state to make the same mistakes as the federal government.
"Federal employment is now a revolving door," he said. "In bad times people flock to work for the federal government. In good times they leave in droves because there is no reason for them to stay. They have no commitment to their employer because their employer has no commitment to them. To adopt legislation that turns Massachusetts towards the federal model is a very shortsighted idea. We need employees who are committed to public service and we need a public that is committed to public employees."
Trial Court members are reminded that the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to all Trial Court employees and their families at no cost. While this program is not new, we remind you that it’s a valuable resource if you or a colleague or family member is experiencing difficulties in your work or home life. The program is completely confidential and is described in the brochure that is linked to below.
If you or any member has a question about the program, please contact Roger Albrecht, Benefits Manager for the Trial Court at (617) 878-0373, who is managing this benefit.
Most employees think it could never happen to them, but ... if you are ever called into an interview meeting with your supervisor or manager so that they can investigate a situation that might result in discipline, you have specific representational rights. These rights are called Weingarten Rights and are based on a 1975 Supreme Court decision (NLRB v. J. Weingarten).
WEINGARTEN RULES TO REMEMBER
Under the Supreme Court’s Weingarten decision, when an investigatory interview occurs, the following rules apply:
RULE 1: You have the right to have a union steward or union representative present, and you have the right to speak privately with your representative before the meeting and during the meeting. Your steward has the right to play an active role in the meeting and is not just a witness.
You must make a clear request for union representation before or during the interview; management is not obligated to inform you of your right to representation.
If your manager refuses to allow you to bring a representative, do not refuse to attend the meeting, but do not answer any questions either. Take notes. Once the meeting is over call your representative at once.
RULE 2: After you make the request, your supervisor or manager can do one of three things:
1. Grant the request and delay questioning until your union representative arrives and has a chance to consult privately with you; or
2. Deny the request and end the interview immediately; or
3. Give you a choice of (a) having the interview without your union rep or (b) ending the interview.
RULE 3: If your request for union representation is denied and your manager/supervisor continues to ask you questions, he or she is committing an unfair labor practice and you have a right to refuse to answer. Your manager or supervisor may not discipline you for such a refusal.