Monday, October 27, 2008

District Benefits: One step forward, three steps back.

From: Barney, Laura (ESC)
Sent: Friday, October 24, 2008 2:50 PM
Subject: Insurance Benefits and Pools
Importance: High

To: Group Leadership Members

From: Laura Barney, Manager of Payroll and Benefits

Re: Insurance Benefits and Pooling

Earlier this week notification was sent to the leadership of each employee group about the new pooling amounts for the 08-09 school year. As always, the cost of benefit coverage and the impact it has on all employees is an important issue for the District. In addition, during this period of economic uncertainty employees are more concerned than ever about the impact these increased benefit costs have on their pay. As leaders within your groups, I thought it would be helpful to share some "talking points" about benefits and pooling, so you are able to answer questions or address concerns from your members.

The perception is that the District has "cut" employees' benefits. This is not the case. In fact, the state allocation increased by $25 per month and all employee groups (with the exception of Superintendent's Staff) receive an additional allocation per month, funded by the District, based on midpoint data.

There are several factors that have occurred that have unfortunately caused greater out-of-pocket expense for several individuals:

Health insurance rates increased significantly in September. Although the District negotiated lower rate increases than originally proposed by the insurance companies, rate increases are a direct result of plan use the prior year. District employees and dependents are using their medical coverage to the fullest capacity and this has directly impacted the rate increases.

It is important that employees remember they are only guaranteed the state allocation (based on FTE) toward their benefit package each year. The District does pool the excess dollars for most groups so all additional funds go directly back to the employees, however, there is no way to predict the actual pooling dollars from one year to the next. We acknowledge this is difficult for planning purposes and that is why we are diligent about reminding employees in our benefit brochures, at the Benefits Fair and at labor management meetings that they should be making insurance decisions based on their needs, and financial decisions based on the state allocation each year.

Sometimes employees will forget that pools will vary from year to year and will make plan changes or will add family members based on what they anticipate will be available to them in the fall; then when the pools are calculated following open enrollment, they are surprised by the decrease in pool dollars and the increase to their out-of-pocket expense.

Pool balances are monitored monthly and are recalculated twice a year, once in October and again in April. Historically, pools are higher in the spring than in the fall. This occurs primarily because employees drop dependent coverage after they see their out-of-pocket expense in the fall, therefore "freeing up" pool dollars for others to use. We wait until April to adjust the pool dollars because during the first part of the school year there is a lot of fluctuation to all the factors that affect pooling; enrollment changes (dropping dependent coverage), new hires, FTE/hours changes, etc. Generally, by mid-year these factors are static and we are able to accurately adjust the pools.

There is a bigger impact to the pool when the employee group is smaller (like maintenance or principals) compared to the larger groups (teacher or paraeducators). A change by 1 person in a smaller group can significantly impact the pool dollars for every employee in that group.

Why does the notification about pool dollars happen so late in October?

Pools are calculated based on all the changes that occur during open enrollment. Open enrollment lasts the entire month of September. We calculate the pools once all enrollment changes are entered into the payroll system and all new hires and FTE changes are processed for October payroll; this is usually complete about the third week of October. As soon as this work is complete the information is shared with each group. It is not possible to calculate the pools prior to open enrollment since the pool amounts are driven by the changes that occur during open enrollment. The process and timing of calculating the pools is the same this year as it has been for many years.

Thank you for your help communicating this important information to our employees. If you have questions you can contact me directly at (425) 431-7037. If staff members have specific concerns, I am happy to talk with them.


Anonymous said...

As noted in my original request to be treated without bullying, the practice of bullying people increases health care costs for the district. This position is confirmed in this letter, indicating that covered members are using their coverage to a greater degree than predicted.

The health care cost increase may be directly linked to the way people are treated in the district.

People laughed and ridiculed that position at the time; the hens have come home to roost. See if administration will pick up the difference from their pay increases.

Anonymous said...

How do other districts handle this?

Anonymous said...

I don't remember this ever happening before and, I've been in the district for 7 years. Seems like a shell game at employees expense to me.

Anonymous said...

The administration has picked up all the anti family savings they have taken from you in the form of their so called money saving, taxpayer saving scams and put it toward their own health care and raises. Another form of bullying I dare add!

When Ralph was here he made sure they did not scam you on health care. The people who negotiate for you now only care about themselves and their possible future positions.(pleasing management) They have one foot in management.

Have you ever heard of negotiations where the topic of health care was not an issue, it happened this last time.


Anonymous said...

Let's give Pete and Matt another round of applause. These two 5hi+ for brains will do absolutely nothing for anyone in their bargaining group who is in need of representation. Something needs to be done about these two. Pete is going down the same path as that former custodian. He will be a supervisor in 7 years or less on this fast track.

Anonymous said...

Stop Rigging Elections for the 2008 SEIU International Convention in Puerto Rico
28 Signatures
Published by Democracy4SEIU on Feb 25, 2008
Category: Unions
Region: United States of America
Target: SEIU members
Web site:
Statement to 2/26/2008 Pre-Convention in Los Angeles

Following the tradition of Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa, SEIU interim presidents, appointed by Andy Stern, are manipulating the election process, disenfranchising local union members and trying to shut down the voices of the rank and file.

Most members of the SEIU are still unaware that there will be a 2008 SEIU International Convention at the end of May in Puerto Rico.

Unfortunately, at many of the merged locals the appointed officials are working full time to prevent members from having proper representation at their own convention or a voice in the delegate election process. Stern appointees are setting the stage for his SEIU top-down leadership model to be approved at the convention, without acknowledging the increasingly widespread national rank and file revolt against Stern's disenfranchisement of member's federal and democratic rights to self-governance.

Annelle Grajeda, who was appointed by Andy Stern to run SEIU Local 721, has told 721 retirees that they will no longer be allowed to have representation at the International convention. This, despite the fact that the bylaws of the International Convention provide that Retiree chapters are entitled to delegates. Apparently Stern has appointed an officer that has not even read her own international bylaws. This is not surprising since Stern has personally told 40 year member Norma Harvey, who was the last duly elected representative of the 5,000 member organization, previously known as the Local 660 Seniors Association, that not only could she not be a delegate but he personally would not allow her to attend the convention "even if she paid her own way."

In Northern California's South Bay Local 521, Stern appointed President Kristy Sermersheim has sought to pass new bylaws limiting the right of elected shop stewards and other officers the right to speak out and criticize the Stern leadership and his accomplices in the locals. She has also restructured the appointed Bylaws Committee, removing members opposed to this gag rule language, and blocked notification about these meetings so that members may not observe or participate in the restructuring of their local. At this time, rank and file does not know who is on their bylaws committee, or when meetings are taking place.

Sermersheim has also hand-picked a Local 521 "Election Committee" from rank and file appointees who have presented a plan to allow only a two-hour window for voting across the 46,500 member local. This would, most assuredly, disenfranchise many members who work in public service jobs within the counties of Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Mariposa, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Kern, Inyo, Mono and Alpine counties, especially those who work in medical centers, transportation, or the libraries, who have varying shifts, from having an equal opportunity to vote. The local could have instituted a mailed ballot that would allow all the members equal opportunity to vote, yet Sermersheim has sought to censor and limit participation, thus allowing only her supporters to get to the polls in support of her slate to the International Convention.

One of the most blatant examples of gerrymandering the election process is the effort by SEIU 721 appointed president, Annelle Grajeda, to cut the number of delegates of SEIU Local 347, which represents 9,000 blue collar workers in the city of Los Angeles. Using a new "Apportionment Plan," Grajeda has cut the number of convention delegates that SEIU Local 347 had in the past, by more than half.

At previous conventions Local 347 was entitled to more than 15 delegates. At this upcoming convention, according to Grajeda, they are only entitled to 7 delegates.

The reason Grajeda has cut their convention representation is that the leadership of this local is fighting the illegal merger of the 347 with 721.

Members have shown that SEIU president Stern forced a merger improperly without the approval of the City of Los Angeles Employment Board. Members challenged the merger and the board agreed with them that the new merged local was a new organization, despite the fact that the money had already been transferred without approval of the Executive Board of Local 347. - SEIU Members for Democracy
This collective gerrymandering of SEIU rank and file's right to representation, designed to prevent full participation in the coming convention, is threatening not only the integrity of the election but the entire ethical validity of the Stern administration, which seems to have thrown out the guidelines protecting union members found in the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, As Amended (LMRDA).

The LMRDA and SEIU International Constitution and Bylaws state that union members have a right to one person, one vote and equal representation at the national convention, as well as elected, uncensored representation on their bylaws committees. These maneuvers by Stern and his appointees threaten the rights of all members of the SEIU.

We call for a fair and democratic election. These violations of our democratic rights need to be protested and stopped by members throughout the country. Is this a union we can be proud of if this kind of behavior is tolerated? We want a fair and democratic convention and union!

Write to Andy Stern and let him know that these tactics are unacceptable: Andy Stern, SEIU International, 1800 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20036

SEIU members, please sign this petition if you agree.

Members For Democracy

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Puerto Rico’s Teachers Beat SEIU Raid
— Steve Early

When last seen on the picket line, Puerto Rican teachers were fighting their way through police barricades to appeal to fellow workers from the Service Employees (SEIU) at its lavishly funded convention in San Juan in June.

The message of the Federacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico (FMPR) was simple: please stop SEIU President Andy Stern from colluding with the indicted governor of the island to replace FMPR with a “company union.”

In the view of SEIU, teachers needed a new SEIU-affiliated union because FMPR no longer had legal recognition after its walk-out over wages, classroom size, and the threat of privatization.

This month, however, the teachers themselves disagreed that it was time for a change. By a margin of 18,123 to 14, 675, they voted against joining the SEIU-backed SPM (Sindicato Puertorriqueno de Maestros), which is closely aligned with another SEIU affiliate, the Association de Maestros de Puerto Rico, an organization of school principals and administrators.

At SEIU’s convention, only a handful of delegates dared to challenge Stern on this issue. When eight rank-and-file members from California tried to distribute a leaflet asking why the “top leadership has sided against the teachers of Puerto Rico in a gross case of ‘colonial’ unionism,” SEIU staffers threatened several of them with reprisals. “They told us that this is a betrayal and that we could be suspended from the union if we continued handing out the fliers,” delegate Brian Cruz, from Local 1021 in San Francisco, explained to The San Juan Star.

Most of the 3,000 delegates and guests simply cheered when Stern and SEIU Healthcare Chair Dennis Rivera, a native of Puerto Rico, introduced their good friend, Anibal Acevedo Vila, the island’s governor. Acevedo Vila is still awaiting trial on federal corruption charges and it was his administration that precipitated a 10-day, island-wide public school strike led by the FMPR last winter. As The Star reported June 3, SEIU used its convention and the governor’s appearance to promote a rival organization, “which is hoping to become the new union representative for an estimated 42,000 public school teachers.”

It was not to be. The FMPR orchestrated a “vote no” campaign, after it was denied a spot on the ballot as further punishment for its “illegal” strike. FMPR was even barred from having observers at teacher polling places.

Prior to the start of the election, FMPR presented evidence to the labor relations commission showing that it still had voluntary financial support from 12,000 members, who have continued to pay union dues even though automatic deductions from all teachers’ paychecks were discontinued when FMPR was decertified.
Although SEIU favors “employee free choice” on the mainland and assured critics here there would be a multiple-choice ballot, Puerto Rican teachers had just one union option, which they then rejected.

The defeated SPM has almost no dues payers so SEIU had to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into this losing effort, much of it spent on advertising. As one FMPR supporter reported, SEIU had “paid staff at each school giving out free T-shirts and coolers and the media and the government were clearly in its favor but still they couldn’t impose their union on us.”

FMPR activist Edgardo Alvelo, who teaches at a vocational school in Rio Piedras, estimates that his union spent only “$50,000 on the whole campaign.” According to Alvelo, “that money was very hard to obtain, but it was enough to win. It was our people in the schools that did the job. Today, we are celebrating and tomorrow our struggle will continue in all our schools.”

The vote turnout was extremely high. Of the 36,000 teachers eligible to participate due to their permanent status, 33,818 actually voted, with a thousand of those ballots being challenged or voided. FMPR now faces the task of continuing to function as what’s called a “bonafide organization” under Puerto Rican labor law. While still deprived of the full collective bargaining rights it had before the strike, FMPR retains a strong steward structure, the ability to represent members, and mobilize around educational policy issues and day-to-day job concerns.

FMPR supporters in New York, California, and elsewhere aided the successful “vote no” campaign by raising money to help keep this militant independent union afloat. (For more information, see the FMPR’s own website: On October 14, some protested outside the Manhattan headquarters of United Healthcare Workers-East (the former SEIU/District 1199 long headed by Rivera), where they denounced Stern’s raid on FMPR as an insult to New York hospital workers “proud history of fighting for justice and dignity.”

During an August visit, one New York Solidarity Committee member, Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, brought money that was collected for FMPR members disciplined for their union activity. Reports Sheridan-Gonzalez, a registered nurse:

“The union, in collaboration with students and parents, had developed a progressive, inclusive curriculum that was extraordinarily successful. This collaborative structure was unilaterally dismantled by the government/school authority in 2007 and 17 teachers were suspended when they fought back. Their energy and commitment was inspiring and reminiscent of the spirit of U.S. unions in the 1930s and Puerto Rican labor in years past.”

That same feisty spirit was on display in this month’s island-wide union vote, which gave SEIU an expensive lesson in the meaning of “no.”
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Great news
Submitted by Andrew English on Fri, 10/24/2008 - 8:35pm.

This victory for rank and file unionism is very inspiring. During my brief time working for SEIU, I saw how their pro-Stern leaders would consistently sell out the interests of workers, and attack real unions. I am very happy to be back with a real union again, and far away from SEIU.

Andy English, Iowa trade unionist.

Anonymous said...

we received our monthly Supt. letter don't know what is special about it. I believe it is a waste of my time to read it. Nick must love listening to himself think and talk. the letter said nothing that made me feel better. We should feel bad for the community for what they are all going thru but what about us the employee as we watch what was called a raise go out the window and I lost money this year. I gave money back because the raise didn't even come close to covering my health insurance needs.

Anonymous said...

"From: Barney, Laura (ESC)
The process and timing of calculating the pools is the same this year as it has been for many years."

No it was not the same Laura. The process was completed under the shadow of a self indulgent, self willed and careless upper management. And a wimpy little union squirt. $11,000 for an upstairs window seat, double pay for your sister, huge raises for all upper management and their loving maniacal lackeys. Large sums paid out by paranoid management to debug where there were no bugs. The waste of our money goes on, and on, and on.
Inside deals for friends and their family! Plenty of overtime for those willing to look the other way so these dunderheads can make their deals and come off squeaky clean.
Easy for you to say all things were done the same, your salary has tripled in the last ten years.

All the departments in the district have enough lackeys to continue to empower these thugs. We see it in action on a daily basis. Every single day we see it and we keep that phony moronic smile on our faces and act like everything is OK. If we give any indication that we will let the light shine in these dark places the Hardlys and the Gnarlas will be right there to castigate us and put phony trumped up letters in our files. Meanwhile they have a supervisor or what ever her title is running around half of the district using language that old sailors use and she gets away with it. Time and time again she has used language that should never even be heard in a school district. Time and time again she gets away with it. She is an untouchable bully. She is enabled by Gnarla, Hardley, and Hansome!

No! It is not the same Laura, it is so very different, so very, very sickening these days. Put in the context of how the district is being run into the ground, your statement is not true at all. Put another feather in your hat, or better yet, pass out feathers upstairs, have another party on us, applaud yourselves. Your try at tickling our ears is an utter failure. Quit writing to us as if we were little children.

Anonymous said...

I have personal experience with Laura Barney, and she flat out lied to my face, and showed absolutely no remorse after the fact. She knows she was dead wrong on my issue,lied and offered no apology. She is an absolute piece of lying work, and is horribly expensive to the district with her lies. Just another Yes person at taxpayers expense. Thank You for all the lies Laura.

Anonymous said...

This may not be an article worth posting on the blog but I need to say it so here it goes. Over my many years in the district I have earned the respect and trust of many district employees even those that work in higher level positions. Because I do have employees that don’t like me and they are trying very hard to get others to see me as a bad person. Please let my reputation speak for itself. If you want the district to see me as a bad person that only reflects on you because my reputations says it all. For those of you that don’t like me so sorry but I am a strong person I walk my talk and I have no reason to change. If you are not comfortable in your skin don’t take it out on me. I respect and trust people until they show me differently then it will take a long time and I mean a long time for you to gain the respect and trust back. I am very hard nosed and just saying I’m sorry doesn’t fly with me unless the actions back those words. Actions speaks volumes. Please be a leader and lead by example. I am tired of always having to be the bigger person with issues its time others take that roll. Employees know that I don’t stick my nose out on issues unless the issue effects the people I work with or union members. I am a passionate person on many issues and I am not afraid to speak out. I don’t have time in my day to hold hands and fix everything. I have taken care of people all my life and it is time that leaders step up to the plate and lead. Da-- it just lead and quit blaming everyone else in the OP membership. They are all looking for a strong leader that takes issues head on. I have no interest in the leader position for our OP Chapter but we need a LEADER not a wimp crying in the corner and blaming everyone else for your low self-esteem. Don’t blame me because you are NOT a leader!

Through the eyes of Linda H

Anonymous said...

Yeah, sometimes when you call out a bully they have odd reactions. One of them is to cry and try to get sympathy from people. Seen that.

Anonymous said...

I do see this person as a bully. When you brag that you got the president position by hostile takeover that really tells me volumes about this person. She wants the title which holds NO power and now she does not want to be the leader she said she would be. Afterall she single handed got the biggest raise for Paraed Group as she told everyone, it was not a bargaining team just her alone that pulled it of. One email she sent out had 22 I's in it. I don't dislike this person and did offer my help if she needed it but she is an I person and for some of us we don't need an I person for president.

As see thru the eyes of Linda H

Anonymous said...

Eyes of Linda H,
Note my comment under "District Masquarade.." post, if you haven't seen it already. More about bullies. The more you know about them, the easier it is to understand when you are being bullied and document it.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Linda H. I am an OP member and we have always had great leadership!! When the new president took over, it has gone to pot. You have called it. She wants the power and she cries if she doesn't get her way. Now is that leadership?? She doesn't want help and doesn't want to work with her board. The only way she got to be president is she recruited people who normally don't come to the meetings but came that one meeting! I would say that was a hostile takeover. She also bragged about it. Now that is a bully in my eyes. This is to the members-- She is trying to avoid having meetings with all the members. I don't know what she is trying to hide. How about that?