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SEIU Local 668 Ratifies Four-Year State Contract

Last Friday, September 13th, our Statewide Officers President Steve Catanese and Secretary-Treasurer JoAnne Sessa were able to sign and ratify a new four-year contract with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This contract, which includes 16.75% wage increases and no additional member contribution to healthcare costs, will cover more than 8,000 SEIU Local 668 members across the Keystone State.

After reaching a tentative agreement with the State in the late hours of May 30th, members covered under the contract voted overwhelmingly to accept the new agreement, which will expire in June of 2023. “At a time of constant attacks on the public sector, we’re happy to have reached a stable, long-term agreement to give our members and the public peace of mind,” SEIU Local 668 President Steve Catanese remarked.

Anyone with specific questions about the contract should contact our office in Harrisburg at (717) 657-7677 or send an email to local668@seiu668.org.

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State Contract Ratification Update–July 23, 2019

We wanted to share next steps with members on the ratification process of our new State Contract—this is now the second contract where we’ve had to operate under Act 100 of 2016. This law significantly changed how our contract with the Commonwealth is audited and reviewed.

In the coming weeks, the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) will cost-out our new contract. Then, the General Assembly gets to look at it for 30 days. After that sunshine period has passed, the parties are then allowed to execute the agreement.

At this point, the State has all the data it needs from us, and we’re waiting for the IFO to get their report done and get it to the General Assembly. The Assembly will get to analyze the contract and then we can finalize it.

Right now, we’re expecting that members will receive their back-pay from 7/1/2019 and forward by the Fall. As things progress, we’ll update members as we learn specific details and dates.

This extended process came about in 2016 because of Act 100. It was specifically designed to drag-out the bargaining process, to make it take longer to start contracts, and to allow parties to politicize contracts and drag them through the press. Laws like these, dreamt-up and voted-on by politicians here in Pennsylvania, are meant to be union-busting, and are just another example of why we work hard to support and vote-in labor-friendly politicians at the polls.

We encourage anyone who’s interested in learning more about labor-friendly candidates in your area to reach out to our COPE Committee or join their County Endorsement Committee, where you can interact directly with candidates and decide if they deserve our backing or if they’ll harm us as an organization.

If anyone has any additional questions, please feel free to call our main office in Harrisburg (717-657-7677) or send an email to our general account (local668@seiu668.org) so we can help get you answers.

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SEIU Local 668 State Contract Accepted By Members

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We’re excited to announce that Commonwealth of Pennsylvania employees represented by SEIU Local 668 have voted overwhelmingly to accept a four-year contract with the State. 

SEIU Local 668’s State Contract Negotiation Team reached a Tentative Agreement with the Commonwealth on May 30th that provides our members with improved working conditions, stronger union security language, and competitive wage increases. State employee members then voted on whether to accept the language of the Tentative Agreement as a contract with the Commonwealth.

“This is a really great contract that our Negotiation Team worked tirelessly on for many weeks, and I’m incredibly happy that our State workers will have such a strong contract in the Post-Janus world we now live in,” SEIU Local 668 President Steve Catanese said earlier today.

In fact, 99% of Rank and File members voted to accept the contract, and nearly 98% of Supervisors voting in favor of the accompanying Memorandum of Understanding that covers Supervisors as well. This four-year contract with the Commonwealth will expire June 30, 2023. It includes wage increases totaling 16.75% over the life of the contract, along with other benefits that will offset rising healthcare costs in the coming years.

Thanks again to our State Contract Negotiation Team for their hard work and late nights to win such a strong contract for our members. Next steps and additional details will be shared with members in the coming weeks.

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SEIU Local 668 members across the state participated in Breakouts on May 2st, calling for a fair contract for PA Employees and telling the Commonwealth to keep their hands off healthcare. These Breakouts were successful in getting the Commonwealth to keep member contributions at the current rate for the life of the four-year contract.

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State Contract–Frequently Asked Questions

2019 STATE CONTRACT TENTATIVE AGREEMENT–Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of our members’ most Frequently Asked Questions that center around the 2019 State Contract and the changes that have been negotiated with the Commonwealth. If you have a specific question that is not addressed, please send a personal email to local668@seiu668.org. A packet of information including the Summary of Changes and voting instructions was mailed to every Commonwealth member’s home address–if you did not receive your packet by June 21st, please email local668@seiu668.org.

After months of negotiations, our State Contract Negotiations Team is proud to present to you our Tentative Agreement with the Commonwealth. Our team worked to achieve an agreement that includes 16.75% in wage increases over the life of the contract, no changes to employee healthcare contribution rates, the establishment of a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), an improved grievance process, and many other improvements.

Your 2019 State Contract Negotiations Team has unanimously voted to recommend that the membership vote to ACCEPT and ratify this agreement.

**Please Note: There is a typo on the Summary of Changes that went out to members. It says steps will be applied during the first full pay period of January–it should read “effective the beginning of the first full pay period in April.” This applies for the Step in April 2020 as well as April 2021.**

What is the length of the contract?

The contract covers four (4) years, from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2023.

Did we get a raise?

Yes, we did. The complete salary package is outlined in the packet of information that came to everyone’s home address. If you did not receive a packet, please email us at local668@seiu668.org.

**Please Note: There is a typo on the Summary of Changes that went out to members. It says steps will be applied during the first full pay period of January–it should read “effective the beginning of the first full pay period in April.” This applies for the Step in April 2020 as well as April 2021.**

Did we win any other economic gains?

Yes! We won an increase in shift differential for the first time in two decades. Effective the first full pay period of January 2020, the shift differential will increase as follows:  

  • A full shift which begins at or after 8:00 p.m. and before 6:00 a.m. will be paid a shift differential of $1.15 per hour. (3rd Shift)
  • A full shift which begins at or after 12:00 noon and before 8:00 p.m. will be paid a shift differential of $1.25 per hour. (2nd shift)

The second shift rate is higher because employees tend to have the most client exposure during this period.

Are there any changes to healthcare contributions?

There will be NO increases in employee healthcare contributions. As it has been in the past, workers covered by the agreement will fall into one of two categories – those who participate in Get Healthy program and those who do not.

With Get Healthy Waiver

Employees who participate in the Get Healthy program will continue to pay 2.5% of their salary for healthcare benefits.

Without Get Healthy Waiver

Employees who do not participate in the Get Healthy program will continue to pay the percent of salary indicated above plus 30% of the cost of the lowest premium up to 5% of your salary. No one who does not participate in the Get Healthy program will ever pay more than 5% of their salary.

SEIU 668 is one of the highest percentage unions in Get Healthy, and as such most of our members are pay this lower percentage amount..

The employer’s contribution per employee will increase each year, for the life of the contract. Currently, the employer pays $486 dollars for your healthcare each pay period. Currently, that amount cumulatively is $12,636 per year.  

  • July 2019 $486 (no change from current rate)
  • July 2020 $502
  • July 2021 $519
  • July 2022 $536

By the end of the contract, the employer will contribute an additional $50 per pay to your healthcare, or annually an increase of $1,300. That makes the total paid into your healthcare $13,936 per year by the employer, plus the 2.5% of your salary you pay over the course of a year.

Will there be changes to our healthcare plan?

Based on current projections, there will be NO changes to the healthcare plan for the life of the contract.

At the bargaining table, we negotiate over the money that goes into our healthcare plan. Plan design is handled by the Pennsylvania Employee Benefits Trust Fund (or PEBTF). The PEBTF is overseen by trustees, half of which are union-appointed and the other half of which are management. Our union holds one of 16 seats on this board.

In order to ensure that the fund remains healthy, the Union negotiated increases to the employer’s contributions. Plan design is not a part of these negotiations.

Currently, healthcare costs are rising nationally at a drastic level. Roughly, each year, healthcare spending increases by 7%, well above inflation. Our PEBTF plans are performing better than the average currently, so we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to maintain our current healthcare benefit package for the life of the contract, it is something we’re constantly monitoring. Should any changes become necessary, we will reach out to the membership.

Did we agree to any changes to retiree benefits or our pensions?

No. Our pensions are part of state law and subject to change through the legislative process. We do, however, constantly fight to stop legislation that would hurt the retirement security of our members.

There are NO changes to retirement benefits from SERS for current employees. However, language has been included in the contract to reflect the newly enacted pension law, Act 5 of 2017, which was passed in the 2017-2018 legislative session. Under the Act, employees hired on or after July 1, 2019 will be eligible for 1 of 3 plans. The plans are either one of two hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution plans or a stand-alone defined contribution plan.

  • Option 1 (Default Hybrid): A side-by-side DB/DC hybrid with a 1.25% multiplier for the DB component. This is the default plan if no election is made by the employee within 90 days. School employees become members of a new Class T-G.
  • Option 2 (Alternative Hybrid): A side-by-side DB/DC hybrid with a 1% multiplier for the DB component. School employees become members of a new Class T-H.
  • Option 3: Defined Contribution Plan

The language added ensures that workers in the bargaining unit that choose the defined contribution plan are fully covered by the benefits in the contract.

Did we gain any improvements under Sick and Bereavement Leave?

Yes. We were able to add grandchild and stepparent to the definition of immediate family for the purpose of sick family leave and we added niece and nephew to the definition of immediate family for the purposes of the 3-day sick bereavement leave benefit. 

What are the changes to the grievance process? What is an Accelerated Grievance Process (AGP)?

We reached an agreement to move the vast majority of our grievances into a process known as an Accelerated Grievance Procedure (AGP).

The AGP is designed to decrease the length of time it takes for a grievance to move through the grievance and arbitration process while creating structures to ensure local conversations are had with union members and management to resolve problems.

To achieve this goal, we have eliminated a grievance step, provided for mandatory meetings and exchange of all information early in the grievance process, and established a committee to promote the timely resolution of all grievances.  Both the Union and the employer will need time to train our staff and stewards on the new process, so the AGP will not go into effect until sometime after January 2020.

What is a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)?

An FSA lets you use pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible health care expenses for yourself, your spouse and any eligible dependents. The following are a few examples of eligible expenses under an FSA: deductibles, copays, lab fees and prescriptions. Other things may qualify as an FSA expense.

Once we have the  FSA in place, you will be able to set aside money from your paycheck before taxes to pay for anticipated out-of-pocket expenses.

For example, if you elect to contribute $2,000 to your FSA, the money is taken out of your check before taxes. That reduces your taxable income by $2,000. If you pay 30 percent in federal, social security, and state taxes you would have a tax savings of 30 percent of the $2,000. In other words, your estimated savings would be $600 on the $2,000 you directed to your FSA. However, once you contribute funds to your FSA plan, you will lose those funds if you don’t use them during that year. Meaning the funds do not rollover year-to-year. So, if you decide to contribute to an FSA, it is important to plan carefully based on your reasonably expected expenses.

Did we win any improvements for Energy Assistance Workers (EAWs) or Intermittent Intake Interviews (IIIs)?

Yes. EAWs may now receive administrative leave to take state civil service examinations.

In addition, the eligibility requirement for civil leave, for both EAWs and IIIs, has been reduced from 1800 hours to 950 hours in the prior fiscal year.  Also, if an EAW or III is not eligible for paid civil leave and is granted leave without pay, such employee shall be credited with seniority during such absence.

Were there any improvements to health and safety?

Yes. We have added language that requires the employer to give due consideration to employee safety when making decisions on office closings. More importantly, regarding compliance with laws and regulations concerning health and safety, we have replaced the term “reasonable effort” with “positive action.” This is an important legal distinction because the language now requires the employer to be decisive as opposed to being able to defend their inaction under the guise of “reasonable effort.”

Were there any changes to Seniority rights?

Until the last contract, bargaining unit seniority (i.e. all time an individual worked in any classification(s) covered by the contract) was used in making determinations related to promotions and furloughs.  During the last contract negotiations, the Commonwealth noted we were not in compliance with a ruling by the Civil Service Commission. In order to be in compliance we would need to move away from bargaining unit seniority and move to classification seniority for promotions, furloughs recall and placement.

By way of example, assume you worked a total of  20 years in classifications covered by the contract, 10 years as a YDC counselor and then 10 years as an IMCW.  Also assume your coworker worked only 11 years but all of those years she had worked as an IMCW. Even though you had greater bargaining unit seniority, when it came to an issue of furlough, promotion, recall or placement your co-worker would have greater seniority because she had more time in the IMCW classification than you did.  This new contract language restores what had existed until the last contract. With the new language, using the same example, your 20 years would be compared to your co-worker’s 11 years for purposes of furloughs, promotions, recall and placement.

Were there any changes to benefits for Domestic Partners?

Since, in the past, same-sex partners were not legally permitted to marry, the Commonwealth and the Union agreed to include the term “Domestic Partners” in the contract to address this injustice. Now that same-sex partners are permitted to legally marry, the parties have agreed to eliminate the term “domestic partner” from the contract beginning in January 2021.

What is a Training and Education Fund?

The Commonwealth and the Union have agreed to establish a committee with the goal of jointly addressing the workforce needs of the Commonwealth and to establish programs which will further our bargaining unit members’ careers and advance their skills. 

I keep hearing about Lean–what is it, and why is it in our contract?

SEIU 668 work committees in OUC and OVR have partnered with the state’s Office of Performance Excellence to integrate “Lean” practices into state agencies. The purpose of Lean is to address backlogs, improve workflow, increase quality and empower workers to have more agency in workplace improvement decisions. While OUC and OVR have begun working on these processes, and have had a positive experience with the process, other work committees have shown interest in being more involved with this as well.

At the table, both parties agreed to language that put our intent to work with this program into the contract, hopefully opening up more avenues for our work committees to get involved with Lean across the state.

How do you suggest I use our new contract?

Not as a paperweight.

We think you should use it as a tool for justice in your workplace, to make sure you and your coworkers are treated fairly and equitably.

How do I do that? I’m just a union member.

As a member, you’re the lifeblood of our union. Without you, there is no contract or contract enforcement.

A good place to start is educating yourself and coworkers about what is in our contract. The best way to know when a violation is occurring is to know the contract.

What can’t I do?

Our ability to work with our contract is only limited by the law and our own knowledge of the agreement. Limits shouldn’t include our will, imagination or our boss’s attempts to intimidate us. We can only make our workplace better if we all step up together.

Sometimes an issue can be resolved with a conversation or a Meet and Discuss session. At other times, a grievance may be necessary.

How do I file a grievance?

You should consult your steward who is there to help and discuss whether a violation of the contract is occurring. Working together to assess the situation is a great first step. After that, if a violation is occurring and it hasn’t been fixed, a grievance is an important tool to enforce the contract.

I have some thoughts about this deal. How can my voice be heard?

Our union is democratically run and dues-paying members determine the course of all actions we take. As a member, you have the ultimate voice in this contract – your vote!

Voting and actively participating in our union’s efforts is the best way to keep our union strong and influence its actions today, tomorrow and well into the future. If you don’t participate, your voice isn’t heard.

So what are my options when I vote?

You have two. Members must either vote yes to accept the contract proposal or vote no, which means you authorize the bargaining team to call a strike. There is no third option.  

While the Negotiations Team was hammering away to get a fair deal, Local 668 members were engaging in solidarity actions — such as Purple Days and informational pickets — to show strength and support for the Team’s bargaining efforts.

Thanks to the efforts of Local 668’s Member Mobilizers, the Negotiations Team feels strongly that they have achieved the best possible agreement with the Commonwealth. However, as a democratically run Union, the ultimate decision to accept the agreement or strike is in the hands of the membership.

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State Contract Negotiations Update from Thursday, May 23, 2019

Tonight, after a dozen back-to-back bargaining sessions over the course of four months, SEIU Local 668 has come to a Tentative Agreement with the Commonwealth. Your State Contract Negotiation Team members have voted unanimously to support the ratification of this TA, which includes good wages and no changes to the current healthcare contributions, thanks in part to the mobilizing our 668 members did across the state this week.

Members of the negotiation team, as well as union leadership, will be holding briefing calls next week, discussing the specifics of the Tentative Agreement and outlining the ratification process. The call information is below—please read and RSVP your attendance to local668@seiu668.org.

Please Note: YOUR VOTING INSTRUCTIONS AND SUMMARY OF CHANGES WILL GO TO WHATEVER HOME ADDRESS THE COMMONWEALTH HAS ON-RECORD. If you have moved or changed addresses and have not updated with the Commonwealth HR, you will NOT receive your Summary or Ballot with voting information.

Briefing Calls: We will hold three briefing calls next week to discuss the specifics of the Tentative Agreement as well as the ratification process. Every member will need to send a personal email with their full first and last name as well as shop location to local668@seiu668.org to receive that specific call’s login credentials. The calls will be held Wednesday, May 29th at noon and 6pm and on Thursday, May 30th at 6.30pm. Please be sure to specify which call you would like to be part of in your RSVP email.

The State Contract Negotiation Team is extremely happy with the work we’ve done to bring a contract that will improve the lives of our members.

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