North Texas Association of Public Employees
Steel Workers Local 9479
Letters to Council on Pay and Benefits
Cost of Living Request
I ask you consider granting the civilian employees a sorely needed Cost of Living Adjustment this year. We have never recovered from having our wages frozen for almost five years while simultaneously having our health insurance costs increased year after year. We were told that this wage freeze was necessary because the city revenues were so horribly bad. However the removal of the cost of living adjustments, previously granted to us in October, continues to this day, even though city revenues have rebounded.
Why? If these measures were put in place to balance the budget during those hard times, should the COLA not now be restored? The civilian employees have done more than their fair share to balance past budgets, but instead of being thanked now that revenues have increased, we continue to suffer.
During that same time period of stagnant civilian wages, the uniformed employees received cost of living adjustments totaling fifteen percent in ADDITION to their step raises. I do not begrudge anyone their money, but I must point out that the inequity of treatment between our two groups.
Despite assurances to council that it would not, the current civilian merit scheme unfairly distributes raises disproportionably to the higher grade employees. It has done so since its inception and there have been no modifications to the program that are going to change this distribution pattern in the future. If you have any questions about this, I would be more than happy to supply you with a break down of the merits granted over the last three years broken down by pay grade.The adverse affects of these restricted merits coupled with the lack of a cost of living increase over the last seven years has been devastating to our civilian employees. I will tell you honestly, that my merit raise last year did not even cover two months of increases to my electric bill last summer, let alone the increases for fuel, prescriptions and everything else.
The saddest part of this struggle? I am not one of your lower paid employees; how they are coping I don’t know.
Please. Our wages continue to sink under the increases in food, fuel and insurance. We need a cost of living this year if we are to survive. – M.R. Frey Steelworkers 9479
Health Benefit Increase Request
I would like to request that the council consider increasing the city’s share of the health benefits plan. Perhaps by using the 2.5 Million savings from the reduction of city retirement contributions?
As you may know, the percentage the city pays per employee for the various health benefit plans has been reduced several times over the last few years.
Additionally, during this time, back door increases to the employee’s costs have been achieved by raising the prescription co-pays, which is again being proposed this year. Increased prescription co-pays directly and adversely affect our most vulnerable employees and retirees.
I do not think that it is fair to shift increased costs to this group so management can claim that they held ‘the benefit plan’ costs steady.
Also please also consider;
In January of 2006 almost twenty-four percent of the city employees were faced with an increase to their health benefit plan ranging from 30% to 65%. So any blanket statement, like the one recently emailed to the employees, claiming that this is the fourth year that health ‘plan’ costs to the employees have not increased, is in fact lie.
In 2005, even Dave Cook was surprised to report the following; Subsidies per Employee for Area Cities:
: $8,086, Houston : $6,725, Ft. Worth : $6,653, Austin : $3,740 Dallas
In 2005, the Retirees (Civilian and Fire) recommended that the council craft a three to five year plan to bring health benefits for active and retired
city employees back in line with other Dallas cities. This did not occur. Texas
In 2003, fourteen million dollars was permanently removed from health benefit subsidy and used elsewhere in the budget.
Lastly, also in 2003, the employees and the media (WFAA) were told that the increased costs to the employees and retirees were necessary due to tax revenues being way off.
As I understand it, our tax revenue numbers are good this year. Is it perhaps time for the city to channel a bit of funding back into the employee benefits to make up for the reductions that we were told were necessary during the bad years?
Please, we have lots of employees and retirees who really need help with this. It would mean a lot to them if the city could see it’s way clear to fund a benefit plan that was inline with other
cities. - M.R. Frey, Steelworkers 9479 Texas
SIP Reinstated? Yearly Step Raises?
Don’t get excited, they’re not for you
Every year reading through the budget is no small task, especially when the presentation format changes every year. In Council Budget briefing presented on
Aug. 13, 2007, on page 13 - 2nd year implementation of an enhanced Police and Fire-Rescue Compensation Package.
More details were found in the “Budget Overview” on page 8 - Also, the second year of the Dallas Police Department's (DPD) enhanced compensation package is proposed to be implemented in FY 2007/08. This phase would include compression of increased pay steps from two year intervals to a one year interval. Also included would be an additional $100 per month for those officers having achieved Master Peace Officer Certification, the addition of one step to the compensation schedule for each rank and a retention incentive of $3,000 for officers with ten years of service.
Do you feel slapped? Retention Incentive? SIP renamed!
This budget also proposes - the implementation of a uniformed enhanced compensation package which would compression 5% step raises from every two years to yearly and add additional step of 5 percent to the top of each rank at the top.
You can read the entire document but you will not find one word addressing retention incentive or enhanced compensation packages targeting our 8000 plus civilian employees. Perhaps Mary Suhm does not consider civilian employees worth retention? Rumor is that at a meeting of various mangers, assistants and other departmental higher ups, it was pointed out that a large number of civilians are also eligible to retire. Supposedly her response was, “that gives us the opportunity to hire fresh blood”.
Not only should civilian employees be angry over this, but
citizens should be alarmed and angry as well. Not long ago there was an item on the news about the citizens being more than upset about late trash pick up, which was blamed on the fact that repairs of the trucks were back logged due to the city out sourcing vehicle maintenance to a vendor that was not meeting their repair agreement. Dallas
Additionally, during the summer there was another news item about ex-felons being hired at the city, and H.R. Director David Etheridge made the statement they were looking at ways to ease the process to make such employment easier.
Well, with all that going for them, it is easy to see why city management isn’t worried about retaining qualified, trained employees.
(Ed. Notes - SIP – Service Incentive Pay, a history of sorts. In 1971 the council and no doubt some of the directors of the various city departments were fed up with complaints by the citizens of
about the lack of employees with the job knowledge to help them. There was an extremely high turnover rate for the civilian employees. So in 1972, Service Incentive Pay (SIP) was initiated, maxing at of 5% of the annual salary. The sworn employee “longevity pay” was increased to match what the city was giving to the civilian employees. Employees hired prior to 2003, had this mentioned as part of their benefit package. In 2003 the SIP was modified from the promised benefit of a max, to the minimum that is mandated by the state for uniformed employees about $900.00.) Dallas
Back Pedaling by H.R.
Lonzie Greene spent three years telling us that prescription smoking and weight cessation was costly, but it would be put in a future plane. This year he assured us, was to be the year that the long term benefits out weighed the upfront costs. But amazingly enough, only weeks later, he decided that weight loss drugs were far too dangerous and he could not in good conscience recommend them. Really? Gosh. Wonder why his conscience never brought that up little tidbit up in the three years he moaned about how much these drugs would increase the plan cost to the city?
If the danger of the weight loss drugs out weighs the benefits of reducing all the other health risks that obesity brings with it, then perhaps this is the year when HR should at least double the allowable amount paid out for surgical weight loss intervention. Or better, just bite the bullet and restore it in full.
Of course it would be nice if they took a page from major corporations and only authorized doctors with low complication rates and proven track records. Previously, when it was paid for by the city plan, any yahoo on the provider’s roster of doctors who claimed he could do the surgery. This caused patient complications and cost money. Which of course made the city decide it was easier to virtually eliminate the average employee’s access to the procedure, rather than work with the plan provider to restrict the procedure to doctors with proven success rates.
Draconian? Sure, but ‘The baby with the bath water’ business model was much better from the HR point of view. Of course, the lack of affordable surgical weight loss procedures costs the city tons of money yearly in medical complications and maintenance drugs for things that weight loss could eliminate like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. However, not having affordable surgical weight loss procedures available reduces the work, thought and diligence that someone in HR would have to provide.
Also, apparently all the City’s weight loss problems are going to be solved by the... WELLNESS PROGRAM! Oh drat, they just changed the name to something zippier the... WELL AWARE PROGRAM! Well, there. Don’t ya just feel thinner and healthier already? No? Well could you pretend? Come on, think thin thoughts. Do it for the Gipper! Do it for H.R., they feel so unloved at this time of year.
Money Give Away Dallas
People Get Mad, Say Something!
The following is extracted from:
8/21/7City Budget includes Millions to do DISD's Job!. at http://www.dallasarena.com This should be assigned reading for every employee and citizen. Article excerpt
“I am comforted to learn
taxpayers are not matching the Wallace Foundation grant with an $8M contribution, even though $600K is a lot of money. That still does not answer my questions about figures that appear in the "Recommended Budget - By Key Focus Area". Under Operating Budget ($1.922 Billion), $31M is designated for "Education". Under Capital Budget ($729 Million), $12M is designated for "Education".” Dallas
I have worked for the city for 29 years, and was born and until 2000 lived in the city. I look at the figures the city is giving away to DISD and I see money that could be used to give the civilian employees a 5% cost of living raise, the first of the century, and an honest 5% merit raise. This is only one item that is included in the Budget Appendices on the internet under 2007-2008 Proposed Budget.
In the appendices there is a graph on page 6 with the accompanying explanation:
As illustrated in the accompanying graph, sales tax receipts have increased from $188.8 million in FY 1997-98 to a projected $237.1 million in FY 2007-08. and yet during every “Meet with the Manager” meeting dealing with employee compensation I have attended in the last 4 years it is continually stressed that the tax revenues are just not what they should be to allow COLAs.
People get mad, say something, this “just wait and see” is not going to cut. The City Manager is sending our department managers to costly training given by “500” companies explaining the importance of retaining employees, the cost of high turn over and the need to reward their employees.
At this same time Mary Suhm is insisting that all merit raises be in a bell shape, and to add insult to injury, she is not even funding this year’s pitiful excuse of a 3% merit for a full year!! They won’t start until January.
Remember when our Cost of Living adjustments were started in October and merit raises were awarded on your anniversary date? And they wonder why they have a retention problem. :-p
Public Employees Relief – There is currently legislation being proposed to end the penalization of public employees who have also paid into Social Security. H.R. Bill 82 would end the parts of Social Security law that penalize us for being public employees.
Not everyone knows that their earned social security benefits will be cut drastically because they were once a public employee. Many of us contributed into social security for years, and many of us intend to return to the private sector once we retire from the city an will again be paying into the Social Security fund. But unless H.R. Bill 82 passes and current laws are changed, we will be robbed and told that we are not eligible for our full normal Social Security benefits despite the fact that private sector employees with pension plans are not similarly treated.
Please get the word out to your fellow employees. They can click on the link below for more information or call our office at 214-760-7422 and ask that it be mailed or faxed to them. - Steelworker N. S.
(Ed. Note: Please visit this site for more information http://www.washingtonwatch.com/bills/show/110_HR_82.html or call 214-760-7422to receive back ground information on this very important matter. Got the answering machine? Please speak slowly and repeat your address a clear voice.)
Single Parenthood, then and now - At a recent Meet the Manager meeting, City Manager Mary Suhm waxed rhapsodic about how she, as a city employee and struggling single mother, was able to continue her education, provide for her family and promote to higher paying positions within the city!
But I wonder how much easier it was for Mary Suhm/Single Mother with two kids to continue her education back in those days as compared to now?
Back then the cost of benefits for her and her kids cost her so much less. The city paid a much higher percentage of the benefits than they do now and her wages did not have a five year stagnant stretch. Also, if she was a good employee back then, she was able to get both a cost of living and a merit raise.
Today’s city employees do not have the advantages that Mary Suhm had. This is not the same city. It would be nice if Mary Suhm would work to grant those same benefits to today’s employees. – Steelworker E.P.
PICKS AND PAINS - Higher co-pays for patients with chronic diseases such Rheumatoid Arthritis, Systemic Lupus, Diabetes, and High Blood Pressure may cause the individuals not to fill prescriptions. This can lead to increased illness and disability.
Employee Benefit Managers in large corporations are beginning to realize that cost shifting to employees has gone as far as it can go. Sadly this is not the case in the City of
, as benefit managers are again recommending drug co-pay increases. Dallas
By not focusing solely on cost containment more enlightened employers are looking at the benefits of a healthier workforce vs increased employer cost. Spending a little more money to keep drug co-pays low, and allowing the use of newer medications that don’t currently have generics available can save employers millions of dollars by keeping employees out of the hospital, on the job, and decreasing sick time expenses.
Autoimmune diseases, Cancer, Heart disease, Pulmonary (lung) diseases and other chronic diseases may only have a few medications that are effective against that particular disease. If the co-pay for those drugs is so high the employee can not afford the drug, there is little financial assistance available for that employee. The employee has no option but to do without the medication which can result in severe illness, prolonged hospitalization or even rapid death in some cases.
Pharmacy Benefit Managers determine the make up of the drug formulary dictated by the amount of money willing to be spent by the employer. This makes it a bit of a stretch when our city benefit management claims that they have no control over changes to the drug formulary. How much could the city save on the back end if they made smart up front choices to make sure that their chronic disease employees could afford to take their recommend medications? We will never know if our city management continues to be penny-wise and pound-foolish on drug co-pay costs. – Steelworker N.C.
Lonzie Greene – H.R. Rep Lonzie Greene is a very snazzy dresser who always wears very nice suits. – Steelworker M.F.
The Time to Join is Now!
Don’t forget about the 30 day waiting period on certain services for new members. We don’t want anyone to miss out on assistance should they need it. The time to join is now, so you will already be a member before any problem that you need help with occurs.
Council Meeting Audio Available
Did you know that you can download city council meetings? Some interesting stuff in there. Take a listen. http://www.ci.dallas.tx.us/cso/audio.shtm
End of year raffle Remember at the last meeting of the year you get one raffle chance for every meeting or work session you sign in for. Make six meetings, get six chances. So congratulations to the members who were present at the December meeting when their names were drawn for the gift certificates from Target, Best Buy and Chili’s.
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What have Unions done for me? Eight-Hour Day Five-Day Workweek Health Insurance Good Pensions Paid Sick Leave Higher Wages Overtime Pay Job Safety Paid Holidays Job Security Paid Vacations Family and Medical Leave Fair Treatment for Women, People of Color & Workers with DisabilitiesThe preceding benefits were brought to you by the working women and men of America's unions, who won them at the bargaining table and set the standard for all working families.
Henderson’s Chicken is Back! – Still isn't union news and it has been two years. But we love this place! Their new location is
3103 Grand Ave, 214-421-1777
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