October 6, 2004
FOOD DRIVE: Please bring canned food or flood buckets (buckets filled with cleaning supplies)
FORUM PHOTOS: the Forum will take its annual portrait December 7 at 9:15 a.m., before the Forum meeting
Agenda — October 6, 2004
9:30 a.m.—-Meeting: Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Library
I. Call to Order
II. Welcome Guests & Members of the Press
III. Opening Remarks
· To Be Announced
IV. Special Presentations
· Soren Schmidt, on Living Wage Campaign
· Jim Alty, Director of Facilities Services
V. Human Resources Update—Claire Miller
VI. Employee Presentations or Questions
VII. September 1, 2004 Minutes P
VIII. Old Business
IX. New Business
· Call for Forum Officer Nominations
· Food Drive for the West
X. Stretch Time 6
XI. Forum Committee Reports
· Career Development: Curtis Helfrich
· Communications: Brian White
Þ Forum Newsletter
· Community Affairs, Recognition and Awards: Dixie Bloom
· Employee Presentations: Katherine Graves
· Nominating: Patti Prentice
Þ Forum Elections
· Orientation: Meredith Clason
· Personnel Issues: Delita Wright
· University Assignments: Tom Arnel
XII. Chair’s Report (Executive Committee): Tommy Griffin
XIII. Task Force/University Committee Reports
· Chancellor’s Task Force for a Better Workplace—Tommy Griffin
· University Priorities and Budget Advisory Committee—Tommy Griffin
XV. “Go Around the Room”
P = Included in Agenda Packet
October 6, 2004 minutes
Chair Tommy Griffin called the meeting to order at 9:38 a.m. He introduced new director of Facilities Services Jim Alty, who had recently been hired from the University of Texas at Austin. Alty had been on the job three months and had worked to familiarize himself with the 1,000 Employees working in Facilities Services. He praised the professionalism and dedication of Facilities Services personnel but hoped to increase professional development opportunities for departmental leaders. He hoped to use a participatory leadership style to respond to departmental issues. He also recalled some cost and responsiveness issues that the department has faced, saying he planned to develop a working plan to address these questions by consulting with Facilities Services customers.
Recalling his military background, Alty said that he expected to involve more parties in decision-making than he had previously. He praised what he had seen of the UNC-Chapel Hill Employee Forum as an advocate for employee concerns. He invited Employees to contact him at 2-0761 if they have questions or insights about Facilities Services’ work.
Cynthia Cowan said that the search committee for the University ombudsperson position had received some criticism that its work was not better publicized at Facilities Services. She asked how Alty would work to increase communication in that highly decentralized department. Alty said that fliers and e-mail represent obvious choices, although many Facilities Services Employees do not have regular access to computers. He said that some layer of management has filtered out communication to line Employees in the past. He hoped to host biannual or quarterly town halls for the department to increase information flow and answer questions. Alty said that Facilities Services now publishes a departmental newsletter, The Resource, that he hoped would address internal policy matters in the future.
Chuck Brink asked if Alty could say whether the committee that proposed the new emergency duty policy might have further information for the rank and file in Facilities Services. He thanked Alty for meeting with him and Tommy Griffin on this subject in September. Alty said that he had created a committee of supervisors and superintendents to address this policy immediately following his arrival. He said that committee had wrestled with this question for over a month, finally settling on a combination of emergency duty policy and stand-by policy for emergencies. He hoped that the committee could refine its options by the end of October.
Brink asked how that committee could give line Employees a chance to comment on the final proposal. David Brannigan said he did not think that the committee appointed to develop this policy contained enough line Employees or enough Grounds Employees. Alty said that he did not want a committee that was too large to be effective. He said that the group would work to develop reasonable options that the entire department could discuss afterwards. He noted the vital role that supervisors play in responding to emergency situations.
Syed Mustafa confirmed that The Resource was not yet published on-line. Katherine Graves hoped that Alty would work to improve computer access for Facilities Services Employees, possibly through a budget allocation. Alty said that Housekeeping has set up separate rooms with open access for computers. He said that the department has put some other terminals in break rooms across the entire organization. He did not know whether Facilities Services could dedicate funds for this purpose.
Ernie Patterson noted that the use of terms like “rank and file Employees” versus supervisors tends to separate the two groups semantically. Alty granted the point.
Curtis Helfrich said that Employees working in critical positions must expect to be called in during poor weather as part of their jobs. Alty said that the emergency duty committee did not expect Employees to jeopardize their health or that of their families. However, the University cannot stop functioning during bad weather and it expects critical Employees to attend work after safeguarding their house and families. Unless they face a fire or health emergency, most critical Employees typically fulfill their emergency duty. He said that no Employee should fear for their job if they are late for work due to reasonable cause. He did not know the source of the contention that Employees would be threatened with their jobs if they do not come in for emergency duty. He said that the University would need to find some arrangement to transport or house these Employees during lingering emergencies, perhaps by allowing Employees to take home State vehicles in anticipation of these problems.
David Brannigan introduced Sorien Schmidt, the legislative director of the North Carolina Justice Center, to make a presentation on the Center’s new findings that 60% of all North Carolina families do not earn a living wage. He praised the Center’s work and said that the Forum must work with students and other workers to make sure that the University paying its Employees a living wage, in accordance with its goal to be the best public university in the country.
Schmidt outlined the work of the North Carolina Justice Center and its beginnings as a branch of Legal Aid. The Center took part in the debate about welfare reform in the mid-1990s, and outlined the challenges facing minimum-wage earning families with children. Schmidt said that half of the population has a high school degree or less educational accomplishment, and these people hurt the worst when there are problems with health care or job markets. Schmidt noted that the Forum had approved a resolution calling for a living wage for all State Employees.
Schmidt asked attendees to define the federal poverty level and to say whether the level changes according to the relative cost of living in different parts of the country. She recalled that the federal poverty level is used to determine access to federal benefits such as access to federal grants for college tuition. Schmidt noted that the Roosevelt administration introduced the federal poverty level concept during the Great Depression while creating social security and other unemployment programs. The Johnson administration then followed up during the 1960s with Medicare, Medicaid, Aid to Dependent Children and other programs. Also, following World War II, the G.I. bill helped thousands of returning soldiers and sailors attend college for the first time in their family’s history. During the 1950s and 60s, public policy emphasized decent wages, housing and education for all as the foundations of the nation’s economic health.
Schmidt noted that administrators had established the federal poverty level based on a family spending one-third of its income on food costs. However, today people spend much more of their income on housing and transportation costs. She said that the government does not use better estimates of national poverty levels because these would demand more money and attention to the poverty problem.
The Justice Center has developed a self-sufficiency standard to calculate what level of income a family requires to live without government help. She said that even during the boom years of the 1990s, people still relied on legal aid, food banks and other offices even though the government measured unemployment at only 3%. The Center developed a living income standard based on four different family types.
Schmidt then invited attendees to complete a “living income IQ test.” Respondents found that the largest cost item for a single mother with one child is housing, the second being child care or transportation. Schmidt said that taxes, even in areas like Orange County, make a up a comparatively small share of overall costs. Schmidt said the Center had based its figures on the 2003 Living Income Standard. As a beginning, she noted that a two bedroom apartment in Orange County costs $755/month, and in Wake County costs $616/month. The federal poverty level allows $1000/month for all expenses. Overall, a single mother with one child living in an urban county requires $2490/month to live, more than twice the federal poverty figure.
This $2490/month is a bare bones budget, assuming rental costs, food, child care, transportation in an eight-year old car and miscellaneous expenses, with no margin for entertainment, debt, savings, or credit card payments. The transit expenses assume the car is paid for and includes all maintenance, insurance and gas costs. Based on these figures, the Center found that around 60% of all families with children in North Carolina do not bring in a living income. Most of the 600,000 households affected have members working full-time or at least seasonal work but still cannot scrape up a living income.
Schmidt noted that the enormous number of manufacturing jobs leaving the state has hurt working families. The new service and retail jobs replacing these earn very low wages, around $8/hour for experienced workers. Other service jobs requiring higher skill levels and education such as nursing and technical support do pay a living wage but require at least a two-year associate’s degree. In a state in which 50% of the population holds a high school degree or less, these figures are daunting.
Schmidt asked the Forum to continue with resolutions calling on the leadership of the University and the State to provide substantial raises to State Employees, preferably flat raises. She sympathized with State Employees who have not received salary increases for three straight years, but said that this drought had hit the lowest paid workers the hardest. She said that the $1000 flat raise had lifted several hundred people out above the living income standard. However, a flat $5000 raise as proposed by the North Carolina A&T Staff Council would have lifted several thousand people above the living income standard.
Over 120 municipalities have approved living wage resolutions, but Durham City and County are the only North Carolina governments to approve living wage ordinances for municipal contractors. Some thirty universities have also approved living wage resolutions. Some have set the minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage. Greensboro and Charlotte both recently voted against living wage ordinances, with Charlotte requiring a tie-breaking vote from the mayor to defeat the initiative. Living wage supporters fought back by opposing Charlotte’s coliseum bond referendum.
Schmidt noted concerns that raising the minimum wage will increase inflation. However, the minimum wage affects only a small percentage of people in the economy and does not cover enough ground to affect inflation levels throughout the national economy. The federal minimum wage of $5.15/hour is less than half of what a family of four requires if both parents work and their children need daycare. Schmidt encouraged listeners to contact their local and state officials with this information. She particularly hoped that Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro officials might enact living wage ordinances.
Cynthia Cowan asked if a raise in the minimum wage would cause Employees to lose their jobs, as employers would not hire as many people if they had to pay more to each. Schmidt said that the government has raised the minimum wage during recessions and boom times. Studies about the impact have found that most employers absorb these costs without increasing layoffs. In fact, employers have found savings resulting from increases in the minimum wage due to less absenteeism, turnover and retraining costs. American workers have increased their productivity levels dramatically in the last ten years, doing more for the same amount of wages. Schmidt noted that when lower-income workers receive more money, the economy as a whole frequently benefits as these workers tend to spend these funds immediately for material needs.
Tom Arnel asked the Governor’s and Legislature’s position on this subject. Schmidt said that Governor Easley had always proposed raises for State Employees but the Legislature has not always implemented these proposals. Every year the Legislature defeats a minimum wage bill that would increase the rate to $8.60/hour over a period of 3-4 years. Instead, the Legislature has brought new jobs to the State through corporate incentives and reducing business taxes, along with some worker retraining in community colleges.
Shocked by these statistics, Kirk McNaughton asked how North Carolina compared with other states on the living income standard. Schmidt said that the Center had established a standard that other states have yet to follow. She said that McNaughton could examine data from the Economic Policy Institute (www.epi.net) to compare living budgets from state to state. She said that the federal government had made things worse in this area by giving tax cuts to the wealthy and passing on the burden to state and local governments. She said that current federal budget deficits expose programs like the earned income tax credit, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Ernie Patterson said that Employees at UNC face problems living paycheck to paycheck. Employees face the knowledge that one major health care event or even something as mundane as a car accident could undercut their financial position. Schmidt noted that health care expenses have become the number one cause of bankruptcies. Foreclosures, she said, have risen 300% since 1998.
All in all, Schmidt said that people working full time should be able to support their family on one job. She urged listeners to consult the policy recommendations on her distributed literature. She also noted that around 30,000 children await child care subsidies in the new legislative budget, and said that many of these children must stay home alone, with older relatives or neighbors, or in unlicensed day care centers. She noted that the John Locke Foundation has disputed the Center’s figures as a luxury budget for lower income workers.
The Chair invited Schmidt to return for a roundtable discussion in the future.
Human Resources Update
Claire Miller of Human Resources reported that the Chancellor’s Task Force for a Better Workplace has announced the beginning of the emergency loan program. Interested Employees can contact Laurie Allison of Employee Services at 2-1483 for more information, or phone Susan Criscenzo of the Educational Assistance Program.
Enrollment in the North Carolina Flex program will take place from October 11 to November 5, with benefits eligible to be distributed from January 1, 2005. Miller said that the University plans to give flu shots to high-risk populations if available. Katherine Graves and Shanna Fleenor each said that generally there is not a consensus as to whether the flu shots will be widely available.
Miller reported that retired military are eligible for an insurance supplement through a new program. These Employees will receive an announcement and instructions on enrolling soon. Finally, a health care satisfaction survey will go out to all faculty and staff soon.
Camilla Crampton asked about changes to the North Carolina Flex dental plan. Miller said that the rates for the dental plan will increase this year substantially. Enrollees can switch enrollment to the aftertax Fortis plan with no waiting period. Also, the University has signed with Metropolitan to offer a new life insurance program for Employees.
Katherine Graves announced that the Forum and the Interfaith Council will hold a food drive for flood victims in western North Carolina. She encouraged Employees to donate socks, cleaning equipment and canned goods in bins located near recycling areas. She asked Delegates to handle publicity and barrel distribution in their various departments.
Patti Prentice announced that nominations for Forum officer positions are now open. She said that the Forum would send out letters to elected Delegates by the end of the week. She said that Delegates can nominate themselves for officer positions.
The Chair asked committee chairs to send their reports to the Forum via e-mail. In the interest of time and the absence of further discussion, the Forum agreed by acclamation to adjourn at 11:34 a.m.
Matt Banks, Recording Secretary