From the Chair, Tommy Griffin…
Education is the Key
Hello friends. It is May and time to talk again. I look forward every day to being able to share information with everyone. That is one thing that we can do to help each other throughout the state: share our information and concerns. The more chances I have to talk with our statewide friends, the more I learn that we all share the same concerns and issues throughout the state. Pay and benefits are concerns for all our friends in the state, and the budget cuts affect us all the same way. The cuts hurt us, our families, our fellow universities, and the entire educational system. We have a great education system in our state, and our leaders in Raleigh have supported it over the years, but we need more support, not cuts. A great education system is hard to build and maintain without enough funds. It is hard to maintain and build an education system without good employees, faculty, teachers, managers, and students, and we can’t keep the best people here without pay raises and with rising tuition.
Education is the key to our future, and we all must work together to make sure that we get everything we need to support education throughout the state. Education touches our lives every day. Name any thing you want and it relates to education somehow. We all are educators in one form or the other. As parents we start educating our children the day they are born, and their education follows them through their lives, just as it has done for all of us. The examples we set for everyone we come in contact with make a difference in our lives. The hard work and dedication that we show every day prove that we are willing to support the needs of our educational system. The decline in our pay and benefits may have dampened our spirits a little bit, but it has not touched our pride. You can see and hear the pride that we take in our jobs and responsibilities as North Carolina citizens and employees of our great state.
The Employee Forum passed a resolution this year supporting a $2000 pay raise, a $10/hour minimum wage, fully funded performance pay, and improvements to health insurance for all state employees. Employee groups at all sixteen member institutions of the UNC system have passed the same or similar resolutions in support of this goal. I want to give Chancellor Moeser a very special thank you for signing the resolution and adding his support to getting pay raises for all employees. He has passed our resolution on to UNC President Molly C. Broad. I want to thank all the staff, faculty, and students for their support and help. It takes all of us working together to build a bright future. Your friend always, Tommy.
Three items came up for vote during the Forum’s May meeting. Two items concerned initiatives for the Forum to become involved in voter registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns for this fall’s election. The other involved the Forum’s decision to attend the State Employee Appreciation Rally to be held in Raleigh on May 26th, which is sponsored by the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC). All three measures passed by wide margins.
Although the Forum itself cannot support or oppose any particular candidate, the Forum’s Executive Committee felt it necessary to show it feels it is important for all state employees and citizens to exercise their right to vote. Upon passing these voter initiatives, the Executive Committee will now work out the particulars of how the Forum will execute these measures.
With regard to the Raleigh State Employee Appreciation Rally, although several Forum Delagates expressed concern for the UNC Forum being seen as directly associated with or subordinate to SEANC, it was generally felt that the Forum should show support for state employee activism. According to Forum Chairman, Tommy Griffin, “Cards and letters send a great message to our leaders at Raleigh, but when we physically show up…that means more.”
Tommy feels these voting initiatives are important because of the standing the UNC Employee Forum holds among our sister institutions, in addition to the leaders on campus, in Raleigh and throughout the state.
“When we vote on any issue,” states Tommy, “we are doing it for the people we represent. This gives everyone the chance to be part of what is happening on campus and throughout the state. The other Universities in the system watch to see what we do and follow our lead.”
Is our State Health Insurance plan as bad as they say? Actually, it’s worse.
The entire medical care/health insurance industry is in trouble. Premiums are up, coverage is down and even doctors are going out of business. All true, but just blowing smoke where our coverage is concerned. Yes, “everyone” is suffering. But why do we consistently fare worst?
Our coverage ranks 13 out of 13 in comparison with peer institutions. Compared to similar plans across the South, we again rank at the bottom.What are we doing wrong? For too long we have been told “health care is in trouble.” The truth is, even in a sinking system we still don’t measure up.
Fortunately, top administrators at UNC and some NC Legislators are interested in getting us out of this. Kudos go to them for their willingness to face facts and wrangle realities. “Something” is causing us to rank worst, causing our health care to cost more than most.
Our position has been researched and documented; our poor showing recognized and admitted. Facts, figures and questions are being carried from South Building upward, all the way to Raleigh. Our plan is too expensive and clearly inadequate at some points. We pay more and receive less. We are the only plan with a deductible, a co-pay and co-insurance – all three. Other plans have only two out of three. While other plans suffer the same challenges we do, they still manage to come out better.
There is an answer. We need to manage our plan and the challenges of the health care crisis to at least come out no worse off than our peers and neighbors. When all is uncovered and restructured, we will no longer rank number one in worst health coverage.
Write your legislators. Let them know we expect better.
Chair, Personnel Issues Committee
There’s an easy way to find out who represents you in the state legislature. At the NC General Assembly website you can enter your county or ZIP code and get a list of your state legislators, along with each one’s picture, address, phone number, and e-mail address. With just a few clicks you can send messages to all of them (please don’t use State time or resources for this purpose; your home computer is best).
NC Health Choice is a program that provides free or low-cost health insurance for children of eligible low-income families. The NC Health Choice program includes the same coverage as the state health plan, but with little to no annual premiums or deductible, cheaper prescription co-pays, and dental and vision coverage.
To qualify, the family’s gross income cannot exceed the following levels:
Family Size Monthly Income*
6+ add $530 for each additional family member
*Children of families who earn more may qualify if they have daycare, work-related or child support expenses.
UNC’s Office of Human Resources is sponsoring several enrollment sessions for people who want to apply for coverage:
Thursday, May 27 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. AOB, 104 Airport Drive, Rm. 1402
Wednesday, June 2 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Student Union, Rm 3203
Thursday, June 3 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Grounds Building
For more information, you can contact your HR facilitator or call the NC Family Health Resource Line at 1-800-367-2229.
State employees with five or more years of state service become vested in the state retirement system. If you lose your job or take a job outside the state system, you can either cash out of the system or leave your money in the system. It is tempting to cash out, because you may well be able to make a better return on your investment elsewhere. However, what many don’t realize is that, once you have five years with the state, the state will cover the full cost of your individual coverage under the regular State Health Plan, as long as you leave your money in the system until you turn 65 (or 60 with over 25 years of state service). That health insurance could turn out to be very valuable in your old age, so you need to consider the retirement insurance before cashing out of the state retirement system.
For more information on the state retirement system, see their web site at http://www.treasurer.state.nc.us/dsthome/RetirementSystems
The 16th Annual University-wide Blood Drive is scheduled for June 9, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the Dean Smith Center. To schedule a time to donate, call 96-BLOOD (962-5663) or go to http://www.sph.unc.edu/blood
Besides donors, the drive needs volunteers to assist with registration, set-up, the canteen, escorting donors to and from the donation area, and parking. You can sign up online at the same web address, http://www.sph.unc.edu/blood
In response to the recommendation of the Chancellor’s Task Force for a Better Workplace, a new Ombudsperson Office has been created to provide all faculty and staff with a confidential, informal, and neutral dispute-resolution service. The office will be staffed by two Ombudspersons and an administrative staff person and will be located at 134 E. Franklin Street. Applications are currently being sought for the two positions. One is an EPA nonfaculty position and the other is a half-time faculty position to be filled by a tenured faculty member from this campus. Even though one position will be a faculty member, the office will not be divided in terms of responsibilities. Both Ombudspersons will be available to help faculty or staff, and both will be responsible for making recommendations to the Chancellor regarding improvements or structural changes that will improve the work environment for all university employees.
Qualified university employees are encouraged to apply for the EPA nonfaculty position. Also, please consider nominating others who would be good candidates. Although applications are being sought both from within and from outside the university, experience with and knowledge of the university is something the committee agrees would be desirable. Information about the positions can be found at http://hr.unc.edu/jobseekers/. The deadline for applications is May 28th. The search committee members are listed below. Please contact the chair or other members of the committee if you have any questions about the search.
Ombudsperson Search Committee
Frayda S. Bluestein, Chair
Applications for the position should be submitted by May 28th. To apply, send a
cover letter and resume to:
c/o Ms. Melissa Long
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is an equal opportunity employer.
Employees interested in receiving e-mails about affordable housing opportunities in and around Chapel Hill should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to be included on the Forum’s listserv.