Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fwd: TSEU Legislative Update: Lobby Day 2011, great job! Now what?

Subject: TSEU Legislative Update: Lobby Day 2011, great job! Now what?
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Join the TSEU urgent action network
It will not be over on April 6. The all-out struggle over the state budget and other issues will continue. One way to make a difference is to members all around the state who are ready to call/write/email legislators at a moment's notice. Ready to take part? Send an email to TSEU Legislative Director Derrick Osobase: Put "urgent action YES" in your subject line.


Legislative Update
April 12, 2011

In this Issue:
TSEU Lobby Day: Great Job! Now what?

State worker Furlough Bill Pending in Committee

Representative Callegari attacks longevity pay!

Alert: Be on the watch for a Survey by Texas Public Employees Association

Appropriations Committee
Chair: Rep. Jim Pitts

Vice Chair:
Rep. Sylvester Turner

Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock

Rep. Angie Chen Button.

Rep. Warren Chisum.

Rep. Myra Crownover.

Rep. Drew Darby.

Rep. Dawnna Dukes.

Rep. Craig Eiland.

Rep. Helen Giddings.

Rep. Lance Gooden

Rep. Scott Hochberg

Rep. Eric Johnson

Rep. Susan King

Rep. Dee Margo

Rep. Armando Martinez

Rep. Ruth Jones

Rep. Doug Miller

Rep. Geanie Morrison

Rep. John Otto

Rep. Diane Patrick

Rep. Debbie Riddle

Rep. Charles Schwertner

Rep. Mark Shelton

Rep. Raul Torres

Rep. Mike Villarreal

Rep. John Zerwas











Calendars Committee
Chair: Rep. Todd Hunter

Vice Chair:
Rep. Dennis Bonnen

Rep. Dan Branch

Rep. Garnet Coleman

Rep. Byron Cook

Rep. Charlie Geren

Rep. Jim Keffer

Rep. Tracy O. King

Rep. Lois W. Kolkhorst

Rep. Eddie Lucio III

Rep. Allan Ritter

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez

Rep. Burt R. Solomons

Rep. Vicki Truitt

Rep. John Zerwas



GREAT JOB! Now what?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 was the biggest Lobby Day in the history of TSEU. Working in coalition with Texas Forward, the Texas Organizing Project, and various CWA locals across the state as well as several other unions, the press reported nearly 5,000 people came to the capitol to demand better for the people of Texas.

TSEU members met with over 151 state legislators to discuss concerns over the state budget, increased costs for to health care and pensions, and attacks on State Supported Living Centers, the Texas Youth Commission, and state services.

Our fight for a better Texas is gaining momentum, but the fight is far from over. The Texas Senate is expecting to vote the budget out of the Finance committee this week, with minimal improvements over the house version. The budget will be brutal for the people of Texas, even if the entire Rainy Day Fund was used. We have the opportunity to build the real infrastructure to change budget outcomes for years to come, but only if we seize this moment now.

We need to keep the heat high on the legislature right now, and you can make this happen.

  • Organize! It is imperative that the politicians understand that this movement is fueled by a constantly growing organization of people who have demonstrated their commitment to fight back no matter how long it takes. Your friends, colleagues, and office mates need to join you in the fight by joining their union.
  • .Mobilize! The "Stop the Cuts" post cards should be going to every member of the legislature by the thousands, daily. Everyone you know should send in a card and get the people they know to send it in too.
  • .Get your local governments to oppose the budget. When the state fails to fund programs, often cities and counties are left with the bill. Go to your local county courts and city councils and ask them to pass resolutions against the drastic budget cuts. Contact Mimi Garcia at TSEU at for more information.



TSEU opposes the furlough bill in appropriations committee, while another employee group takes no position and thanks the author for provisions with bill
State worker furlough bill pending in committee

On April 7th, the House Appropriations Committee heard HB 2720 by Chairman Pitts which gives authority to state agency and university executives to institute a furlough program. Although the bill only gives state agencies the authority and doesn't mandate furloughs, the implications of such a program would inevitably have long term negative effects on the state workforce.

When agency or university workers are furloughed, the work they complete does not go away. Workers are expected to complete the same level of work with less time and fewer resources. The increased pressure to complete the same job functions in less time with decreased salary will create significant increases in employee turnover and decreases in worker productivity.

Furloughs of employees in revenue-generating agencies will cost Texas money in lost revenue. In California, where a three-day per month furlough was implemented, tax revenue losses from reduced tax collection were $363 million.

Disruptions of state services have a larger impact on the broader economy in Texas. Loss of productivity will include delays in business licensing, longer waiting periods for social and protective services, and hazardous food safety from decreased inspections. In Hawaii, where state worker furloughs have been in effect since July 2010, restaurant health inspections have been reduced dramatically as a result of the furloughs.

The Texas Public Employees Association took "no position" on the bill. In their representative's testimony, he thanked the author of the bill for not making the furlough program mandatory for putting provisions within that protect retirement and health care benefits. He went on to say, that some state agencies would have to exclude some workers because the nature of their jobs and the savings from such a program would be minimal.

TSEU's Legislative Director, Derrick Osobase testified against the bill. Here is a full testimony:

We respectfully oppose HB 2720, which gives agencies the ability to institute a furlough program. Firstly furloughs are counter- productive to state agencies core functions, which is to serve the public. Furloughs have been shown to hurt productivity of workers, by forcing agencies and employees to complete the same tasks with less time and fewer resources.
The consequences of the implementation of such a program will result in thousands of state employees leaving the state workforce because workloads would be unbearable and the drastic pay cut (12%) in salary to state employees, that would be impossible to absorb. For an employee making the median salary of about $36,000 a year, if this plan was implemented, employees could be looking at $360 reduction in pay per month.
We should remember what happened in 2003 when the legislature passed HB 2292 in efforts to save the state money. We directed HHCS to privatize eligibility services. Four thousand state employees were given their pink slip, and were told that they were no longer needed. Thousands of state employees left the state for other jobs or retired. Months later the privatization scheme failed miserably, over 100,000 kids were kicked off CHIP (the state's health care program for children) and other Texans experienced long delays in getting services. Without state employees there to provide these critical services, we could possibly repeat what happened during that time.
By ERS's own information we have about 18,000 state employees currently eligible for retirement. This bill will have them running to the doors.
Furloughs will also make it extremely difficult for state agencies that are already having trouble attracting and retaining qualified state employees (in our SSLC's 31%, TYC 23%, and CPS caseworker 25%). And this is occurring while the state is experiencing one of the worst recessions in history.
We understand the pressures on this committee to come up with savings. But furloughing state employees will only hurt the delivery of services and will equate to additional cut to services
Any short term saving will surely be outweighed by the delays in services most Texans will surely experience and by rehiring cost brought on by the massive exodus by state employees.

House bill 2720 remains pending committee. TSEU will be working with friends on the committee to stop the bill.

What can you do:
We must step up our efforts to delay this bill in committee. With the other state employee group deciding to sit on the sidelines and praising provision within a bill that is designed to place more work on employees, for less pay, it is up to TSEU members and state employees who think this is bad policy to stand up.

Call members of the Appropriations Committee TODAY (see list in left column)
Tell/Ask them:

State employees are against any furlough program. HB2720 will hurt our ability to provide quality and timely state services to Texas families. Turnover in many of our state agencies is dangerously high; furloughing state employees will make it even harder to attract and retain qualified employees. HB 2720 will equate to just another cut in services.

Will you oppose HB 2720?



Rep Callegari attacks longevity pay!

House Bill 3168 by Callegari will eliminate longevity pay as compensation for all state employees and replace it with merit pay. TSEU opposed this bill in committee, but unfortunately most of the members on the committee have expressed support for this bill. We anticipate this bill will be voted out of committee this week. TSEU will work with members of the calendars committee to delay this bill and stop it from coming to the floor of the house.

What can you do:
We need to get calls in to members on the calendars committee.

Call members of the Calendars Committee TODAY (see list in left column)
Tell/Ask them:

I oppose eliminating longevity pay for current and future state employees.

  • Longevity is an incentive that keeps good employees on the job.
  • Even in a recession, state agencies are experiencing high turnover. Eliminating longevity pay will only exacerbate this problem.
  • Longevity pay ultimately save sthe state money by rewarding state employees who dedicate their careers to public service and reducing rehiring costs for state agencies.

Will Representative _____ oppose eliminating longevity pay for state employees and commit to keeping this bill off the floor?

What is Longevity Pay?

Full-time employees are eligible to receive longevity pay after two years of accrued state service credit. Eligible employees are paid $20 per month for every two years of lifetime service credit and will receive longevity pay increases after each additional two years of service, up to and including 42 years of service.

. Less than 2 years - $0
. Greater than 2 and less than 4 years - $20
. Greater than 4 and less than 6 years - $40
. Greater than 6 and less than 8 years - $60
. Greater than 8 and less than 10 years - $80
. Greater than 10 and less than 12 years - $100
. Greater than 12 and less than 14 years - $120
. Greater than 14 and less than 16 years - $140
. Greater than 16 and less than 18 years - $160
. Greater than 18 and less than 20 years - $180
. Greater than 20 and less than 22 years - $200
. Greater than 22 and less than 24 years - $220
. Greater than 24 and less than 26 years - $240
. Greater than 26 and less than 28 years - $260
. Greater than 28 and less than 30 years - $280
. Greater than 30 and less than 32 years - $300
. Greater than 32 and less than 34 years - $320
. Greater than 34 and less than 36 years - $340
. Greater than 36 and less than 38 years - $360
. Greater than 38 and less than 40 years - $380
. Greater than 40 and less than 42 years - $400
. Greater than 42 years - $420

Longevity pay helps the state retain skilled and qualified state employees. The majority of state agency employees make under $50,000 a year. State employees haven't had a pay raise in almost five years; longevity is the only increase in salary that state employees can count on. Overall salaries of state employees have eroded and due to cost increases in health care and the pension contribution, we've seen our take home pay further reduced.



Alert: Be on the watch for a Survey by Texas Public Employees Association

We've got it from reliable sources that TPEA may be sending out an employee survey regarding health care cost. We urge our members and other state employees not to participate in this survey. Last session TPEA sent out a survey to state employees regarding our pension plan. They used the results from that survey in public legislative hearings to endorse HB 2559 that resulted in the reduction of pension benefits for current and future state employees. Some of the provisions within the bill made it harder to return to work after employees retired, raised the active employees' contribution to the pension fund, and weaken the rule of 80.

State employees and retirees have seen the purchasing power of their pay checks and annuities eroded over the last decade, without equitable pay raises or adjustments in annuities. We have also seen our health care costs skyrocket making harder for state employees, retirees, and our families to absorb the costs.

State employees didn't cause this budget crisis and we should not have to be the ones to bear the burdened either. When things were good and the state's budget ran surpluses neither employees nor retirees got cost of living raises or supplemental funding to offset health care costs.

Surveys that suggest state employees have to pick between bad and worse choices are unacceptable. All state employees and groups that represent them should resist all efforts by lawmakers to force us to choose which cuts are acceptable. Because the real truth is that state employees have taken hits to our pensions, health care, and pay. We should all be stand together to hold the line on what we still have and not be willing to bargain away our benefits to have a seat at the table. Say no to more cuts to our health care.

Join the TSEU urgent action network

The fight did not end April 6th! The all-out struggle over the state budget and other issues will continue. One way to make a difference is to members all around the state who are ready to call/write/email legislators at a moment's notice.

Ready to take part? Send an email to TSEU Legislative Director Derrick Osobase, Put "urgent action YES" in your subject line.

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