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T i m e s

July 5 2009


  1. Wastewater Contract Mediation
  2. VEBA Vote
  3. Political Action - Furloughs
  4. Transit Members - Medical Benefit Spouse Access Fee
  5. Announcements
  6. Advertisements
  7. Meeting Calendar

1.  Wastewater Contract Mediation

The TEA bargaining team met with the County bargaining team and the PERC mediator on Monday, June 29,2009.  The mediation was cordial and very productive.  Following the session, the County submitted a contract proposal to TEA on Thursday morning (7/2) and the Wastewater bargaining team is reviewing it now.

2.   VEBA Vote

Three years ago, King County began offering a new Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) to help employees who are close to retirement fund a tax-exempt medical expense reimbursement account: VEBA, Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association.  A VEBA HRA allows employees to set aside funds for future qualified medical expenses.  The program is administered by an independent third party and King County has asked each union to administer a vote to determine which bargaining units want to participate in VEBA.  TEA bargaining units will vote this month.

Ballots will be distributed to the Council of Reps at their meeting on July 9; they will in turn distribute ballots to their work groups.  Ballots will also be available at the July 15 monthly meeting.  If you haven't received a ballot by July 16, contact Secretary Ken Madden.

TEA needs to count and report the results by the end of July.  The results of the vote are separate for each bargaining unit, (transit staff, wastewater staff and wastewater supervisors).  As the majority votes within a unit, the vote on the option applies to all members of the unit.  VEBA contributions are not reported as taxable income.  There are three separate votes to cast on the ballot, and not all options apply to all members.  The three options are:

  • 35% of sick leave cashout on retirement - instead of getting a check, the money would go to your individual HRA VEBA account.  Only members eligible to retire (at least 20 years of service and age 55 by 2012 OR 5 or more service years and age 65 by 2012);
  • 50% of your vacation cashout at retirement - same as above; only members eligible to retire by 2012 may vote;
  • $50 per month direct contribution.  All wastewater members may vote on this option, transit is precluded because of its arbitration status.  This option REDUCES your salary and thus could reduce your retirement check.  As an example, if you contribute the $50 per month in each of your last 5 years (PERS 2) and will retire with 30 years, you would have earned 30*2% = 60% of your average compensation.  That means that the $50 VEBA contribution reduces your monthly retirement check by $30, and this would be true until you stop receiving checks, an average of 15 years according to actuarial tables provided by Social Security.  Thus the tax shelter advantages of a 20% effective tax rate x 5 years x $600 per year is about $600, compared to a loss of retirement income of about $5400.  Not a good trade IMO (R. Browne).  On the plus side, it works like a flexible spending account that never expires.

You can learn more about the new VEBA medical reimbursement account from this King County web page.

The ballot will also include a check box asking members to certify that they meet the requirements for retirement described above.  If you do not check this box, only your vote for the $50 option will be counted.  If you do check the box and you are not eligible to retire, then your vote will be invalid.  More information on VEBA will be discussed at the July 15 TEA meeting.

3.  Political Action - Furloughs

The Washington State Legislature has taken action to reduce the impact of furlough days on retirement calculations.  This Washington State Legislature web page provides links to reports on a recently signed bill that credits PERS time even when you are on furlough, without having to use vacation time.  Currently it is good July 1 2009 - June 30 2011 and so you can elect to not use vacation for furlough days after July 1 of this year if you wish and just take it unpaid without reducing your retirement check.  Contact if you have questions.

4.  Transit Members - Retro Payment of Benefit Access Fee

When the Transit Retro checks were issued, the County withheld nearly $20,000 from thirty three (33) Transit TEA members claiming they owed $35/month retroactively to 1/1/05.  TEA filed a class grievance at the Step 2 level (with Transit Management) on behalf of these TEA members.

Transit management, represented by David Levin from OHRM, has denied the grievance.  The grievance committee has recommended that the TEA Board take the grievance to the next level: arbitration.  The TEA Board will consider filing for arbitration at their next meeting; the issue is withholding wages from TEA Transit members.

5.  Announcements

TEA member Michelle Martin is still battling with her medical issues.  Her mom reports that she needs another 3 weeks of sick leave coverage to close the gap before long term benefits can kick in.  Donations are encouraged.

6.  Advertisements

TEA members can post classified ads for free.
Send classified ads to TEA Secretary Ken Madden

7.  TEA Meeting Schedule

   July  1 - TEA Board Meeting, KSC 4G, 12-1
   July  8 - TEA Board Meeting, KSC 4G, 12-1
   July  9 - Council of Reps, KSC 8J, 12-1
   July 15 - TEA Monthly Member Meeting, 12-1, KSC, 603/604
   July 30 - TEA Grievance Committee Meeting

TEA Board

   Roger Browne, President
   Adé Franklin, Vice President
   Ken Madden, Secretary 
   Terry Browne, Treasurer
   Eric Davison, Wastewater Bargaining Chair
   Jerry Williams, Transit Bargaining Chair
   John Phillips, Council of Reps. Chair