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August Update – from the Chair of the Government Affairs Committee – Doug Unger (UNLV)

04 Aug 2023 12:57 PM | Doug Unger (Administrator)

Happy August! These are the bittersweet days, when we’re doing our best to squeeze the remaining rest and recuperation from the closing chapters of our summer breaks. I hope we’ve all looked at the first pay slip of the new academic year and are happy with the results that the NFA with our labor coalition partners advocated and lobbied for months to the 82nd Legislature, and then to our Presidents, NSHE, and the Board of Regents to achieve. We succeeded!

Thanks to our members who wrote, phoned, and gave Public Comment. Thanks especially to Past President Kent Ervin, President Jim New, and the NFA State Board for strategies, and to Vice President Shantal Marshal for keeping the June 30th testimonies organized to tell our stories so eloquently in advocacy for the full 12% COLA pay increase to the Board of Regents. Thank you to all who supported this historic pay raise.

We should remember, too, that even with the 12% COLA and the retention bonuses (for those who earn less than $120k per year), our pay increases are not yet complete. Included in the AB 522 “pay bill” are also “continuity of service” payments. They are mandated to begin with the 8th year of continuous service to our colleges and universities (or to the NSHE system). There’s a complex ascending scale for this “longevity pay” which should be disbursed two times per year, but should begin with $200 per year starting in the 8th year of service and increase to more than $2,000 in the 30th year. The NFA will follow up with NSHE and our institutional administrations about these biannual “continuity of service” payments. We will keep you informed about how and when they will be disbursed.

More importantly, as laid out in the AB 522 “pay bill”, there’s a mandate for a COLA raise “not to exceed” 11% for next fiscal year ’25 for NSHE faculty and professionals (added to and thus compounding the 12% this year). We will need to begin lobbying and advocacy for this raise with our institutional Presidents, NSHE, and the Board of Regents. Outgoing Acting Chancellor Erquiaga exhorted the Regents at their June 30th meeting that this discussion needs to begin “now.” The NFA’s stance is that faculty and professional employees should be paid salary increases equal to those for all other state employees: 4% + 7% = 11% (as laid out in AB 522). To be most effective and get the happiest results, we will need to do more this academic year to get organized. Please let everyone know that our NFA leaders and members will continue to raise our voices to help make these historic pay raises happen. We should do all we can to recruit more colleagues to join the NFA so as to add to our power.

There’s good news also for our PEBP benefits. The NFA along with the representatives of AFSCME, the RPEN (retirees group) and others pushed for improvements: the $500 increase in our dental benefit (to $2,000 per member); the increases in our HSA/HRA accounts for the self-funded plan and at least slightly better adjustments for the PPO and HMO. Out-of-pocket maximums are significantly lowered (by $1,000 for individuals), and our PEBP basic life insurance benefit is restored to $25,000 per active employee and $12,500 for retirees. We still need to work on cutting the deductible for the HMO (like more standard HMO plans). And we’re still working to restore Long Term Disability insurance (which is only available now as a voluntary policy with additional costs). Still, we’re getting close to seeing PEBP health insurance and benefits at pre-pandemic levels or even better. Your NFA is always working to improve them.

This month, August 13-15, delegates from our Collective Bargaining units at CSN and TMCC plus members of the state Board and I will attend the state convention meeting of the AFL-CIO in Reno. We’re looking forward to coordinating with various state coalitions who support the concerns of Higher Education labor and to building relationships that have proven invaluable to our impact and effectiveness (with AFSCME, the Teamsters, the Culinary Union, and others). We have a lot of work to do, and the NFA Government Affairs Committee is already planning future actions: advocacy for the full 11% COLA increase; tweaks to improvements in benefits and to customer service for PEBP members for fiscal year ‘25; more transparent leadership at NSHE (and please know that, though we haven’t endorsed any potential candidate for Acting Chancellor, we’re watching that leadership transition closely). Plus (of course!) we’ll be working with stakeholders in Higher Education and with our sisters and brothers in the labor coalition to organize and plan for the 2024 elections, which will be crucial for our collective futures.  

Thanks again to all who helped to raise our voices to effect meaningful change. The NFA really does and can make a difference. Thanks for being there, in solidarity. Enjoy these last few weeks of summer. Listen to the cicadas singing! Happy August!

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