NEA Executive Report
2017 Pre-Negotiations Meeting
January 13-16, 2017
However you might feel about the recent election, it was awe-inspiring to be in the nation’s capital this close to inauguration. You could almost feel the weight of history as one president prepared to leave and another steps up to replace him. You knew important events were about to happen. And then they did, in our Pre-Negotiation Meeting! (I resisted the urge to make a joke about the Dallas Cowboys losing while we were there.)
First and foremost, we were there to review the negotiation items submitted by our members. Our President briefed us on some of the remaining issues outstanding since the last negotiation session. We were in discussion to get some of these addressed right up until the moment DAFO/DAFP left office and beyond. With regard to new submissions, the NEA prepared four of them, so thanks to all who worked on those! The negotiation consultants researched and reviewed roughly thirty submissions. Despite the leadership changes, we are still anticipating that the negotiation session with management will continue as planned, sometime in April. We’ll keep everyone up to date as we move forward.
In addition to the negotiation items, we took the opportunity to conduct some other NASCOE business while we were all together. These included:
- Hunter provided a legislative briefing. At the time we didn’t know who the new Secretary of Agriculture was, although we have since learned that Sonny Perdue has been nominated.
- Dillards also provided a briefing, reminding us that they are available to provide retirement training (and donations) to our Rally’s and State Conventions.
- We had some farewell messages from Val Dolcini and Greg Diephouse. We’ve developed good relationships with them over the last few years and I genuinely wish them well.
- We heard about many of the exciting ideas that our National Committee chairs are working on. You should be able to read about those in their individual reports.
- We met with representative of Salesforce, who developed the Bridges software, to have a demonstration of how flexible the software can be and get an idea of its future potential.
- Most importantly, we discussed the issues and concerns that we all in the field share. There are no magic answers, but every time I see how committed the folks in this association are to the betterment of our employees and producers, I can’t help but feel optimistic.
Conference Call & Issues
Recall that an area conference call with the states was held on January 4th. The following were issues of note:
- WebTA 4.2. The new software is cumbersome and feels like a step back. I’ve heard complaints that it is difficult to follow the lines across and the activities are not in any order. The requirement to have premium time approved by the DD prior to validating is causing some delays. Employees have had issues getting paid, with some receiving LWOP instead of regular time. Reportedly the WebTA software will allow a user to validate with over 30 lines but NFC will reject it, also causing payment issues. One state (PA) has initiated “district timekeepers” and is requiring all timekeepers to delegate to them. There are some privacy concerns here, as this allows a non-supervisory employee to have the ability to see sick time, awards, etc. for all employees in a district.
- IT performance issues continue to be a sore spot. One office (again in PA, those troublemakers) has a routine start-up time of 30minutes to 1 hour at the welcome screen. Remedy tickets have been submitted with no solution.
- Key PTs are still being implemented. PA recently hired three (FSFL, NAP, CREP). MD noted that they have one DD and two Key PTs. One of the Key PT’s is a “District Key PT” who spends 30% of their time assisting the district manager.
- Uncertainty in future. The area membership has the typical questions of who will be the Sec of Ag, SED, etc. and when. How will funding affect us? Hiring Freeze?
2017 NEA Rally- West Wareham, Massachusetts
The MASCOE folks are hard at work putting the finishing touches on the NEA Rally which is scheduled for May 4-6 in the Cape Cod region. Plans right now include a taste of Massachusetts (known for seafood, baked beans, etc.), tours of a local shellfish producer and a cranberry bog, buffet, and scholarship auction. The preliminary agenda has been forwarded up for review for possible admin time. Details, including registration and hotel information, are expected to be available by the end of the month.
Membership- RI & NJ
Increasing membership continues to be a big priority. Of particular concern is re-establishing Rhode Island and New Jersey associations. Short of that, we want to ensure that any employees interested in NASCOE know their options for joining a neighbor association. We have begun preparing a membership drive mailing for those states which may be augmented with some visits to or from the Rally. However, our NEA Membership chair (and NY President) was recently promoted to the STO, so we’re transitioning at the moment. Our new chair, Tina Williams from VT, will do a great job! Additionally, PA is preparing the paperwork to request a jump team as their membership has dipped down to the mid-50% range.
Other Items of Note:
Communication is another priority. Polling of states indicates that membership is currently pleased with the level of communication. Routine emails are going out. The quarterly NEA Newsletter was sent in November and received positive responses. Membership seemed to respond well to the shorter, concise format. We will begin preparing for the next newsletter, tentatively scheduled for February/March.