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The Financial Chair's Thoughts: 26th February 2019

Pensions and 401k’s

I recently heard from another relatively new employee that he doesn’t have a pension. That’s actually not true. All hourly employees at Nipsco have pensions. Here’s the scoop:

Final Average Pay

Employees who started prior to June 1st, 2004 started with a Final Average Pay pension (FAP), known generally as the Traditional Pension, or something like that. The FAP is calculated based on job class and a multiplier from years of service applied to the employee’s best 5 consecutive years of pay. This best 5 years does NOT have to be in the last 10 years (although it probably is), that’s a steel mill thing. If you retire prior to age 60 with less than 85 points, your pension is reduced somewhat.

Account Balance

All union employees hired after June 1st 2004 have the Account Balance pension (AB), sometimes referred to as the Lump Sum or Cash Balance pension. Some senior employees also opted to switch to this plan at that time. This plan works by crediting you with a percentage of your base pay towards your pension every year. The percentage with which you are credited depends on years of service and your age. Job class has no bearing on this pension, only pay rate. The money you’ve been credited with gains simple interest once per year, at a minimum of 4%. Upon retirement you can take the big check (and pay the big taxes) or roll the money into a tax deferred retirement account of some sort.

401k

All employees also have 401k accounts through Fidelity. FAP employees have a lower company match than Account Balance employees, since the Account Balance plan depends on employee investment to even out. If you are on the Account balance plan, you are doing yourself a great disfavor if you’re not investing at least 6% in your 401k, since you’re effectively leaving free money lay on the proverbial table.

Mysource

You can see your pension plan description and balances on your pension and 401k by going through the mysource link on the company portal, or by going through www.mysourceforhr.com from any computer. The pension page will allow you to project what your pension will be for any retirement date in the future. The fidelity site will allow you to estimate total retirement income if you enter your assumptions and that pension projection. These are very useful tools.
In my experience the confusion often comes from Management, since a lot of them hired in recent years have no pensions, only 401k.

In Solidarity,
Jon Grimley

The Financial Chair's Thoughts: 22nd February 2017
Sick Leave and Overtime Charging 1st July 2016

Article XII, Section 10, on page 66 in your contract book, addresses how a Bargaining Unit member is to be charged for overtime while he is on sick leave. Here is what it says:

“When an employee is absent from work due to personal injury or illness, or is on a leave of absence due to personal injury or illness, he shall, upon his return to work, be charged only with the amount of overtime he would could have worked had he been available.”

In the 2014 contract negotiations, the words “upon his return to work” were struck or removed from the article. Also, the word “would” was changed to “could” in the last sentence, in order to clarify intent.

What does all this mean? Prior to 2014 the company was supposed to calculate how much overtime you could have worked while you were in sick leave, once you had returned to work. The accuracy of this method was suspect at best.

From 2014 forward, the company is supposed to charge you as they go. Anytime overtime is offered on an overtime list you are on, and if they go beyond you on that list, and you are on sick leave, you are to be charged just as if you had refused the overtime offering. The end result is more accuracy and a reduced likelihood of mistakes.

So why am I telling you all this? Because the company, being who they are, have not properly communicated contract changes such as this to their frontline supervisors, who are required to utilize these rule changes.

So, if you will, going forward, if you use your sick leave benefit, please train your supervision on the proper way to charge overtime to those on sick leave, before you go. It might save you some grief later on. Thanks,
Jim Green

Constractual Proceedure For Picking Vacation Schedules 17th February 2016

Every year during January, February and March, there arises confusion in some locations and classifications as to how vacations are chosen within their departments.

Some departments around the company have devised methods of choosing vacations that work just fine for them. But, in the event of a dispute about how this is supposed to work, the following are the contractual rules that must apply:

1: Vacation scheduling starts January 1st and continues through March 20th.

2: The senior Bargaining Unit employee has first choice. (I will use "she" in this description for simplicity). She may pick her entire vacation allotment, provided all weeks are being taken consecutively. If she is splitting her vacation into weekly increments or any combination of weeks, she may only choose as her first pick, that week or combination of weeks she want to lock in first. The employee has two working days to make their choice.

3: The next most senior employee then has two days to make her first pick as described in #2 above.

4: This process repeats itself until all employees have made their first vacation pick by seniority.

5: The process then moves back to the most senior employee with remaining vacation, to make her second pick.

6: This process continues rotating by seniority until all vacations have been picked.

I have been told that there have been instances where management has followed seniority, but had each employee pick all of their individual weeks or combinations of weeks at once, before moving to the next senior employee. This is improper and should be corrected immediately. If this is happening in your department, contact your Griever as soon as possible. If this happened in your department last vacation year, it's too late to do anything about it. Just don't let it happen this year. Be sure your supervisor know the rules and follows them!

For more detailed information about vacations and vacations rules, including single day vacations, read: Article VIII, Pages 41 through 47, in your contract book.

Jim Green
Financial Secretary

Union Representation and Company Interviews 25th January 2016

Article V, Section 2, Page 8 in your contract book states:

“When an employee is interviewed by a Supervisor or member of Management for any reason, the employee shall have the right to request and require the presence of that appointed or elected Union representative most readily available as a witness and advisor if he/she so desires. He/she may request this prior to or during the interview but may not insist upon a particular individual if another of equal rank in the Union organization is more conveniently and readily available.”

The company’s so called “Fact Finding” meetings have not always been a part of their disciplinary process. Fact findings as we know them came into existence quite a few years ago when the company adopted the “Mark” system of labor/Management. History aside, your rights when interviewed by a company representative has remained unchanged for many years. I think it is important here to expand this conversation beyond just formal fact findings and include any “Interview” you may be subjected to by management.

An Interview is defined as: A conversation between two people (the interviewer and the interviewee) where questions are asked by the interviewer to obtain information from the interviewee.

Now, I understand there are questions and answers exchanged between supervisors and employees everyday, but this article is not concerned with innocuous (not harmful or offensive) conversations. But if you feel that any conversation between you and a member of management is threatening, or what is said could be used against you or any co-worker, then you need to exercise your rights and ask for Union representation.


It is important you know and understand the following:

1.If you are told by management to attend a formal fact finding or investigation, you must attend.

2.Whether it is a formal fact finding investigation or a shop floor interview; you have the right to request and require Union representation. But, you must ask for a Union representative if none is provided up front. Management is not legally obligated to have a Union representative present if you do not ask for one.

3.You do not have to answer any questions without a Union representative present. You cannot be disciplined for not answering questions without a Union representative. You cannot legally be forced into answering questions and cannot legally be disciplined for refusal to answer questions in the absence of a Union representative. So Please, Do Not Do So!

4.You are legally protected in two ways:
a.Contract language, Article V, section 2, page 8 in the contract book. This is easily your strongest protection. Please Read It!
b.The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which is enforced by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Specifically, you are protected by the “Weingarten Rule”, which is a benchmark ruling make by the NLRB in 1975, which generally states: Denial of an employees request that their Union Representative be present at an investigatory interview which the employee reasonably believes might result in disciplinary action, constitutes an unfair labor practice.


If you are asked to participate in a company fact finding or any interview which you believe could result in discipline to you or a co-worker, here’s what you need to know:

1.Before anything else, ask for a Union representative. Answer no questions what-so-ever without one.

2.You are entitled to talk to your Union representative privately prior to the beginning of the interview. Please Do So!

3.Answer the company’s questions honestly, but with as few words as possible. Don’t volunteer elaboration on your answers! If you can answer with a simple yes or no, do so. Simple and to the point is always best.

Please – Don’t throw your rights away and don’t answer any questions without Union Representation. Your Union cannot effectively defend you or your co-workers otherwise.

UNITY! 24th November 2015

To all Bargaining Unit members:

This letter is intended to serve as a reminder to all of us of our responsibilities to each other as members of the United Steelworkers. We also have responsibilities to the Local Union and the International. But I want to focus on our responsibilities to each other. One of the objectives of the Union, as stated in article II, page 3 of the USW Constitution: “First, to Unite in this Union all working men and working women eligible for membership.” Unite is the key word in our collective relationship. It’s in our name, United Steelworkers, and should be descriptive of the way we inter-relate with each other. The opposite of Unite is divide, and believe me, when it comes to the Union there is nothing this company would like more, than to divide us.

So where am I going with this? I’m not suggesting we should abandon our individuality. Diversity makes us stronger. But when we allow our differences to divide us, we cease being a Union with unity of purpose. It is your Griever’s sworn duty to equally defend all Union members in Local 12775. It is also his sworn duty to equally enforce the Collective Bargaining Agreement as it is written and has been interpreted to the benefit of all Bargaining Unit members. In the course of performing these duties, you may not always agree with him, and he may not always be right. But as I’m sure he would tell you, and in this he is always right: When a Union member stretches the rules or cuts his own deal to his/her benefit, we all lose. When one Union member goes to management with a grievance against another Union member, we all lose. When one Union member goes to management and blames another Union member for his or her own shortcomings, we all lose. When management shows favoritism to one Union member or group of Union members over others, it is for one purpose, to divide. Don’t play into their hands, in the end we will all lose.

You may have friends in management. Sometimes they can be very good friendships, at work and away from work. But if that friendship requires you to confide things that may harm another Union member, it’s no friendship at all. If you use that friendship to gain preferential treatment, you harm yourself and divide your Union.

When the Officers and Grievers of this Union were sworn in, we made a solemn pledge, on our honor, before our peers. When you became a Union member you also made a Pledge on your honor. Maybe you don’t remember it, maybe you didn’t recite it in front of your peers, but you made it. It’s printed on page 85 of the USW Constitution. I’ll repeat parts of it here. In part, it says:
“Recognizing that the United Steelworkers is a strong labor organization dedicated to the advancement of my interests and the interests of all working men and women and that the strength of the Union depends on the commitment which it’s members make to it and to each other, I do sincerely promise, of my own free will, to abide by the laws of the Union, to bear true allegiance to, and keep inviolate the principles of the United Steelworkers, never to discriminate against a fellow worker…” “To defend on all occasions and to the extent of my ability, the members of our organization, and never reveal to any employer’s or their agents a members name without proper authorization…” “That I will look upon my fellow members of this Union as my Brothers and Sisters and will never knowingly wrong a member or see a member wronged if I can prevent it…”
“To this I pledge my honor…”

I am aware that it is difficult sometimes to live up to these principals when your co-worker will not. But if you think your Griever can, or will lock arms with you against another Union member, you are mistaken. Especially if management is involved. I personally intend no threats here. But I must note that the USW Constitution, articles XII and XIII contain a discipline and trial process for members who blatantly violate some of the principles we’ve spoken of here, including: “Publishing or circulating among the membership false reports or misrepresentations; Slandering or willfully wronging a member of the international Union.” The burden of proof is stringent and the process very painful. You don’t want to go there. Instead, let’s take responsibility for ourselves without pointing fingers at our fellow Union Brothers and Sisters. Do what’s right for the Union, not just what benefits one. When the company tries to divide us (and they do it all the time) don’t fall into their trap. If your co-worker is so thick they just don’t get it, find a way to work around them. But for your sake and the sake of the Union, leave the company out of it. If the company has an issue with a Union member or takes action against them, it’s your Griever’s job to intervene and represent them. Unless forced, it’s not in your interest to participate, openly or behind the scenes. If you are forced into an interview with the company or asked any questions that may harm another Union member, ask for Union representation, they must provide it.



In Solidarity,
James Green
Financial Secretary





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