President’s Message

You Did This. 

Chris White ACE President

How do you sum up a year like 2020? A global pandemic. Sheltering in place (SIP) for eight months and counting. Corresponding economic uncertainty. Raging wildfires displacing colleagues for weeks, and a few permanently losing their home.  Never-ending District budget challenges.  It’s easy to focus on the challenges, and we’ll still need to address some of these issues, but they can wait until January.  I hope you take a moment to see some of the good you did this year.

Here is what I saw:

  • You helped 32,000 students this fall become an FHDA student. (unduplicated headcount)  That is twice as many as West-Valley Mission or San Jose-Evergreen.  For spring, it was 28,000 students.  Summer, 20,000.
  • You adapted procedures and services designed for a predominantly in-person experience to online, quickly and seamlessly.
  • You made sure every eligible student had online access to financial, academic, and student support services. 
  • You distributed basic needs (financial assistance, computers, wi-fi, food, and housing resources) to students so they could continue their education. 
  • You helped international students navigate the rapidly changing requirements for admission so they could continue to be an FHDA student. 
  • You raised your voice in participatory governance meetings and put the issues of equity and anti-racism in our District front and center. 
  • You helped instructors switch their course(s) from in-person to online in a matter of weeks.
  • You mailed textbooks, distributed library reserves, and manned chat rooms so students had access to the instructional material they needed. 
  • You made certain staff had the computer equipment and supplies they needed to work remotely.
  • You donated leave and financial support to colleagues affected by the summer wildfires.
  • You worked while navigating the pandemic in your own personal life. You helped your children with remote schooling; you carved out a workspace where there was none; you McGyvered a fickle internet; you persevered through isolation; you cared for others.  
  • You did what you always do and showed up to support students.

I would be remiss to not acknowledge the District and their support this year in making certain employees had the time, flexibility, and resources to do their jobs.

Some of the ways ACE helped this year:

  • Made certain no permanent employee lost employment, hours, or wages as a result of the pandemic and ensuing SIP;
  • Forgave dues from April through December to help members affected by the SIP;
  • Kept your health care contribution rates for 2021 the same as the last four years;
  • Negotiated options for members to make up professional growth award (PGA) hours from old awards so they will fit CalPERS rules for pensionable income; and
  • Represented workers in matters of discipline, secured retroactive pay for employees not properly compensated for overtime and working out of class, and addressed issues around accommodations, benefits, and leave.

Thank you for your support this past year. Thank you for your continued belief in the concept that we are stronger together. Thank you to my colleagues on the ACE Executive Board, our stewards, and negotiators for continuing to do the work which benefits the greater good of the membership.  Thank you to the staff on both campuses and central services who quietly help me behind the scenes and make my job easier. Thank you to our attorney and labor representative who stand with us every time we ask. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, ACE only works with the active participation and support from our members.  This year, you have all showed up.  Thank you.

Wishing you a season of joy and looking forward to continued solidarity in 2021.
Gratefully,

Chris White, ACE President
(650) 949-7789, office

“The fight is never about lettuce or grapes.  It is always about people”. – César Chávez


Welcome New Members

Please take a moment to welcome our newest members.  Invite them to a site meeting, answer their questions or point them to their steward if they need additional guidance.  Our association only works with active participation from all our members.

De Anza
Monica Cardenas-Guzman, admin. asst., Outreach


Thank You

This month we say good-bye to a couple of board members.  There are no words to express the gratitude we have for these women who served on all of our behalfs.

Denise Perez, Foothill vice president

A board member since ACE was incorporated in 2009, Denise Perez, our vice president at Foothill decided not to seek reelection and her term ends December 31, 2020. If you’re on the Foothill campus and checked your email, even once, you’d know Denise is the one continually seeking ACE representatives for hiring committees. She has also represented ACE on multiple iterations of participatory governance committees, most recently the Resource and Revenue committee. If you’ve ever submitted a professional growth award (PGA), you’ve met Denise. As a member of the committee for more years than she wants to count, Denise has been helping all of us make sure our extra activities count towards PGA.  Fortunately for us, she’ll be continuing her service and remaining on the PGA committee. Thank you, Denise, for your commitment and hard work to improve the working conditions of your colleagues at FHDA.

Sushini Chand, board member seat 2, De Anza

Sushini Chand was appointed to the board in May of 2019 representing the board member, seat 2 at De Anza. In addition to serving on the ACE board, she represented ACE on the Administrative Planning and Budget Team.  During her short tenure, Sushini has represented ACE with aplomb during challenging budget times and made certain our voice was at the table. Her commitment and enthusiastic support for ACE are greatly appreciated and I am certain she will remain a key contributing member of this organization for years to come.


Voluntary Employee Benefit Association (VEBA):  Post-1997 Medical Benefits Fund

By Christine Mangiameli ACE Foothill Board Member, VEBA Board Trustee

What is the VEBA?
You may have heard a colleague refer to themself as pre-1997 or post-1997 when referring to medical benefits but what does that mean? In short, it refers to an employee’s eligibility to receive medical benefits from the District after retirement. Employees hired prior to July 1, 1997, receive lifetime medical benefits; employees hired after July 1, 1997, do not.

The disparity between employee retirement benefits reached a tipping point for post-1997 employees in 2010 with rising health care costs and the District’s steadfast refusal to address the disparity in benefits. In response, the collective bargaining units – ACE, CSEA, FA, POA, Teamsters, and later Administrators – began the process of establishing a fund called the Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association (VEBA) which establishes a trust to help offset medical benefits costs for post-1997 retirees. 

How is the VEBA funded?
In 2010, ACE and FA agreed to set aside $250,000 each as part of salary negotiation with the District to help fund the VEBA. The District matched those contributions, setting up the VEBA with an initial $1 million in funding. Ongoing funding is provided by all district employees in the form of $2 (employee), $4 (employee +1), or $6 (employee +family) and is included in your monthly health care contribution rate. In 2016, the bargaining units negotiated an additional $800,000 in one-time funding to the VEBA trust.

Who manages the VEBA?
The VEBA Board of Trustees is comprised of representatives from all the bargaining groups. For ACE, the trustee is appointed by the ACE president, who also serves as an alternate trustee.  The VEBA plan is administered by an outside agency, United Administrative Services. The VEBA Board of Trustees meets several times a year to monitor the fund. Visit the VEBA website (https://vebatrust.net/) to view how the trust works.

Who is eligible for the VEBA?
Eligibility is based on three factors for anyone hired on or after July 1, 1997:

  1. You worked at least half-time as a regular employee and were eligible to enroll in the District’s active health coverage for 15 years or more prior to your retirement; and,
  2. You separated from employment as a regular employee in any position for which you were eligible to enroll in District active health coverage, regardless of whether or not you have retired (service or disability) from PERS or STRS; and,
  3. You are Medicare-eligible and have enrolled in and begun receiving Medicare coverage, and have paid a premium for Medicare coverage.

As employees become eligible, the VEBA Trust administrators send a letter and application to the employee to file for the benefit. 

What is happening today with the VEBA?
After establishing the trust and six years of building revenue, the first benefit to eligible retirees was disbursed in 2016. The benefit is meant to help offset the cost of a retiree’s Medicare Part B premium.  The current VEBA benefit is $100 per month. That’s a $1,200 retiree benefit from employee contributions of $24, $48, or $72 a year. It’s a great start but it still falls short. When Medicare debuted in 1966, the standard Part B premium was $3 per month. For 2021, the standard Part B premium is $148 per month. Although there have been some stretches of time when the premium declined from one year to the next or remained steady – 2013 through 2015, for example, when it was $104.90/month each year – it has generally increased every year. It is also important to note that Medicare alone won’t cover all your medical needs. You are still going to need to pay for a supplemental plan to be fully insured when you are Medicare eligible. 

Moving forward there are a few questions we will need to ask ourselves if we want to keep the VEBA viable for many years to come.

  1. Does it make sense to continue the employee contribution rate to the VEBA based on health benefit contribution rates ($2 – employee, $4 – employee plus one or $6 – family) if only the employee is eligible for the VEBA benefit?; 
  2. Are we funding the VEBA trust at a rate that is sustainable? The current annual revenue is $78,000. In 2020, we will have 38 beneficiaries, and along with administrative fees, the trust will use $46,000 or roughly half of the projected revenue. For ACE alone, over 90 percent of our members have been hired after July 1, 1997, meaning the potential costs/benefit payout to the trust will only go up as more employees become eligible but its annual revenue doesn’t change.; and
  3. As the Medicare Part B premium continues to increase, does it make sense to cap the VEBA benefit at $100 per month or should it be reassessed at regular intervals to account for those increases?

While it is true, to date, we have been able to negotiate $1.8 million in one-time funding for future expenditures. As expenses continue to rise and revenue remains stagnant, what happens when this runs out? There are no guarantees additional funds will be available to negotiate. The state continues to reduce its financial contribution to public education while at the same time mandating more accountability. Combined with the colleges’ enrollment challenges and use of one-time funding to off-set those declines, their ability to save one-time funds becomes increasingly difficult. Over time, the district could increase staff, who would add to the monthly contributions, increasing revenue. Based on a decade of budget reductions, and shifting trust by the public around the necessity of a college degree, waiting for an increase in revenue would be akin to waiting on Superman.

Labor unions have always been at the forefront of fighting for more secure employment, and retirement, for workers.  It’s how Social Security and Medicare were started. It’s how pensions came into existence as well as employer-supported health care. And they all require one thing. Ongoing, sustainable contributions and support from workers. Even if you weren’t going to stay with FHDA for a long period of time, programs like these set the standard which non-union companies eventually follow. Think of the minimum wage, overtime rules, paid time off, workers’ safety standards, and for retirement, defined contribution accounts like a 401K or IRA. Not as good as a pension but it gave non-union organizations retirement incentives when competing for workers. If we were to increase the VEBA contribution to a flat $6 per month per employee, the annual income potential would increase to $126,000; for $10 per month per employee, the annual income potential would be a little more than $200,000. The increase to the VEBA trust could begin to match Medicare Part B premium increases and help retirees have more secure health care options in retirement.


ACE Officers 2021

With the exception of the ACE President, it is important to remember that all of these officers, stewards, and negotiators serve in addition to their permanent Foothill-De Anza job.  Officers are elected to two-year terms, negotiators are elected to three-year terms with the chair decided by secret ballot among the negotiators. The chair of negotiations serves as an officer on the ACE Executive Board. Additional stewards and vacancies are appointed by the executive board.

Term Ends
ACE
President Chris White Dec. 31, 2021
Chair of Negotiations Cathleen Monsell Oct. 31, 2021
Treasurer Kathy Nguyen Dec. 31, 2022
Recorder Shawna Santiago Dec. 31, 2022
Central Services
Chief Steward Anthony Caceres Dec. 31, 2022
Vice President Scott Olsen Dec. 31, 2021
Board Member Bill Baldwin Dec. 31, 2022
De Anza
Chief Steward Erika Flores Dec. 31, 2022
Vice President Vins Chacko Dec. 31, 2021
Board Member, Seat 1 Keri Kirkpatrick Dec. 31, 2021
Board Member, Seat 2 Angelica Esquivel Moreno Dec. 31, 2022
Foothill
Chief Steward Andre Meggerson Dec. 31, 2021
Vice President Phuong Tran Dec. 31, 2022
Board Member Christine Mangiameli Dec. 31, 2021
Additional Stewards
Foothill Catalina Rodriguez none
Negotiators
Central Services Terry Rowe Oct. 31, 2021
De Anza Cathleen Monsell Oct. 31, 2021
Foothill Chris Chavez Oct. 31, 2021
At-large Dana Kennedy Oct. 31, 2021
At-large Joseph Gilmore Oct. 31, 2021
At-large Andrea Santa Cruz Oct. 31, 2021


PGA Changes: Replacement Hours for Old Awards, Updated Guidelines for New Awards

Last night, the board of trustees approved changes to our Professional Growth Award (PGA) program in order to do two things:

  1. Help those with old PGA awards have more hours count towards pensionable income after CalPERS adjusted what they would accept; and
  2. Update the PGA application and guidelines to move many items currently allocated under section five to section one.

Background:
In June of 2019, with a large retiree exodus and a new account administrator at CalPERS, some of the activities allowed under PGA were called into question regarding their eligibility as pensionable income.  In fact, CalPERS made the determination that only hours earned in section one (college, adult education or trade school courses) met the definition for special compensation as defined by the California Code of Regulations, section 571:

Under topic #2, Educational Pay, where PGA is categorized:

“Educational Incentive is defined as compensation to employees for completing educational courses, certificates, and degrees which enhance their ability to do their job. A program or system must be in place to evaluate and approve acceptable courses. The cost of education that is required for the employee’s current job classification is not included in this item of special compensation”.

Your awards are still worth $90 each but for pensionable reporting purposes, CalPERS will prorate the percentage of an award to those hours attributed to section one.

To have more hours count as pensionable, we have agreed to the following changes to the PGA application and guidelines:

  1. Section one will be retitled as Certificate, Course, or Degree
    1. Section 1a will cover accredited courses and continuing education units (CEU).  We have removed the minimum hours required to use this section. 
    2. Section 1b is new and will cover many job-related certificated skills training previously listed under section five.
    3. There is no maximum for either of these activities and you are allowed to carry these hours forward to future awards.
  2. Section five will be retitled as Job-Related Conference, Seminar, or Lecture. Participation in job-related special activities, such as seminars, conferences, conventions, institutes, and lectures offered by colleges, adult schools, professional associations, and community organizations. 

For previously earned awards only:

We had already negotiated additional funding  ($20,000 per year for two years) for affected employees to take courses at no cost to them to replace hours on already earned PGAs which are not pensionable.  In addition, to help have more hours count we negotiated the following:

  1. Suspended the limit of 200 hours while on Staff Development Leave.  You may submit hours for courses taken during past staff development leaves that were not counted due to the 200 hours limit. Official transcripts are required.
  2. Allow courses omitted from any previous PGA application.  Submit hours for any course not submitted in previous professional growth award applications. Reminder, you must have been a district employee at the time the course was taken. Official transcripts are required.
  3. Allow courses not counted due to receiving educational reimbursement from the District.  You may submit hours for classes taken that were not counted due to receiving educational reimbursement from the district. Official transcripts are required.
  4. Job-Related certificated training.  You may submit hours for previously completed job-related activities/training where certification was provided. This refers to items previously reported in section five “Job Related Special Activities” in prior awards. Please provide copies of previous PGA applications with section five applicable items highlighted. The committee will review all items to make sure they are job-related/job skill-building sessions. 
  5. New Job-Related Certificated training.  You may submit hours for new job-related activities/training where certification was provided. The committee will review all items to make sure they are job-related/job skill-building sessions. Certificates/transcripts are required.
  6. Apply any carryover hours from section one.  If you have carryover hours in section one, you may apply them to any previous award where replacement hours are needed.

For these previously earned awards, the review and application process is effective immediately and will continue through June 30, 2022. Current employees must submit the completed application, hours audit, and applicable documentation by the deadline in order to request a review of hours for the PGA substitution process. Applications submitted after June 30, 2022, will be deemed late and will not be processed.

To review your previous award(s) information:

  1. Please send an email to whitechris@fhda.edu.  Be sure to include your CWID.
  2. This request is for a copy of your completed application(s) and the tally sheet(s) used by the PGA committee. No backup material will be provided.  This should help you determine how many hours you have under section one and applicable hours under section five to estimate how many of your completed PGA’s are eligible as pensionable income per CalPERS. 200 hours of credit equals one award. For example, if you’ve completed eight awards but only have 1,000 hours in section one, CalPERS will credit five awards as pensionable (5 x 200 = 1,000 hours).
  3. Turn around time to receive the request for information is approximately three weeks.  To not overburden an already short-staffed human resources department.  Your patience is appreciated.

For new PGA awards:
The application and guidelines have been updated to reflect the following changes:

  1. Job-Related certificated training. These hours will now be listed under section 1b.
  2. All rules under PGA guidelines apply to new awards. The suspension of rules for previously earned PGAs does not apply to new awards. 

Reminder:

  1. PGA is publicly funded.  As public pensions and CalPERS continue to be scrutinized by the public it is imperative that the activities we submit as special compensation follow the rules set by CalPERS.  The burden of verifying the eligibility is on the District before the income will be reported as pensionable. We do not want to provide cause for a CalPERS audit by reporting income as pensionable which does not meet their definition for educational pay.
  2. The authority to accept or deny an activity, along with which section of the PGA application it is attributed, is at the discretion of the PGA Review Panel. These are your colleagues who are donating their time to administer this program and who have consistently demonstrated they will do all they can to have hours count towards an award.  You may not always like their answer. Be kind.
  3. PGA Review Panel:  Kris Lestini, Mary Medrano, Kit Perales, Denise Perez, Shawna Santiago