UPDATES ON FURLOUGH RULES FOR NEW JERSEY STATE WORKERS

May 22, 2020

Dear Union Family,

Please read this update carefully.

You have probably read about the Steve Sweeney Job Share/Furlough bill that the Legislature passed. This bill is an update of 2013 Job Sharing legislation that permits partial furloughs, and the only change appears to be a clarification that employees make a full pension payment during the furlough and receive full credit. (Which was the practice, but was not in the law.) This bill requires that there is Union agreement.   Although Sweeney is touting the possibility of 100,000 furloughs of public workers, it is CWA’s intention to use this legislation or the current law only if it will avoid the worst prospect – layoffs. This bill does not cause mandatory furloughs. They must be negotiated and agreed to by the union.

You may have also read that the Governor has approved a change to a Civil Service Rule that previously only permitted 30-day VOLUNTARY furloughs but will permit longer Furloughs without loss of healthcare or pension benefits to prevent layoff.   Please note – these furloughs cannot be made unilaterally. Furloughs that apply to multiple workers represented by CWA have to be negotiated. Individual workers can make use of the Voluntary Furlough regulation where it applies to their circumstances.  

Our problem is not the legislation or the Rule. This legislation and Rule, while tools, would not do enough to stem the bleeding of revenues to the State and Local municipalities. With the current level of losses to revenues, the State is facing at least 10 BILLION (that’s a B!) in lost revenues. If these revenues are not made up through federal funding or bonding, there will be massive cuts to the State, to counties, and to municipalities.   This doomsday scenario requires responsible and strenuous action from our Congress and from the NJ Legislature in the form of support for the Governor’s plan to bond to make up for lost revenues.

Neither the Sweeney Furlough Bill nor the revised Civil Service put our members in harms’ way by their passage. We are deeply engaged and watching these developments and we will take responsible actions that protect our members. The genuine and immediate threat is the loss of $10 billion in revenues and the need for federal aid and for State borrowing.

CWA is preparing for all contingencies. We are talking with the Administration regularly, we are actively supporting Federal legislation, and we are speaking with our State and Federal officials about financing.

Our entire approach is the safety of our members, the protection of jobs and healthcare, and the maintenance of public services.

We are planning several Telephone Townhall calls to discuss our contingency planning and we will send you notices next week about how to join the call(s). There will be a call specific to State workers as well as a call that will cover the specific challenges that are facing some of our State colleges.

When we have those calls, we will call you at the number that you have provided to us.   If you have not been receiving the calls, please go here now, and give us your phone number.

We know that you have many questions and concerns about the future of your job and the important work that you do. We will have some answers when we have the call. For now, please be assured that our Union is very proactively engaged in protecting all our members.

In Solidarity,

John Rose, President, CWA Local 1031

Patrick Kavanagh, President, CWA Local 1032

Gaye Palmer, President, CWA Local 1033

Adam Liebtag, President, CWA Local 1036

Ken McNamara, President, CWA Local 1037

Shawn Ludwig, President, CWA Local 1038

Carolyn Wade, President, CWA Local 1040

Hetty Rosenstein, NJ Director

Dennis Trainor, Vice President District 1

Register Now to Vote by Mail in the NJ Primary Election

A New Jersey voter may vote by mail by completing the Application for Vote by Mail Ballot and return the application to their County Clerk.

To receive your ballot by mail, the application must be received by the County Clerk 7 days prior to the election.  June 30, 2020, is the deadline to apply for a Mail-In Ballot by mail for Primary Election.  Please note, the County Clerk cannot accept faxed or emailed copies of an Application for Vote by Mail Ballot, unless you are a Military or Overseas Voter, since an original signature is required.

Applications for Vote by Mail Ballot can be found here.


2020 Primary Election Timeline:

May 13: Deadline for Change of Party Affiliation Declaration

May 30: Commencement of Mailing Regular Mail-In Ballots for Primary Election

June 30: Voter Registration Deadline to Register to Vote in the Primary Election

July 7: Primary Election Day, Ballots must be postmarked by this date


Please contact the local if you have any questions.

CWA Local 1033 Political Action Committee

 

Action Alert: Send an email to your Member of Congress to protect Public Services!

You may have read Governor Murphy’s warning that without assistance from the Federal Government, New Jersey will suffer unheard of layoffs of state, county, municipal and education workers.

Although there are no plans in place for these types of layoffs, this was not an idle threat. Income tax, sales tax, fees, and other revenues have plummeted, while the demand for services and cost of addressing the virus, have skyrocketed. The State has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on Personal Protective Equipment and testing, and as we know there still isn’t nearly enough equipment or testing.

That’s why we need you to take action right now by clicking here to ask the Federal government to assist us in NJ!

Why aren’t layoffs an answer?

1. Our public services were already extremely understaffed before this hit. State and county and municipal workplaces have been down more than 20% of staff since 2008. We can’t lose more workers. The Emergency has stopped a great deal of work and left all but emergency and direct care work backlogged. But this work cannot be delayed forever and how will it ever get done if there are tens of thousands of layoffs. Will we never have parks? Who will help people get food stamps? Are we going to reward the heroes of this pandemic by laying them off?

2. Layoffs are a blunt instrument. Many jobs are partially paid for by Federal Funds. If you cut those jobs, there is actually very little in savings generated. Many fully state-funded or county and municipally-funded jobs are filled by essential workers and are direct services for those most in need. 

3. Putting more people on unemployment will stress the economy, not relieve it. Loss of income and healthcare benefits will turn the workers who were serving the public and propping up the economy into families in need who are taxing limited public resources.

4. The greatest source of public money goes to public education. Are we going to layoff thousands of teachers? Close schools forever? Eliminate all education other than bare bones? Destroying the education for a generation of children cannot be the answer.

What’s to be done?

Write and call your Member of Congress:

Senator Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Cassidy (R-LA) are sponsoring the State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Fund, a bill for a $500 billion fund for state and local governments. STATES, COUNTIES AND MUNICIPALITIES need this bill! The bill is supported by both Republican and Democratic governors all over the country. Please send an email to your Member of Congress and tell them to sponsor and support this bill.  

Don’t delay!   Act now.

In Solidarity,

CWA New Jersey

CWA Members have several options to be tested for COVID-19

If you need a COVID-19 test, you have several options:

IF YOU ARE A CWA PUBLIC WORKER AND YOU ARE ENGAGED IN FIRST RESPONDER WORK TO THE VIRUS:

YOU ARE ELIGIBLE for First Responder testing. (example: our 24/7 healthcare workers, Child Protective Services workers, on the job Dept. of Health responders, EMTs, public-facing emergency social services.)

There are several FIRST RESPONDER testing locations throughout that have been set up, and CWA members can access them by going through the portal set up by our friends at the PBA. Here is the portal: https://njpba.adlabscovidtest.com/

Please note: You have to fill out a screening form to be eligible for testing. The form will ask you what union you are a member of – where it says “other” put in CWA. It will also ask you what your “badge number” is. If you have a State ID, use that number, or put your Local union number in: example – 1033.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, the test will be free and covered entirely by insurance. If you do not meet all the symptom eligibility, you can get the test for $52.

SPECIAL THANKS TO PBA PRESIDENT PATRICK COLLIGAN AND PBA COLLEAGUE KEVIN LYONS FOR MAKING THIS AVAILABLE TO CWA FIRST RESPONDERS. Thanks, NJ State PBA

There are numerous county sites throughout the State who are providing tests to symptomatic residents.

These are symptoms only sites. You will also have to fill out a screening questionnaire. DO NOT SHOW UP AT THESE SITES WITHOUT HAVING DONE SO. YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GET TESTED WITHOUT BEING SCREENED FOR SYMPTOMS. You can find a list of the testing sites and a fill out the self-assessment: https://covid19.nj.gov/locations?query=Testing+Centers&tabOrder=all%2CpromotedContent%2Clocations%2Cresources%2Cstatus%2CNJfaqs%2CAASfaqs%2Ccoronavirus

Your physician can order a test for you and that prescription can be used at the county sites or at private labs.

Please call and make appropriate appointments. Do not just show up at testing sites. These sites can be overwhelmed quickly.

COVID19 FIRST RESPONDER TESTING LOCATIONS Draft

Waiving Rules to Speed Hospital Admissions

To ensure our members get the care they need, eliminate potential delays in admission and treatment, and help New Jersey hospitals deal with the increasing demand on staff resources, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) is waiving pre-authorization and pre-certification for inpatient admissions at in-network acute care h…
— Read on http://www.horizonhealthnews.com/eliminating-pre-authorization-requirements-for-acute-care-hospital-admissions-and-referral-requirements-for-medicaid-members/

CWA Human Rights – COVID-19 Resources

While the COVID-19 outbreak has a widespread impact, for some groups the situation furthers their vulnerabilities and limitations. On this page, you will find a list of resources, campaigns, and actions to help support your families and communities as we all work to respond to this moment.
— Read on cwa-union.org/cwa-human-rights-covid-19-resources

State Health Benefit Plan COVID19 Testing/Treatment – No Cost to Members

All New Jersey State Health Benefit plans including all PPOs (CWA Unity, NJ Direct, NJ Direct 10 & 15, etc.), HMO, Tiered network and high deductible plans will cover all testing and treatment for COVID19 without member payment of copays, deductible or any other out of pocket costs.

No Limits on Early Refill of Maintenance Drugs

OptumRx will drop all prohibition against the “early” refill of maintenance drugs for all SHBP prescription plans.  Controlled substances such as opioids will continue to have prohibitions against early refills.

Telemedicine and Telehealth Offered with No Member Copay for In-network Providers

State Health Benefits Plan has announced all in-network, and out-of-network providers may provide telemedicine (audio/visual through Skype, Google, etc.) and Telehealth (audio only)remote office visits during the COVID19 emergency and receive payment for an office visit.   Members who have Telemedicine/Telehealth visits during the COVID19 crisis with an in-network provider will not have a copay or any other cost.   Members who receive Telemedicine/Telehealth from an out-of-network provider will continue to pay a copay and deductible amounts.
Telemedicine/Telehealth behavioral health visits are included.

Governor Murphy Orders Free COVID19 Testing for Uninsured

Most part-time, intermittent, and seasonal employees are ineligible for coverage through State Health Benefits, and many may be completely uninsured.  To ensure that uninsured individuals have access to testing for COVID-19, the Murphy Administration requires hospitals and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to waive patient fees for testing and related diagnostic services for those who lack health insurance.

CWA NJ Town Hall Call COVID-19

CWA NJ Town Hall call Thursday, March 19th at 8:00 pm and again Friday, March 20th at 11:00 am for members with information on our efforts during the COVID-19 Coronavirus crisis. If you DO NOT receive the call, you can dial in at 855-269-4484.

COVID-19 Coronavirus update

This writing is to provide some information pertaining to the Covid19 situation and what the Union is doing to protect the workforce from continued exposure. This is completely unchartered territory and everyone is working around the clock to get plans enacted quickly to shut the state down as completely as possible. We agree that department’s waiting any longer to take action is irresponsible.

Your Union leadership has been on calls with every department as well as the Governor’s office addressing your concerns for over a week now. The Governor has ordered all State departments to put a work from home plan in place by the end of today to minimize the number of employees who would be required to report to their work locations. We are also reviewing lists that identify those employees deemed essential and those who have the ability to work from a remote location. We are trying to maximize those numbers. Many of you have had to complete forms identifying your ability to do this with state issued equipment or personal equipment that has the capability to log into the State’s portals. If the department determines you do not have the capability or there is no need to work from home, and you have not been designated essential, you will be permitted to stay home and will be paid for the time you are out of work. This should all be in place and in effect by Wednesday.

For those who have compromised immune systems or other medical conditions that place you at a higher risk, we encourage you to stay home and use your sick time. If you have the ability to secure a doctor’s note, you should provide it to your department’s Human Resource office with a copy to your Union Local. We will address the use of leave time once this situation subsides.

These are scary times and we are all feeling the pressure of how to best protect ourselves. We also understand that “we’re working on it” is growing old, but we are seriously working on this non-stop. It may become necessary to mobilize our efforts to put significant pressure on the administration so be on the lookout for additional information.

We urge you to make decisions based on what is best for you and your family. The main goal here is to minimize the spread and impact of this virus, keep as many people healthy as possible, and return to life as we once knew it.

advisory for CWA Members on the current COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus Information for New Jersey Members of CWA

This is an advisory for CWA Members on the current COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.

  1. CWA has contacted all the Employers that our members work for, and we have asked for clarification from each employer as to what their protocols are, how they will be handling leaves and self-quarantines, and other information. These requests are being handled through our Locals, and our Locals are encouraging Employers to properly communicate with members so that they know what the protocols are. In cases where Employers are not setting up protocols and communicating with our members, we will directly reach out to them to advise those employers what we think the protocols should be. At this point, it appears that most of our employers are cooperating with our requests and are communicating with us.
  2. The State of New Jersey has a Task Force that is meeting seven days a week and is guiding the State regarding this public health crisis. As part of that work, the Governor has issued an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency. For our State Workers, the State has issued comprehensive instructions as to how leave will be treated in the event of self-quarantine and/or school closures. That information can be found here: https://nj.gov/csc/employees/covid.html. This information is updated regularly. A new version came out today, 3/13/2020, so you should check it for changes and additions regularly.
  3. The Judiciary has said that they will follow the same rules as the State of New Jersey regarding leaves. Some counties have said that as well, but others are issuing their own protocols, and our private sector employers should issue their own protocols as well.
  4. The State of New Jersey is also providing public information daily for all New Jersey families, which can be found here: https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/ncov.shtml. In addition, you can call the State hotline number if you have a specific and personal question regarding the virus at 1-800-222-1222 (or 1-800-962-1253 if using an out-of-state phone line.) The hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  5. We are immediately focused on those of our workplaces that have a high degree of public contact, and on our members who are engaged in Direct Care. We are having specific conversations with the State of New Jersey regarding these workplaces, and we are working with our Locals on our County Boards of Social Services, and other workplaces that we are concerned will have increased public stress upon them at the same time there is the potential for increased risk. As we have more information, we are sharing it with our Locals, and our Locals are sharing it with members. We are discussing what happens in the event of shutdowns, work from home, and how essential workers will be treated.
  6. Many of the questions you are likely to have, your leadership also has, and we are working steadily with Public Health officials and with our Employers to answer such questions as the crisis continues.
  7. Next Wednesday, March 18, we will have a Townhall call with our State and Judiciary shop stewards and with representatives of the Department of Health, where we hope to have up to date information. On Thursday, March 19, we will have a Townhall call with our Local Gov’t and private sector shop stewards to bring them up to date. Our shop stewards will then share information at the worksite.
  8. If you have a specific question that is a Leave or direct exposure question, please contact your Shop Steward and Local. If your question is more of a direct health-related question, please consult healthcare professionals, and call the hotline. Your CWA representatives can help you with some matters, but we are not qualified to evaluate any direct healthcare matters.
  9. If you are sick, please don’t go to work. If you experience respiratory trouble and a fever, please make sure that you consult a healthcare professional. If you come in direct contact with someone with the coronavirus, please make sure that you report it so that you and others are kept safe.
  10. Stay healthy. There are many advisories out there as to what are the best ways that you can stay healthy, but they include frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds; Use of hand sanitizer in-between hand washings; Avoid touching your face. In addition, consider carefully participating in voluntary events that are crowded and include many people. Be especially careful if your immune system is otherwise compromised or if you are older, have diabetes or heart disease.
  11. Gloves and Masks. There is no scientific evidence that would support our members generally wearing gloves and masks, and there are reasons to NOT wear gloves and masks, including the fact that they give people a false sense of security. If you touch your face with a glove that has germs on it, it is no better than touching your face with your hands, hand washing is better, and – and this is important – workers in healthcare facilities really do need to have those supplies. There is a shortage of them, and we don’t want to use up supplies that are needed elsewhere, especially if they are ineffective. We understand that gloves and masks may give some workers a sense of comfort, but if it is a false sense, we need to go with science.

What’s the bottom line? CWA is carefully monitoring the situation for our members. We are asking Employers to conduct themselves responsibly, and we are particularly focused on making sure actions that protect our members, and their families are being considered wherever possible. The fact that many of our members are public workers, of course, complicates this because, in many cases, we are the essential front lines of this public crisis.

We are asking our members to take responsibility to act prudently when they can (washing hands, self-reporting, and self -quarantines, speak with your Local and with appropriate health professionals) and to cooperate with all efforts that are being made to keep the virus from spreading. We will continue to get information out to our members as we understand it, and it is helpful.

Please stay united, and let’s take care of each other during these frightening times. #CWASTRONG.

SPECIAL NOTICE TO R-HEALTH MEMBERS: IN ORDER TO PROTECT ALL MEMBERS, R-HEALTH HAS SUSPENDED WALK-IN SERVICES TO PREVENT ANY INADVERTENT EXPOSURE. IF YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS OR YOU NEED AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOUR PRIMARY CARE DOCTOR, YOU SHOULD CALL OR USE ONLINE TOOLS. YOU WILL GET AN IMMEDIATE RESPONSE, AND THEY WILL DIRECT YOU TO WHAT CARE THAT YOU NEED. IF YOU SEEK WALK-IN SERVICES, THEY WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE, AND IT WILL DELAY – NOT EXPEDITE – TREATMENT.