President Tellez Letter
Brothers and Sisters,
Over the past couple months your bargaining team was been working diligently to finalize the contract and present it to you. There were some problems with the drafts we received from the City, but we were able to resolve this in the last few weeks. As you read this, there should be a copy of the new tentative contract at each fire station for you to thumb through and review, as well as a strikeout version available to you on our website at elpasofirefighters.org. I encourage all to take the time and look at this proposal and educate yourselves on the facts.
Recently, it was brought to my attention that some have taken it upon themselves to distribute letters with false or bad information. I feel this is a kneejerk reaction due to members being misinformed about the facts.
I would like to spend some time discussing the tentative insurance plan that is part of the new contract. I know this is one of the more sensitive issues with the contract, and would like to present to facts to everyone. The first year of the insurance plan (which lasts until Dec. 31, 2008) your office co-pay is increasing to $15 and $20 thereafter. If the contract is voted in your new insurance plan will start April 1. If you or a family member goes in for an office visit all you pay is your co-pay. The rest of the office visit is covered at 100%. Any lab work or X-rays associated and billed with the office visit is also covered at 100%. This is important since the majority of use on the plan comes from office visits.
Let’s discuss an instance where you will be responsible for the deductible and 10% co-insurance. A family member needs to undergo out-patient surgery. In year one of the plan your individual deductible is $100 and the max-out-of pocket is $750 per person. If the total bill is $2,000.00 then you will pay the $100 deductible and then 10% of $1900.00. Your total out of pocket will be $290.00. You only need to pay your deductible once per year. In year one the most you could pay on a family member is $850.00. In order for this to happen, you will need $7,500.00 in total medical expenses. Once the $100 deductible and $750 max out of pocket has been satisfied, the plan reverts to 100% coverage.
You will also have the option of participating in a FSA (flexible spending account). An FSA is an IRS vehicle to allow you to set aside pre-tax dollars to help pay for medical, prescription, and other costs associated with the plan. During open enrollment you decide how much to put into the FSA, you will have that amount available to you at the beginning of the plan year. Let’s say you decide to put $260 into your FSA. That amount can be used immediately in the plan year and you will pay $10 per check (26 pay periods in a year). Your FSA can be used for co-pays, deductibles, and other costs associated with the plan. You can also use it for chiropractic treatment, contacts, glasses, eye exams, routine physicals, dental work including braces, corrective eye surgery, over-the-counter medicines and other prescriptions. There is an extensive list of items you can use the FSA for, but these mentioned are some of the main ones. You must use the money in your FSA during the plan year or you lose it. So if you only used $200 by the last month, then it might be wise to use the remaining $60 toward over-the-counter meds, glasses, contact lenses, or Band-Aids etc. The FSA can also be used as a pre-tax vehicle for child care expenses.
Some members have voiced concern about the $5 million dollar max lifetime cap. The City insisted that the cap be $2 million, and your bargaining team was able to raise it to $5 million. This cap is per family member and is based on what the insurance pays out at the negotiated rate. This means if you happen to hit $5 million dollars your actual cost was probably closer to $10 to 20 million. Rest assured no fire member is even close to $1 million in payout. If you would like to know were you or a family member stands toward the cap you can call Irene Morales at 541-4448.
Your premiums for the insurance plan are decreasing and there are now three premium tiers instead of two. You will also be able to participate in an 80/20 core plan with even lower premiums. The plan also opens up all the hospitals in the city as well as a nationwide plan which covers dependents that are away at school as well as dependents living outside the city.
We have compared this proposed 90/10 plan with other cities such as Dallas, Houston, Austin, and Tucson and overall this is a more enhanced plan. These cities also pay substantially more in premiums. Most cities have 80/20 plans with higher deductibles and higher out-of-pocket amounts. The argument that most other fire departments have better insurance is not true. Most cities also only have $1 or 1.5 million dollar lifetime caps.
During negotiations in the summer, the City offered us a 5% pay raise over 3 years. They would give us a 1% raise up front, and 1% raise in year two, and a 3% raise in year three. Negotiations soon broke down after that and we declared Impasse. Through a federal mediator we were able to get the City to agree to a 4% pay raise up front, a 3% raise next January, and a 3% raise the following January. This means we will see a 10% pay raise in less than two years. An entry level fire fighter will be making over $36,000, and a top stop fire fighter will be making over $56,000. This makes us competitive with other departments throughout the state and region.
Through the federal mediator we were also able to get other enhancements to the contract. The educational incentive is increasing; paramedics are seeing an increase in incentive pay. This means that most paramedics will see an extra $400 to $500 extra per month. Vacation accrual will increase from 70-75 days. The mileage rate will also go to the IRS rate which is currently 50.5cents. The sick leave incentive program will revert to a “rolling 6 month period.”
Some have asked, “What happens if we vote no on the contract and the contract vote fails?” A no vote will push us to referendum most likely in November, during the presidential election. The City will be allowed two issues on the ballot and we will be allowed two issues. The City will most likely put the health insurance and pay on the ballot. We will most likely have to counter with the same. A referendum election takes a lot of time, work, and money to be successful. All 700 plus union members will have to come together collectively in a unified campaign that includes door to door contact, phone banking, presenting to civic groups, voter registration, working the polls and anything else that is involved in a successful referendum election. The key factor will be our ability to sacrifice our extra boards, part-time jobs, golf, trips and possibly families to make this happen. This is what it will take to win the election.
I encourage everyone to get educated on all the facts before they vote on this contract. Do not listen to hearsay, rumors, and conspiracy theories. Your bargaining team has stepped up to the plate over the past seven months and fought for the best contract possible. We have turned down proposals that take away your 40hr overtime rate, travel time, made all chiefs salaried employees, and included less desirable insurance plans. Some of these proposals included pay raises that were laughable at best. The proposal being presented to you is the very best we could do at the negotiating table. This is the last, best, and final offer.
Your Bargaining Team and Executive Board have endorsed this contract proposal. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact a member of the Bargaining Team or Executive Board.
Joe Tellez, President
IAFF Local 51
On the evening of Feb. 26, KFOX News aired a story about the Fire Department. Somehow I have been linked to this story by a very active and thriving rumor mill. I am writing this letter to deny any and all claims in an attempt to clear my name.
I have been wrongfully singled out as the “source” for the news story. It is my understanding that I have been identified as the “source” due to a similar looking silhouette. I find this to be utterly ridiculous and totally without logic. I have been further linked to the story by having worked at the Training Academy. During my tenure at the TA, I was never in charge of ANY training records. The Training Lieutenants and Training Captain are in charge of any and all records before they get sent up to the Training Chief. This is verifiable! As for me leaking the training records to the press, this is completely without the least bit of common sense. The records shown on KFOX News were from Nov. 2007. My last day at the TA was Sept. 1, 2006. Other than an EMT issue and afternoon scheduled training classes, I have not had any contact with ANY of the TA staff members since leaving. Again, this is 100% verifiable. To further strengthen my point, with the exception of two staff members, the staff I worked with from Jan. 2005 to Sept. 2006 has either been replaced or transferred out.
It has also come to my attention that I was bound, handcuffed, escorted out of 24’s, and arrested by EPPD and/or members from FPD, depending on what version is heard. Again, this is totally ridiculous and asinine. Really, check your facts before spreading false information. I was not arrested. I was not handcuffed. I was not escorted from 24’s. All of this information is being spread rampantly through the ranks.
Now let me address the REAL reason for my being placed on ADM. My EMT certification has expired. I am not allowed to work on the line with an expired certification or any other position on the Fire Department for that matter. For this certification lapse, I was written up and disciplined. I had a meeting with Chief Talavera to discuss the matter. I had an additional meeting with Chief Talavera, Chief Marron, and Chief Fanning to discuss possible alternatives to getting recertified. The only viable option was for me to sit in with the next 6-month class. This is the REAL and ONLY reason I have been placed on ADM. As said earlier, this is 100% verifiable.
What is not known or spread is the fact that I went straight to Chief Rivera on the afternoon of Feb. 28 to clear my name. I made an appointment to speak to Chief Rivera directly and without the assistance of Union representation to discuss the matter. I wanted the Chief to hear it directly from me, not the rumor mill that I had nothing to do with the broadcast. I even went so far as writing and signing a statement emphatically denying all claims in the matter.
Now let me address the Department from a personal standpoint. These rumors have been hurtful and damaging. I have not slept a full night since all of this broke. To be honest, I don’t want to go back to work. I feel completely betrayed by the members of this Department. I have always been one to help out my fellow firefighter without question. Those of you on the current FST list that I assisted know this all too well. We in the Department are slow to praise someone for performing well but will turn on the same person in a heartbeat if some bad news has made its way into the active EPFD rumor mill. In the world of Fire Department popular opinion, I am guilty. It is in the rumor mill so it must be true. I was arrested and handcuffed. It is in the rumor mill so it must be true. We rely on each other each and everyday to stay alive but we will not think twice about trashing someone and their reputation simply by spreading rumors and hearsay. What is not thought of when these rumors start and allowed to perpetuate is the damage that is done to one’s own reputation. The damage is taken home and can put a strain on someone’s home life and marriage. Rumors like this can damage a department more so than any story that airs on the news can ever do.
Greetings everyone! We are in limbo awaiting the results of our vote. The Contract voting will end on the 10th of March and we will know our fate. You have been educated and now you have voted or are going to vote. You should have the tools to make your decision. Whether you are happy with the proposed contract or not, you can not say that you weren’t educated. The pre vote education “program” was greater than I have witnessed before during any other contract election since I have been on the department. Your bargaining team did their best bargaining and the Executive Board did their best informing you.
There have been some faxes going around to the station. Some of them were anonymous and some were claimed. I told some of you that yours would be printed in the Benchmark. I apologize but, the decision was made not to. Joe addressed these letters in his letter. They did receive circulation and your points were able to be made. It would have become redundant to print them here. This contract has brought out a lot of passion and controversy. I challenge you to keep this passion for all issues relative to this union. We shouldn’t have trustees elected with a small percentage of the population voting. We shouldn’t have some 40 something members be the voting force that entered us into a bar business and loan. Keep interested and boost the attendance.
I am going to bid my farewell as Editor with this issue. I have enjoyed it when it works. I accomplished some of what I had envisioned. I feel some things were left lacking. I will still stay involved and attend meetings as this position did a lot for me and my Local 51 pride. I feel it is time to pass it on. It will either go to someone else to keep a written newsletter or there is talk of going paperless and all online. Brother Mando Chavez has done an amazing job with the website. This could be the venue we needed. Check out the website if you haven’t already. It is very impressive and updated frequently. Being a new father and busy with other things, I have to be realistic and step down. If you are considering the position, don’t fear it. When it works well, it is a lot of fun.
Allow me to share some advice. This month, part of my reason for being delinquent with my newsletter, I was the victim of identity theft. This has been an eye opener. I can tell you it is not something you all want to experience. Safeguard your information. These people created checks with my account information and passed them for almost 10,000 bucks worth of merchandise. Those of you who know me know that I don’t have 10k in my checking account. It didn’t harm financially but, it is very inconvenient having to deal with the collection companies and faxing police reports to clear my name. Ultimately, I am not responsible for the charges but, it is a lot of red tape to go through to clear your name. I have had to deal with detectives, credit agencies, etc. My advice is don’t let it happen to you. Shred your carbons, don’t print information on your checks (License numbers, phone numbers, etc.). This thing is a pain. The Detective handling my case said he has seen a lot of these. Furthermore, watch your credit or debit cards. These people are carrying pocket scanners and scanning your information. For example, you are at a restaurant and pay with a card by handing it to the waiter and he walks away with it. He then has opportunity to scan it and download your info at home. People are selling account numbers in chat rooms. A lot of bad stuff. The funny thing is they chose me. They obviously didn’t know me and my finances. It is kind of like robbing the store with the sign that says “cashier only has twenty dollars” or the pizza driver. Just be safe. Like I said, I am okay financially and was reimbursed what I lost but, It has been a pain getting it back and clearing my name.
I am not even gonna touch the whole KFOX controversy. I just have one question for the mystery firefighter…..Couldn’t you have them give you a tougher fake voice? Seriously, the chipmunks? They didn’t have a Darth Vader or the Exorcist demon voice to work with? It Is hard to focus on the accusations when you are listening to a “firefighter” sounding like one of the little people from OZ.
Well friends, that is all. A lot of good info on the website as well. Look into it. I appreciate those who did submit over the years. Whatever happens with this contract, we need to reorganize and step it up. We may be in a position, depending on the vote, to stand up and fight. Then again it may not be this round. We may tolerate the changes this time and vote this in. But there will be a point when we meet our threshold and say no more. In the long run, I predict, this is not the end of their “changes”.
One final note, Today I attended the picnic hosted by The Auxiliary. It was an amazing event for the families that attended. Those of you who did not attend missed out. They put a lot of effort and care into a very nice day for the kids. I recommend attending these events and witnessing what our Auxiliary does for us. Thanks to Art and Tony and the guys who were there to help as well!
Dates for insurance open enrollment:
(Pending contract approval)
March 12 – 8600 Montana: 0830-1630 hrs
March 13 – Northeast Police Regional Command Center at 9600 Dyer: 0830-1630 hrs
March 14 – Northeast Police Regional Command Center at 9600 Dyer: 0830-1630 hrs
March 17 – Westside Police Regional Command Center at 4801 Osborne: 0830-1630 hrs
March 18 – Westside Police Regional Command Center at 4801 Osborne: 0830-1630 hrs
March 18 and 19 – Fire Fighters hall: 1930 hrs
All employees are encouraged to attend one of these sessions to ask questions and make any necessary changes. Employees who cannot attend one of these sessions may still go the Insurance and Benefits at City Hall to make changes after these dates.
Luz Emilia Marquez- Associate Broker @ CR properties. Services in residential, commercial, investment properties. 203-5560
Computer Service- parts, repair, networking, web design, and classes. Call Shane Haggerty @ 549-4111 or go by 9900 Dyer.MG Concrete- For all of your concrete needs. Stamping, Colored Acid Stains, Overlays, Concrete Countertops, Plain grey, Tile installation. "If you want it done call anybody, If you want it done right call MG" Marcos Guerra 35's B or 275-5963.
Red Tag Trips- All your vacation needs. Vacation packages, flights, car rentals and cruises at great prices. Go to www.redtagtrips.com. Book now! D. Redd 490-3329 R14 A
CPR classes- individual or groups. Alex Miranda P35 B or 588-3908.
Mexico Vacation- 7days, 7 nights at 5 star hotel in Mexico. Acapulco, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Puerto Penasco, or Cancun. Accomodations start at $450. Contact Kevin Dieter at Central or 526-2988 for more info.
Parties- Retirement or Promotional. Discounts given to firefighters for parties. Contact Kevin Dieter at Central or 526-2988.
2005 Harley Roadster-88329 mi black/chrome w/ saddle bags & windshield. $9000 call David Rios 629-9698 or P33 B
Reminder Bands-EPFD/Everyone goes home-$2.00 Call Willie Joe Duarte 820-5004 or St 27 C
Buying or Selling your home?- Contact Gil Medina for all of your Real Estate needs! L24 A or 373-2265
Blazin’ Party Rentals– Jumping Balloons, Tables and Chairs. Call Chris Celaya @ 755-5506, 530-5506 or Comms 832-6840
Purchase your Dream Home Today- New/resell home loans cash out refinance and consolidate your bills or get started on those home improvement projects or refinance to lower your monthly mortgage payment. Investment property loans, foreclosure-bail out. Get pre approved today. 0 down financing OAC. Gil Martinez 17C 328-8058 or 859-8058.
Light Unlimited Providing light fixtures/fans for all your residental and commercial needs. 50% off merchandise xtra 10% off for firefighters. Call Jerry Lyles 532-9512 or L1B
Roommate Wanted - 3 bedroom 2 bath bachelor pad. 1450 sq ft call for details. $350 call Aaron Tarin 373-6175 prefer B or C but A is cool
2005 Honda Accord Ex– Fully Loaded, Blue, Tan leather interior.43k miles. $17,500. Call Gil Medina 373-2265 or L24 A
Skis package deal. Rossignol 195s with Nordica boots (SZ 10). Marker bindings and poles included. $100. call Cliff Vance Sta. 28 or 822-2829
CustomPainting-.Murals, cartoons, borders, faux finish, scenery.Great for Kid's rooms. Call Ken Persinger 203-2573
For All Your Realestate Needs: Contact Patricia Nevarez Reyes Realtor Coldwell Banker @ 276-1557. Assistance also available for financing. For further information you may also contact Rafael Reyes Station 4 "C" Shift, 533-7773 or 241-9646.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It’s that time of the year to again accept names of scholarship applicants. The Executive Board has been appointed to serve as the Scholarship Committee. Therefore, based on the material addressed in Articles, I, II, III, and IV of the Scholarship Fund By-Laws, eligible applicant names will be accepted by the Executive Board from January 31st, 2008 through April 1, 2008. You can also submit applicant names during these same dates to Local 51’s secretary, Lucille, at the Union office, at 598-8117, from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, Tuesday through Friday. The Scholarship committee will determine the number of scholarships to be awarded. The names will be drawn at the Executive Board meeting on April 2nd, 2008. Remember the By-Laws have requirements for receiving Scholarship Funds. If you have any questions, either refer to the Scholarship Fund By-Laws, or contact me at 799-1232, or at the Union office at 598-8117.
Secretary Treasurer, Local 51