A Note From The Branch President

Dear Brothers and Sisters:
The National Business Agent has been informed that Management is attempting to implement Article 12 within the South Jersey District. The reason for this excessing is that 45 Level 6 clerks would be involuntary reassigned, due to a staffing review in the South Jersey Processing and Distribution Facility. Details at this time remain sketchy but I hope to have all the details by the June meeting.
Just a reminder that June will be our last meeting of the summer. Back by popular demand we will be having our annual Capt'n Cats shrimp night. This is always a well-attended meeting so plan to come out and share some good food and laughs with your brother and sister letter carriers.
-Steve Lipski

Next Meeting – June 18

The next regular monthly meeting of the Branch will be held on Wednesday, June 18, 8 p.m., at the American Legion Hall, 502 Colonial Ave., North Woodbury. The regular monthly meetings of the Branch are held on the third Wednesday of each month at 8 p.m., except during the months of July and August. This will be the last meeting before September. There is also no newsletter published in July or August.

Branch Officer & Shop Stewards Meetings Wednesday – June 11

The Branch Board of Officers and Executive Board meetings are held on the 2nd Wednesday of the month. The Board of Officers at 7:30 p.m., and the Executive Board at 8 p.m. The next meeting of the Board of Officers and Executive Board will be on Wednesday, June 11, 7:30 and 8 p.m. respectively. The Branch Officer and Shop Steward meetings are also not held in July and August.

Attendance Prize Now At $150

Had he been in attendance at the regular monthly meeting of the Branch on Wednesday, May 21, Jonathan Hicks, a member out of the Mantua office, would have been the recipient of the $125 attendance prize. The prize now increases to $150 and will increase $25 per meeting, up to a maximum of $250, until a member in attendance has their name drawn.

From The VP’s Case

It is no secret of my feelings concerning the DRT process as I have previously spoken on. I have been asked on numerous occasions my opinion on the "new team" since the old team is no longer in the south jersey district. To be quite honest I have told everyone I haven't read enough decisions to get a feel for their competence in resolving issues.
Well, I have read one decision that I believe has shown their make-up, which I feel needs to be addressed, since it may affect our members in future grievances.
I don't want to nit pick every decision they make since some have been decent and others not so good, because this is the process we have to live with regardless of the outcome.
I will never stop speaking out when I believe that the decisions rendered are not correct, and this is one that I will speak on.
Not to get into specifics, but the case I am speaking about is a removal case that the DRT team resolved by reducing to a 30-day suspension without pay!
I guess I am supposed to be happy that the grievant got his job back, since his attendance record was so poor! Well, based on the explanation by the team, I am absolutely livid with their resolve and have asked the business agent to take a look at this decision.
Not to bore you with particulars, but if a case is presented before an arbitrator that contains fatal technical errors; the arbitrator will sustain the grievance without hearing the merits of the case.
We believe this to be the case here since a higher level manager, the POOM, issued the discipline. This is where the DRT totally missed this case.
They stated the section of the J-CAM that reads, "In no case may a supervisor impose suspension or discharge upon an employee unless the proposed disciplinary action by the supervisor has first been reviewed and concurred in by the installation head or designee. In post offices of twenty (20) or fewer employees, or where there is no higher level supervisor than the supervisor who proposes to initiate suspension or discharge, the proposed disciplinary action shall first be reviewed and concurred in by a higher authority outside such installation or post office before any proposed disciplinary action is taken.
First, the office involved has 80 employees, which shoots that argument down. Second, it states nothing about issuance of discipline by a higher authority only concurrence. Again they were totally incorrect, not the union as they state! This is a fatal error, which the team has tried to discredit for whatever reason. The amazing thing about this case is management didn't even dispute the higher level authority issuing the discipline, because they knew they screwed up. No problem, the DRT decided to make the argument for them, even though it was the wrong one! Just because they say it doesn't mean it's right.
My reason for exposing this decision is the need for the DRT to be held accountable for improper decisions. How can we expect this process to work if every improper decision is allowed to go unchallenged?
I am glad the summer is here and our next newsletter will not be published until September! Maybe by then I will have cooled down from this debacle, but I doubt it!
-Gary DiGiacomo

Annual Branch Picnic - Sunday, September 7

The annual Branch Picnic this year will be held on Sunday, September 7 at Clementon Park and Splash World. Park hours: 11 am to 7 pm. Branch member cost of admission will be $16 per person, children 36" & under free. The cost of admission includes unlimited amusement park rides, unlimited water park rides, the big cat encounter show, and food and beverages, courtesy of the Branch. Get your tickets ahead of time, they are limited and may not be available at the gate, and there are no regular monthly meetings of the Branch in July and August. See your Shop Stewards or Branch Officers for tickets or contact Jim Livingston, Picnic Chairman at Sgtatarms@nalcbranch908.com.

From The Trustee Chairman

To all Branch members: Effective September 1, 2008, all bills, except the normal monthly ones, for example: hall rent, taxes, officers and shop steward pay, news letter, etc., must first be approved by the Board of Trustees as outlined in Article 13, Section 2 of the Branch By-laws. All bills should be mailed to Jim Comuso, Trustee Chairman, at PO Box 227, National Park, NJ 08063, or they can be brought to either the executive board, regular, or trustees meeting, (which are the second or third Wednesday or the last Thursday of each month except July and August). After the bills are approved, they will be forwarded to the treasurer for payment. If the bill is not approved, it will be returned with an explanation as to why it was denied by the Board of Trustees.
-Jim Comuso, Trustee Chairman

Eagles Season Ticket Raffle

Once again this year the Branch will be selling raffle tickets to benefit COLCPE. Tickets are $2 per chance. The winner will receive 2 season tickets for the upcoming Eagles season. See your Shop Steward or a Branch Officer to purchase chances.

Branch Scholarship Drawing In June

The Drew Walters Memorial Scholarship for 2008 will be drawn at the regular Branch meeting on June 18, 2008. This scholarship fund of $2,000 ($500 a year for four years) was established in 1991 and is available to all children, grandchildren, step-children (living with a member) and adopted children of active or retired members. Applicants must be a high school graduate eligible for college or vocational school admission. Applications for this drawing are available on the branch web site at nalcbranch908.com/scholarship.pdf, at the monthly meetings, by calling Scholarship chairman Steve Rutkowski at 856-542-0027 or 856-582-5089, mailing a request to Steve Rutkowski, 36 Long Bow Drive, Sewell NJ 08080 or by e-mail at Rutkowski@nalcbranch908.com. Applications are accepted up until the drawing on June 18, 2008.

From The Health Benefits Officer

You can now go online to the NALC Health Benefit Plan web site (www.NALCHBP.org) to find Dentists in the Cigna provider network. I personally found 537 dentists in my area. Hopefully this will be of some help toward our dental costs. I wish all our members to have a safe and enjoyable summer.
-Fred Mendel

Missed Opportunities

By: J.A. Elliott, Federal Benefits Specialist
[June 2008] Based upon feedback I get from our seminar participants, a vast majority of federal employees seem to be missing out on several important considerations and benefits. The following is a list of what I think are some key opportunities.
1. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). A significant number of participants in our seminars are not taking advantage of FSAs. Enrolling in a FSA can save you tax dollars for money that you are going to spend anyway for health care items that are not covered under your Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plan. A FSA can also be used for dependent care expenses for children under age 13, and adults claimed on your tax return as dependents. This is how it works: Each open season, in mid-November to mid-December, the same dates as the FEHB open season, you can designate for the following year any dollar amount for non-insured health care expenses up to $5,000, or as little as $250. You can also designate $250 to $5,000 for dependent care expenses. This is done through payroll deduction. You have 14 ˝ months to use your designated amount (there is no rollover, so you use it or lose it). Whatever amount you designate, reduces your Federal,, State (if any), and Payroll taxable income by a like amount for that year. For money you are going to spend anyway, why not get this outstanding tax break? Check out www.fsafeds.com for complete information.
2. Long Term Care Insurance (LTC). When I ask for a show of hands at a seminar as to whom has LTC, maybe one or two are raised. A few years ago the Congress looked at the demographics of an aging baby boom generation and was alarmed at the prospect of all those boomers living to a ripe old age with no resources to pay for hugely expensive long term care. Currently, the average expense for a nursing home in this country can range from $55,000 to $75,000 per year depending on where you live. In-home care can cost as much as $25 an hour and run $52,000 per year for a 40 hour week. Experts say that 70% of the people who live past 65 will need some form of LTC. So, Congress asked the Office of Personnel Management to come up with a LTC plan for federal employees, and in 2002 they did. OPM currently contracts with Long Term Care Partners to offer LTC insurance for federal employees and retirees. Yet apparently it is not being used, despite the financial planning community overwhelmingly recommending LTC insurance for those individuals and families whose assets would be depleted rapidly by LTC expenses. Practically speaking there are three ways to pay for LTC: 1) Out of your own savings, investments, and income, 2) Medicaid, but that won’t cover you until you are pretty much wiped-out financially, or 3) LTC insurance. (Your health insurance plan will not pay for LTC and Medicare will only pay for the first 90 days.) LTC insurance is a relatively inexpensive and efficient way to pay for LTC. LTCFEDS provides a variety of plans you can tailor to your needs, and a calculator to determine your cost. Check it out at www.ltcfeds.com.
3. Retirement Calculators. Many agencies, maybe most by now, have installed benefits calculators on an agency intranet system. These calculators typically give you the means to do your own retirement annuity estimates for FERS and CSRS, Social Security estimates, and TSP projections. Your salary data is generally loaded in these systems for personalized retirement planning. If your agency does not have one of these calculators, you can visit www.opm.gov/asd, for FERS and CSRS estimates, www.ssa.gov for Social Security estimates, www.tsp.gov, and our website mast, www.nitpinc.com, for TSP projections. Yet surprisingly, most participants in our seminars have never used these calculators. These are invaluable tools in retirement planning regardless of age, and they are easy to use. If you don’t know how much you’re going to have to live on in retirement, how do you know when you can afford to retire? And what steps to take now?
4. National Active and Retired Employees Association (NARFE) Any federal employee and retiree can be a member and it is almost free. Dues average about $3 per month. For that you get their monthly magazine, which is chock full of information about your FERS and CSRS pensions, the TSP, health and life insurance, Social Security, and Medicare. In the May issue, for example, there is an excellent article on the pros and cons of transferring your TSP account to a Roth IRA. Where else would you get that information outside of a retirement seminar? Not only is NARFE a great source of information on federal benefits, it lobbies Congress on your behalf to protect your benefits. Members of Congress have called NARFE the most effective political action committee they deal with. Yet most federal employees have never heard of NARFE, and only about 400,000 federal retirees are members. If you care about your benefits join NARFE at www.narfe.org.
In planning for your retirement, consider an FSA and LTC, regardless of age, and be aware of your personal situations by using the calculators. Try a membership to NARFE, read our website, listen to our radio show, read Tammy’s GovExec articles as it’s never to early to plan! As always, email us with any questions along the way.
“Retirement is like a long vacation in Las Vegas. The goal is to enjoy it the fullest, but not so fully that you run out of money.” -Anonymous
Source: www.nitpinc.com: John Elliott is a NITP seminar presenter and a Federal Benefits Specialist.

Transitional Employee (TE) Uniform Guidelines

Recently some of our Transitional Employees have been given a hard time from their Postmasters about getting uniforms.
Listed below are the US Postal Service instructions effective January 11, 2008:
TE’s are eligible for quarterly uniform allowance installments on the following schedule:
Day 91 of service: Quarters 1 and 2 allowance installment of $149.00
Day 181 of service: Quarter 3 allowance installment of $74.50
Day 271 of service: Quarter 4 allowance installment of $74.50
Unspent amounts from previous quarters may be carried over to the current allowance installment quarter, but may not be carried over to a subsequent appointment. The total annual amount expenditure may not exceed $298 for each TE. Note: 360 days after the first term of appointment begins, any remaining allowance is forfeited.
Upon separation from the Postal Service, TEs are required to return purchased uniform items. The local manager must collect the following items from all TEs upon separation: trousers, walking shorts, skirts, shirts, all outerwear, raingear, vests, sweaters, all headgear, including hats. Note: TEs must return all uniform items that were purchased with their uniform allowance, this does not include uniform items that our TEs have come to the Union Hall and picked up. However, if a TE has uniform items that they received from the Branch and they are still in good condition, we would appreciate them being returned to us, so that we can pass them on to new employees.