“Superintendent Gothard and Chair Ellis,
We are writing in response to your letters from July 19 and August 8 requesting that SPFE delay our bargaining units from entering into the Public Employee Insurance Program (PEIP) from January 2020 to January 2021.
The Federation’s decision to enter into PEIP was a thoughtful and carefully researched process. SPFE leadership met with PEIP representatives, reviewed the information, and then moved to bring it to the membership for consideration. We wrote the District on March 15, 2019 (see attached) indicating that the Federation would be exploring a move into PEIP. We then held sixteen informational meetings for SPFE members with representatives from PEIP and Education Minnesota, who shared information about how this process had worked in other districts and municipalities and assisted in answering questions to help us prepare our members to make an informed decision about a possible move.
Despite our March 15 notification, the district chose not to share any concerns until posting an FAQ online during our members’ voting period at the end of April. We did not receive formal communication about the district’s interest in delaying our move to PEIP until July 19th, citing the possibility of HealthPartners assessing a penalty fee. To our knowledge and that of PEIP and Education Minnesota representatives, there is no circumstance where a bargaining unit exercising its legal right to move into PEIP has resulted in a penalty fee. We still contend HealthPartners cannot assess the district that fee because SPFE is entering PEIP through our rights under state law. We are disappointed in the lack of effort the district was willing to put into fighting the penalty fee.
Not contacting SPFE about concerns regarding the HealthPartners contract and our possible move to PEIP is another example of a long pattern of Human Resources not collaborating to try to problem solve with the Federation. Such a partnership would have prevented SPPS district leadership from being put in the precarious position of asking SPFE leadership to overrule our membership vote.
Our members voted to enter into PEIP in 2020. Asking them to delay the entry time that was part of their vote is not something we take lightly, especially since it shifts the financial burden to staff and families, including some of the district’s lowest paid employees. Attached is a compromise that brings the savings that would have been incurred by our members to them, and avoids additional payments to HealthPartners. It is a good faith effort of compromise on our part, despite our frustration that this situation could have been avoided with better partnership. It is offered as a means to resolve this circumstance, outside of regular contract negotiations.
We request a written response by the end of the week, so that we can plan accordingly for open enrollment. If this compromise is rejected and we are continuing toward a 2020 start, we do not want to lose any planning time.”
Nick Faber, President, St. Paul Federation of Educators
Sylvia Perez, Director of Non-Licensed Personnel, St. Paul Federation of Educators