Paul Blasenheim ’12 is calling in a favor from that time I almost died in a BMX dirtbike race (not exaggerated in any way). Socioeconomic issues affect Wesleyan more than you might have previously thought:
You might remember that back in November, clerical staff on campus were forced by a contract with the university and rising health-care costs to take huge increases in the amount of the monthly premium that they pay for their health benefits. This came despite all kinds of concerns about the affordability of the new premium rates and the questionable fairness of the highest-paid staff at Wesleyan paying the same dollar amount as the lowest-paid staff. (See “Health Care Cost Rise Burdens Employees”)
Most clerical staff are members of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153, and their contract with Wesleyan expires on June 30th. They begin negotiating with the administration on May 24th, and have the possibility of recovering some of the financial losses sustained by the rise in health care costs by leveraging for other benefits and salary increases. The university also recently announced that it was considering four options for re-structuring how faculty and staff pay for health care that would begin with the next benefit enrollment in November 2011, including both a tiered option and a system based on percentage of income. Both USLAC and Local 153 advocated for such options during the enrolment period in 2010, when it became clear that the rise in costs would disproportionately impact lower-paid staff like clerical workers. The catch now is that the administration has not disclosed which, if any health care option it plans to offer in the fall.
Go on past the jump for the rest of the petition letter (and links to November coverage of the issue), or read the full body and sign it here.
Without this knowledge, the clerical workers’ union will go into negotiations without full knowledge of their impending financial situation. They have no idea whether a monthly premium for a family health care plan will cost as much as around $500, which it currently does, or whether it will drop down to $300 for certain income levels. This makes negotiating a very difficult prospect, as union members cannot anticipate how to best leverage for their financial well-being without knowing how much of their income they will have to spend on health care. As the United Student Labor Action Committee, we call on Wesleyan’s administration to uphold a commitment to transparency to allow the clerical workers’ union a decent chance at negotiating a contract that reflects the economic needs of its members. Unless union members are told what health care payment system will be in place, their negotiations will not be fully transparent.
Please add your name to this letter if you support the valuable work that administrative assistants do on this campus and believe that they should be given the best possible opportunity to negotiate a contract that provides them will full financial security as employees of Wesleyan University.
According to the Argus, the University announced the original change to the health care plans on October 27, 2010. Activism surrounding the issue peaked in November:
- Argus – Affordable Health Insurance Eludes Wes Employees, a Wespeak by Ginny Harris, University employee and union steward
- Argus – Students Fight Staff Healthcare Cost Rise
- Wesleying – Video with coverage of November 17th’s Usdan rally and interview with Ginny Harris