For Joan Extrom, a 20-year City of Corvallis employee, the healthcare benefit she has earned through her employment has been vital to her health and quality of life. In November of 2016, Joan was able to get a cochlear implant in her left ear, followed by the right ear about a year later.
“The Union and the City bargained for excellent healthcare and I am grateful. My cochlear implants were life changing. The ability to have almost-normal hearing makes me a better person and a better employee.” said Joan.
However, now that quality of life is at risk. The City of Corvallis Administration is proposing healthcare cuts in bargaining that would severely impact workers’ ability to access their healthcare. One aspect of the cuts is ending a medical stipend of $750 for individuals and $1000 for families. Additionally, it would spread out the City’s contribution to the worker’s HSA, meaning employees who access their healthcare early in the year will not be able to utilize the full benefit of their HSA and risk carrying medical debt throughout the year.
While the impact across the board would be bad for workers, those at the lowest pay levels would suffer the most.
“One of my prescriptions is $840 per month after insurance. Cash price is $1150. I count on that contribution at the beginning of the year to cover most of the cost of that prescription. I don’t have much money in savings and little to spare to cover the rest of the prescription cost. In the past, I’ve had to borrow money from my mother to cover the full cost of prescriptions.”
Union President Carlos Lopez says this is the reason we are taking a stand. “No one should have to struggle like this. No should have to wonder if they will have the money to pay for bills or eat.” Lopez continued, “This is why we took a strike vote! We want to make sure the City Administration and Councilors understand that we are going to fight on behalf of members like Joan and on behalf of the community we love.”
Despite the seriousness of the issue at hand, the two parties are closer than one would think. Costing shows that the difference between our union’s proposal and management’s is under .1% of the City’s budget.
“I really urge the City to come to the table and agree to keep our healthcare as is. The financial cost is miniscule but the impact on workers like myself will be devastating.” said Joan.