If you follow the GT, you may have noticed an article put out by them last night on their website and in their newspaper today. Here’s the link if you haven’t:

https://warticle_ae9730d1-aa0b-54c8-913a-15b9227cf251.htmlww.gazettetimes.com/news/local/city-largest-union-at-impasse-in-talks/

In the article, city officials speak of the stipend as being a temporary “financial bridge” that they provided us while we shifted from the HMO to the high-deductible plan during our negotiations five years ago.

THIS IS INCORRECT.

The stipend was not meant to be temporary. The stipend exists for a few a reasons. The first being that the money going into the stipend could not be put in to our HSA/HRA contributions. Why, you ask? Because the city gets the insurance plan at a cheaper rate if they only cover up to the deductible. This is the $3000 for family coverage and the $1500 for single coverage contributed at the beginning of the year. That’s why the stipend shows up as wages. The contribution plus the stipend leaves the max out-of-pocket left in our plans to be paid. Without the stipend, families will pay $1500 and singles will pay $750 to reach the max out-of-pocket costs. Up to this point, single medical has not had to pay anything towards their out-of-pocket. Getting rid of the stipend will change that. The second reason the stipend exists is because we wanted to cover costs that were equivalent to the previous HMO plan. When we ran the numbers we found that an average of $500 was paid in medical costs before the max out-of-pocket was met. The city and our last bargaining team agreed to this, yet somehow this bridge mysteriously shows up, unannounced. If there is a “bridge”, does anyone else feel like it’s crumbling away from under our feet?

Regarding premiums, approximately two-thirds of our membership has family coverage. Like the article says, we pay $64/month. But it doesn’t say that management pays $0 on their premiums.

Our Union veep and Chief Steward Natalie Summerlin stressed the perpetuity of the stipend or else:

“Initially, AFSCME was willing to work towards a five year contract. As part of this, it was made clear to the City at the outset of negotiations that no deal would be possible without continuation of the same level of financial support for out of pocket medical costs. Cost-shifting was not going to be acceptable, given the millions of dollars in savings the City received due to the union’s agreement to move to this high-deductible plan in the first place.

The City’s insistence on this takeaway is what prompted the proposals to reduce the contract length. City management’s stubbornness in the face of direct testimony from our members regarding the immediate and life-altering effect loss of these funds would have on their health is what convinced us of the need to reconsider whether our bargaining unit can afford to be in a high deductible plan at all.”

Which is where we left off at the last mediation session; continue our current coverage, but let’s look into an alternative medical plan in interim while not being under the stress of negotiations. This would give both sides incentive to work together before we would start negotiating again in early 2020. Not six months from now. The union and the city already have a health care committee that works together on getting the best options for us. The tools and resources are already available.

Our next event is City Council this Monday @ the fire station on 5th and Harrison. Show up at 515-530PM to hear the plan and get organized (meeting starts at 6PM). We would appreciate if our members can take the time to come out and support our cause to make our healthcare affordable. We will have a few folks speaking (now that we can discuss negotiations) and I’m sure they would love to have a wall of green behind them for the mayor and the councilors to look at.

Speaking of a wall of green: Ruth Rose, Connie I will be around on our day off on Monday handing out shirts for those who have not received them. We will also have fliers for folks with information to call their ward councilor and mayor. Let them know you want a fair contract with a continuation of affordable healthcare!

We got your back, fam.

Shilo and the 2018 AFSCME Local 2975 bargaining team

 

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