As you know, the City’s HR Director sent a “bargaining update”. Here is the first reply from a colleague – fellow City employee Mike Hanson, Reference Librarian:
AFSCME are filled with workers out there putting their health on the line to keep the city functioning, and management wants to give us worse healthcare than those who sit in offices all day. The proposed elimination of the Stipend will be felt the most by those with chronic illnesses and those with the least pay. These are the brothers and sisters among us we should be helping boost up, not making share a larger portion of burden.
No other city employee on HDHP have a stipend, but all other full time city employees on HDHP have the privilege of having premiums covered 100% for two-party and family insurance, which AFSCME does not. If you want to compare our health coverage to the other bargaining units, Exempt, IAFF, and CRCCA all have 100% of premiums covered by the city, for single, two party, and family. We have 100% for single if we work full time, but pay 7% the difference for dependents on the plan, whether two party or family. For Exempt and CRCCA workers working part time, the coverage for 2-party and family is prorated. This purportedly means .75 fte has 75% paid for the difference between single and 2-party/family. For us, at .75 fte, we still pay 7% of the difference between single and 2-party, but 100% of difference between 2-party and family. For .5 fte for CRCCA and exempt, they get 50% paid for difference between single and 2-party/family. For us, we pay full premium amount for any dependents if we work under .75 fte, and believe me, that is a lot of us.
No other unit has members making as little as AFSCME. CPOA minimum is $78k, CRCCA minimum is $48k, IAFF minimum is $71k, exempt is $41k. The AFSCME minimum annual salary is $25,449.22. This is the shelver position. Shelvers are almost exclusively employed half time, so they only make $12,724.61 per year. Any change in compensation will be felt for any shelver. The 3% raise promised in management’s LBF will be $763.48. If the stipend was removed for a single payer this year, it would be the equivalent of a .06% COLA if they worked full time, which none do. So their COLA raise would actually be $381.74, or a reduction of $368.26 if the stipend were stripped away this year. I’m sure none of these workers have dependents on their health insurance plans, that wouldn’t make rational sense, so we don’t need to bother hypothesizing about that, but needless to say it would result in a larger decrease.
Management has generously offered to grant us an additional year of the stipend, so shelvers will actually get their COLAs this year. But next year, management want to reduce the stipend by half, so they will remove $375 from our compensation. Shelvers, who are expected to get a 2.5% COLA that year will actually see a wage decrease. So yes, they may not take a pay cut from what they make today, buth they will take a pay cut next year. How much? With their 3% COLA this year their $12,724.61 becomes $13,106.35. Their 2.5% raise would be $327.65. They will have $375 cut from their overall pay. That results in a pay cut of $47.35. The following year, they will have an additional $375 removed from their overall pay. Their 3% COLA that year will amount to $393.19, so they do get a raise of $18.19, but it will be a tough few years for the shelvers, who already make the least of all permanent city employees, and a $250 signing bonus will not make up the difference.
It’s true, many AFSCME members in the higher levels of pay will not feel the loss of stipend to a large degree. At a step 4 Librarian I make enough to take care of myself and my family, even with a child with a chronic health condition. We can make up the short coming. Probably nowhere near as easily as those in the higher levels of the exempt positions could, like those who are trying to remove the stipend. They all make over $100k, so it wouldn’t seem like much to someone in that position, but maybe they are out of touch with the rest of us as to how much $750, or $1000, lost in a year can be.
Without the stipend at the beginning of the year, I will blow through our deductible with the first order of my son’s medical supplies, then the out-of-pocket max shortly after, which is guaranteed to happen. I am guaranteed to feel that $1000 loss at the beginning of the year, but like I said, I will manage. Many of my fellow coworkers have their own health issues that would put them in the same position, but they make nowhere near as much as I do. It is not for me that I fight, but it is for those that are not as privileged as myself. I choose to use my privilege to fight for those less fortunate, and I would hope that our leaders would want to set the example and do the same, especially considering how much more privileged they are than me.