(1) Two-tier high/low benefits plan defeated: a second UC Union Coalition victory
After hearing strong and united opposition from the UC Union Coalition to its two-tier payment plan for HMO health coverage, UC announced that it has backed away from this proposal. Such a plan would have included a reduced monthly premium in return for higher co-pays when health care was actually used. It would have discouraged UC's lowest-paid workers from seeking the medical care they and their families require, and would likely lead to sicker patients who would drive up costs for everyone.
This victory is the second for the UC union coalition after we successfully put off UC's proposal to take-away our 2% contribution for our retirement savings for the pension fund.
While we pushed back the two-tier plan, UC does have several other negative changes for our health benefits for next year.
- While UC officials refused to say how much our monthly premiums would go up even though they already know, under duress they let slip that they intend on imposing "double-digit" percent increases.
- UC plans to drop the Pacific Care HMO. Employees using that will have to switch to another plan, perhaps requiring a change in physicians.
- UC will not support any of the current health care reform plans being considered by the legislature, even though all of them would lower UC's costs by providing insurance for the uninsured.
- UC refused to add a extra pay band for the executives, ensuring that executives will continue to pay a much smaller percent of the salary for benefits and that ordinary employees will have to pay to make up the difference.
We clearly have many outstanding concerns about how UC handles our benefits that will only be resolved when we have an equal seat at the table to determine our benefits. At this time, UC does not have to bargain these changes with us. In our next contract negotiations, we will insist that we have more control over benefit terms and conditions.
(2) Health care professionals no longer pay more for benefits because of potential shift differentials
Health care professional members of UPTE-CWA and the California Nurses Association discovered that UC was counting potential earnings from shift differentials to determine which "pay band" to place employees in for purposes of determining health care premiums. For example, if someone made $79,000 per year and had the potential to make an additional $3,000 per year because of shift differentials, UC was charging $239/month instead of $170/month for family health care under HealthNet, even though the employee's actual income put them in the lower bracket.
The unions got UC to reverse this policy, and to retroactively reimburse those affected back to January 2007, when this practice started. If you think this might apply to you, please contact your UPTE-CWA local.
(3) Sign up a co-worker, get a reward
To prepare for bargaining pensions, benefits and wages next year, everyone needs to have a say in our union and participate in our effort. For that to happen, we must build union membership. New employees often think they are members because they are paying an "agency fee" for representation, but they're only eligible for the rights and benefits of membership after they sign an UPTE-CWA membership form. UC should include this form in the new hire packet (along with all the other programs that we sign up for at that time), but they do not. We have to find new employees and ask them to sign the membership form ourselves.
There are so many new hires every month that we need everyone's help to reach them. When a new co-worker comes on the job, ask that person to join the union. In return, you'll get a reward. In fact, for just committing to sign up your co-workers, we'll give you a cool UPTE-CWA t-shirt. Fill out our " I'll talk to my co-workers " form and we'll drop off your t-shirt!