Members of the PSC’s negotiating team have been meeting on adjunct health care with representatives of CUNY management throughout the summer, and they report that they are close to a final agreement.
When funding was secured this spring, CUNY management and the PSC agreed in principle on moving adjuncts from their old plan to a plan that covers other public workers. That set the stage for negotiations on the exact terms of the new coverage. The union’s key goal has been to ensure a comparable benefit, without a gap in coverage.
Members of the PSC bargaining team’s subcommittee on adjunct health care en route to an August 7 meeting at CUNY’s 80th Street headquarters. From left, Bob Cermele, Vice President for Senior Colleges; Steve London, First Vice President; Mike Fabricant, Treasurer; Barbara Bowen, President; Diane Menna, Bargaining Team Member; Arthurine DeSola, Secretary. (Not shown in photo: Michael Batson, Part-Time Personnel Officer; Deborah Bell, Executive Director; Marcia Newfield, Vice President for Part-Time Personnel.)
“We made progress on some of the biggest issues early in our discussions, and that was encouraging,” said Michael Batson, an adjunct lecturer in history at College of Staten Island and a member of the bargaining team’s subcommittee on adjunct health care. “But when it comes to medical coverage, every detail is important, and settling these issues has required many, many hours of discussion. We know how important it is to get this right.”
“This is about people’s lives, their health, and in some cases their survival. I can imagine how difficult it is for adjuncts to wait for news about something as intimate and fundamental as health insurance,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen, the union’s lead negotiator. “Management has been working hard in partnership with us to get this done. I can understand the anxiety it may cause to wait for information when your own health care is involved. We will let you know the minute news is available.”
To keep eligible adjuncts informed before the start of the semester, the PSC is organizing an informational meeting for participants on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm at the PSC Union Hall (61 Broadway, 16th floor). Please check the union’s online calendar (at psc-cuny.org/calendar) to confirm the time and location. The union is also encouraging all potentially affected part-timers to make sure the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund has their current e-mail address and/or phone number.
“We need to have a reliable way to reach you as quickly as possible, as there may be a need to enroll in a new insurance program on very short notice,” said Larry Morgan, executive director of the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund. The most practical method for contacting members quickly is via e-mail, Morgan said. Members can provide their e-mail address via the Welfare Fund website, psccunywf.org, by clicking on the link under “Attention Adjuncts.”
“If you do not have access to e-mail, please call the Welfare Fund and give us a phone number,” Morgan said. The PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund can be reached at 212-354-5230.
“A year ago we faced a very real danger that adjuncts who rely on CUNY for their health insurance could see that coverage end,” PSC President Barbara Bowen told Clarion. “For the union, that was unacceptable. We developed a plan to make sure it did not happen, and that plan got us to where we are today. But our success was possible only because thousands of members gave their time to this campaign. Full-timers and part-timers stood together, and that made a huge difference.”
When adjunct health coverage was first established at CUNY in 1986, it was a big advance. But its funding was structured in a way that was ultimately unsustainable. The program was financed through a flat-sum contribution from CUNY – which meant that when the number of covered employees and the cost of health care went up, CUNY’s contribution did not. In every round of bargaining since 2000, the union pressed for a structural solution, but management would only agree to stopgap measures. Over time this produced chronic and growing deficits in the Welfare Fund, and by 2011 the program simply could not survive without a structural change.
PLAN FOR ACTION
Last summer, the Welfare Fund’s trustees concluded that the current adjunct health plan could not survive beyond another year on its current basis. The union’s plan to save adjunct health care first targeted CUNY, demanding that it budget the funding needed to continue adjunct coverage. Thousands of members spoke out, urging CUNY to “do the right thing” – and in September, 2011, the administration announced that support for adjunct health care would be part of its State budget request. As budget season in Albany unfolded, CUNY worked to secure both this specific financing and full funding for the University’s budget request.
“Adjunct health insurance will now rest on a more solid foundation,” said Bob Cermele, a member of the PSC subcommittee bargaining on adjunct health care, “and that’s good news for everyone who works at CUNY, whether part-time or full-time. First, because it’s bad for the University if our colleagues lose their health insurance. And second, because this change strengthens the Welfare Fund’s finances for the future.”
To stay current on developments with adjunct health insurance, check the PSC website (psc-cuny.org). If you are a potentially affected adjunct, get the latest news right away by making sure the Welfare Fund has your e-mail address: fill out the web form at tinyurl.com/PSC-WF-email.