Response to CUNY from Steve London on Adjunct Health Insurance

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August 25, 2011

Dear Colleague,

President Bowen, in her August 15 communication concerning adjunct health insurance, said that the University failed in the employer’s basic responsibility of providing adequate funding for health insurance for eligible adjuncts. Vice Chancellor Silverblatt, in her August 17 “CUNY Newswire” response, is incorrect when she writes that CUNY has not underfunded adjunct health insurance. While CUNY has met its contractual funding obligation to the Welfare Fund, that is not the issue.

The real issue is that CUNY, as the employer, has consistently resisted its responsibility to provide adequate, ongoing funding for adjunct health insurance for its eligible adjunct employees. Adjunct health insurance costs will grow to $14 million this year; yet CUNY will provide only $2.8 million of this cost. The union's position is that we should work together to solve the real problem, and we urge the University to join us in this effort.

The funding of adjunct health insurance through the PSC/CUNY Welfare Fund has been problematic since its inception in 1986. This is so because CUNY has provided a flat dollar amount to fund the program, which, as the number of adjuncts grew and the cost of insurance increased, became inadequate.

The PSC has made demands in three rounds of bargaining to correct this flawed model. Since 2000, the union has consistently demanded that eligible CUNY adjuncts be treated like other half-time City workers and eligible SUNY adjuncts; both of these groups receive the same benefit as full-timers. When CUNY refused repeatedly to agree to this demand, the PSC gained a contractual agreement to supplement the basic flat rate funding for adjunct health insurance in 2002. Additional contractual agreements were made in 2004 and 2006 to increase contributions to the Welfare Fund’s general revenues.

As CUNY’s use of adjunct labor increased dramatically in recent years, the number of adjuncts eligible for Welfare Fund-provided health insurance also increased dramatically, as did insurance premium costs. But the amount of CUNY’s contribution to the Welfare Fund for the adjunct health insurance coverage did not increase beyond the amounts already negotiated. CUNY’s contribution to the cost of adjunct health insurance fell from 80% of the cost of the insurance in 2002 to 20% in Spring 2011.

The Welfare Fund Trustees acted responsibly and stepped in to provide the needed funding, and the Fund Administrator negotiated more cost-effective coverage, so adjuncts could continue to receive the same level of basic health insurance committed to by the PSC and CUNY since 1986. But, as President Bowen reported to you in her August 15, 2011 letter, the Fund can no longer fill the funding gap created by skyrocketing use of adjunct labor and huge increases in health insurance premiums.

Adjuncts are employees of CUNY, not the Welfare Fund. The union leadership believes a solution is possible. It will not be achieved, however, by posing the interests of one group against those of another. The union will seek to work with CUNY management and to unify the CUNY community around the core issue of CUNY’s responsibility to provide adequate funding for adjunct health insurance.

In solidarity,

Steve London
PSC First Vice President