By Lena O’Donnell
On October 21 the Custodial Workers Union that represents St. Michael’s employees filed a grievance that said healthcare fee increases of four to five percent proposed by the college violated the union agreement.
The agreement between the AFSCME Local 1343 Union and Saint Michael’s College, says “Employees shall be responsible for their share of the premiums based on the following schedule: Employee Only – 10%, Employee +1 – 16%, and Family 16%.” Monthly total costs are thus factored into these percentages that the employee has to pay.
So when the college proposed a four to five percent increase the fees would have changed from 10 to 15 percent for the Employee only gold and platinum plan and 16 to 20 percent for the Employee +1 and family plan on the gold and platinum plans. The silver plan was below and met the contract guidelines.
When custodian Graham Lebel, a union representative for the custodial staff. He first heard of the premium increase, he reached out to students in the club Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM). Madison Sousa ‘21, Patrick Richards ‘20, and Reagan Welch ‘20 and I aided Lebel in trying to find out what would be done about this error.
Originally there was just one standard healthcare plan for employees. Now there are three. “The platinum plan which is the most expensive is the most similar to the current plan we have,” Lebel says. The other plans; Lebel feels lacks the variety of coverage the original plan did.
SLAM members and I went to the office of Rob Robinson, the Vice President of financial services, to ask some questions about this change from one to three choices.
“Saint Michael’s is now moving away from our previous single offering of one healthcare plan design to three different plan designs that individuals can pick the plan that meets their best needs,” Robinson told the students.
He advised us to speak to Eileen O’Rourke who is the Vice President of Human Resources. She emphasized the same idea. “Quality of care is equal in all plans being offered,” she said regarding the newest healthcare plans.
“It’s the illusion of choice if you’re low-income,” said Lebel. For a low-income family looking for healthcare, they have to opt for the most expensive plan if that is what best fits their needs. Luckily for Lebel, his wife works for the state and is on her healthcare plan.
The Union actually won. Lebel was thrilled and messaged me “Update: we won the grievance!”
O’Rourke said that after a deeper analysis they made a change.“In the future bi-weekly employee contributions for employees making less than $50,000 per calendar year, reducing the employee portion for the Platinum and Gold plans,” said O’Rourke.
Exciting day for the Union as they have been heard and recognized.
As a member of SLAM, I feel as though I can use my voice as a writer, student, and resident life staff member to make a change. Staff and faculty work for us, they are constantly dealing with us. On this campus especially, their voices are just as important as the students.