At the SDEA Board’s August Board Retreat, the Board received a presentation from VEBA, our healthcare provider, about coming changes to our healthcare plan. When the minutes for this presentation were approved at a subsequent SDEA Board meeting, SDEA Board member Erin Kole had the details of these coming healthcare changes redacted before the Board approved them. We wrote about this at the time HERE.
That was a big red flag because as an SDEA member, I want to know if there are going to be major changes to our healthcare. I went ahead and contacted VEBA directly, which any member can do, and asked for the information about the plan changes. They gave me the information. You can click on VEBA Mtg Slides to download the key pages of the PowerPoint I got from VEBA, but here is an overview:
- Currently SDUSD pays a “supercomposite” rate where they pay the same amount per employee whether we are single, married, or have a family.
- Starting 2014 that rate will no longer be available to districts.
- The new rate system will be “tiered.” Each of us will go into a separate tier indicating whether we are single, married, have a family, and that is how much the District will pay for us.
- The new rate system will enable the District do what it could not have done before under the supercomposite rate: Bargain a premium increase for those of us who are more expensive (e.g. have kids).
- Also, the healthcare costs that the District pays are going up this January.
Why should we be worried? Isn’t our healthcare “locked up” for another two years? Yes, but so were our raises, right up until they weren’t, because the SDEA Board voted to bargain them away. As long as this current SDEA leadership remains in office, we have no guarantee that under pressure, they won’t sit back down with the District to make further concessions without coming to the membership first. Because that’s exactly what they did this past June.
Whether Prop. 30 passes or not, the writing is clearly on the wall that the District is getting ready to come after the one thing that SDEA members have been better at protecting than any other union: Our fully paid family healthcare. It’s been on the list of concessions the District has wanted for the past two years.
Even if the SDEA Board doesn’t decide to prematurely go back into bargaining like they did in June, the next time we bargain benefits, we will be under the new tiered model. That means that in addition to layoffs, the District will be able to hit our union with yet another divide-and-conquer strategy to wedge newer and veteran teachers apart. They will be able to do what they can’t do under the vanishing supercomposite. They can propose capping the District’s healthcare contribution at the single or married rate, so that those of us who are married or who have children will have to pay more.
Our fully paid family healthcare is one of the few reasons I could always use to justify why I worked in this district, instead of taking a higher paying job in another district. But with the disparity in pay between what I make in SDUSD and what I would earn if I taught in Sweetwater (even after factoring in that I would pay about $400 a month to maintain my current healthcare plan) I have absolutely no way to financially justify working for this district. Our veteran teachers are basically held hostage with shrinking pay and decreasing benefits, and for some of them it has become a race to retire before this District does them even more financial harm. Our newer teachers and their growing families face an increasingly bleak future should they choose to remain in SDUSD. And promising teaching candidates are going to have even less of a reason to come to work for SDUSD when they can get the same benefits but better pay with almost any other district in the county.
Considering the SDEA Board didn’t want us to know about the coming changes, how much do you trust them to fight as hard as they need to in order to protect our fully paid family healthcare? The District will be fighting tooth and nail to take our healthcare from us, and we need to be ready to defend ourselves from this benefits raid sooner rather than later.
— by Shane Parmely, Garfield and Twain High Schools