This page features news items of general interest to union members.
We recently received the attached press release (PDF below) from Jennifer Proffitt, UFF President, and Marshall Ogletree, Interim Executive Director.
Dr. Sarah Pappas, President Emeritus of State College of Florida, also wrote a guest column on the subject in the Sarasota Herald Tribune. The column is at this link: http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20150925/COLUMNIST/150929810/0/search
THE FATE OF HIGHER EDUCATION HANGS IN THE BALANCE
Update from Tom Auxter, President, United Faculty of Florida
10 September 2014
When we vote, nothing less than the future of higher education is at stake. In terms of policy, we have radically different choices. We know that education does not exist in a vacuum. Now more than ever the fate of public education is tied to other policy decisions. Every year in Florida higher education we face funding cuts, larger class sizes, fewer courses open, and programs threatened on every campus.
Every year some legislator proposes cuts in pensions and optional retirement programs, as well as in health insurance benefits. Last spring we barely defeated several draconian
proposals – sometimes with tie votes in the Senate stopping the proposed legislative action. If these bills were to pass, how would it affect the faculty brain drain we are already experiencing as a result of low salaries?
Should we protect the right to collective bargaining? Or, should we leave faculty with no contractual protections against at-will decisions by supervisors? Should we protect tenure, continuing contracts, and pay raises, or is it okay to let legislators experiment with “flexible employment” and concoct schemes that supposedly reward performance?
This election is not a referendum on personalities or on whether voters like everything a candidate has done. If that is how voters decide, we will watch while large amounts of money dominate the airwaves, and higher education issues fade from view.
If voters have defeatist attitudes, or feel indifferent or frustrated, Florida will have low turnout like there was in 2010. Higher education and unionized employees have been under attack since that time.
The political stakes are too high to tune out. Ask your colleagues, ask your friends, and ask your family to vote. Now is the time to get engaged on behalf of higher education in the state of Florida.
This update includes three attachments: two informational PDFs and an Excel spreadsheet listing voter registration offices by county.
Welcome into the 2014-2015 academic year!
For new employees, do not forget that you are protected by the New College collective bargaining agreement (CBA), however, if there is a grievance and you seek representation from the union, you must have been a member when the grievance occurred. UFF will not provide grievance representation to faculty who were not dues-paying UFF members at the time when the grievable incident occurred.
Membership offers many other benefits (see Membership Benefits link), among them liability insurance, information about legislators' proposals, lobbying for the interests of university faculty and for public education, special rates in various services, etc. At the local level, your membership gives you the NCUFF magical cup: offering free tea or coffee at the Four Winds cafe. If you are still having doubts, consider we offer a new member rebate of $200. 00.
All are welcome to our chapter meetings. Third Wednesdays of September, October, February, and April. This where you will hear what are the current concerns, share your thoughts of how your union should proceed, and tell us of your concerns so we can address them.
Dear Fellow Members,
Joanne M. McCall, Vice President
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Tallahassee Democrat: Cotterell: State-worker health care in the middle of the pack
August 16, 2014
State employee health insurance is a little like the story of Goldilocks, without the bears.
A new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts and MacArthur Foundation says Florida state workers pay premiums that are not too high, not too low, but just about right. Similarly, what they get for their $50 or $180 a month is neither the best nor worst deal among state employees in all states (Pennsylvania for some reason didn’t respond to the survey).
To get to the meat of it, the study found that Florida state employees pay, on average, 13 percent of the cost of their health insurance. The total cost, paid by employers and employees, is $549 for single coverage and $1,242 for family coverage.
That’s a little below the national average of 16 percent. The average total premium — employee contribution plus employer share — was $571 a month for single coverage and $1,238 for family insurance.
Per-employee costs and average state contributions vary widely, state to state. Employees in Hawaii pay 42 percent of their premium costs, and employees in North Carolina pay 38 percent. Those in North Dakota, meanwhile, pay nothing, Iowa and Alaska put 3 percent of premium cost on their employees and Oregon charges its workers 5 percent, according to the Pew-MacArthur study.
So you might say, all things being equal, we’re right in the middle (assuming Pennsylvania isn’t doing something so vastly different, it would skew the averages nationwide). Florida’s 13 percent employee-borne premium average is 3 percent below the national average.
But all things aren’t equal. The statisticians have to control for the “richness” of the insurance plans, family size, coverage exclusions, copayments and a few other factors — like the high-deductible, low-premium options. Also, there are differences like the cost of health care in different parts of the country, the average age and health status of employees and even the use of “wellness” programs by different state governments.
The money is considerable, in government or the private sector.
“The cost of health insurance has become a leading budget driver for employers of all sizes and in all sectors,” said the study. “From 1992 to 2012, the average cost of insuring each employee and dependent doubled, after adjusting for inflation. This increase has led many employers — including states — to review the benefits they provide, benchmark their offerings to comparable employers and seek ways to control costs.”
Nationwide (minus Pennsylvania), the Pew-MacArthur study found that states spent $30.8 billion insuring 2.7 million employee households. It said this is second only to Medicaid costs, in most states’ overall health-care spending.
In Florida, taxpayers have been pretty lucky. State health plan spending has dropped 3 percent, from $1.7 billion to $1.65 billion, from 2011 through 2013, the study said.
The employee share of health insurance hasn’t gone up lately in Florida government, although the subject has been discussed a lot. Senior Management and Selected Exempt employees used to have their premiums covered entirely by the state but the Legislature changed that a few years ago. For some reason, it settled on one-sixth of the standard premium — $8.34 a month for single coverage and $30 for family insurance.
There have been proposals to have all employees pay the same — that is, to raise premiums for the bosses — but nothing has been done. Maybe that’s partly because legislators don’t want to whack them again, so soon after levying a 3 percent payroll tax on employees for the Florida Retirement System.
One big variable in the nationwide study is the “coverage tiers” from state to state. Florida is among a dozen states with two tiers of insurance coverage — single or family, regardless of family size. There’s only one state, Alaska, with the same premium for all employees, whether they live alone, have just a spouse, or support 10 kids.
The most common structure is four tiers of coverage, in 23 states. Those categories are employee-only, employee and spouse, employee with children and employee plus spouse and children.
Employee health insurance will be a continuing budget issue in Florida. State Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, had a bill this year that would led to grades of coverage — loosely termed bronze, silver, gold and platinum plans – while giving employees incentives to shop around.
The down side of that is, most people don’t know much about shopping for health care. State workers struggling to make ends meet might opt for the cheapest coverage — then find out too late that it doesn’t meet their needs.
Brodeur got his bill through the House, in a party-line vote, with a week left in the session but the Senate showed no interest in it.
It will be back.
Contact columnist Bill Cotterell at email@example.com