Here are answers to some questions that came up during the September 18/19 membership meetings:
1) The contract expired on August 31st – what does this mean for bargaining and benefits?
– As long as both parties continue to meet and have not reached an impasse, we continue with the language in the previous contract. The College cannot implement any benefit changes outside of the previous contract stipulations until we have reached a new agreement.
2) I heard the College plans to move from Cigna to Blue Cross Blue Shield – can they do this without a signed contract?
– Yes. The College can change providers without negotiating; however they cannot unilaterally change the benefits being provided and may have to bargain the effects of the change. This means that deductibles, co-pays, coinsurance, out of pocket maximums, and prescription costs (as well as prescriptions covered) cannot be changed without an agreement or a bargaining impasse.
3) Why are you only talking about health care? What about cost of living adjustments and raises?
– The negotiating team has presented a basic outline of our entire economic proposals to the College bargaining team (see usofcc.org for full list). Though we have not begun talking about any economic aspects of the contract other than health care, we will definitely be addressing other economic matters.
4) Why can’t part-timers use the on-site clinic?
– Currently only employees and their families with Columbia’s PPO plan can use the clinic. The executive committee thinks that allowing part-timers to use the clinic would be a great idea! If you would like to work on this, please sign up to be a part of the part-time caucus. It would be a big fight, but also a big win.
5) We are losing positions right and left/there is a hiring freeze but some people are still being hired/we were interviewing people to fill an open position over the summer and now we can’t hire anyone/ what’s going on?
– This is a huge issue. And one that the union needs a lot more information on. The CFO has told the executive committee that there will be a list of criteria released within the next two weeks stating how the College will decide which positions to fill. In the past, we have been told that position elimination was isolated. In order to prove that this is a widespread and constant problem across the school, we need your experiences and stories, and also more people to join the position elimination committee. Please sign up to volunteer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6) So what the union bargains over health care benefits will affect faculty health care benefits, right? Why aren’t we working with them?
– Yes. Whatever the union negotiates will apply to all full-time faculty and full-time non-union staff throughout the college. The executive committee approached the Faculty Senate about this issue over the summer, and it was determined that this issue was outside of the Senate’s jurisdiction. However, this does not prevent any individual full-time faculty member from getting involved. So please talk to anyone in your department. And if you have any ideas on how to get the full-time faculty (or other union or non-union staff, for that matter) involved in negotiation issues, please sign up to volunteer at email@example.com.
7) Can we strike?
– Short answer is yes. Longer answer: if we have reached a bargaining impasse, in order to have a successful strike (should we get to that point) we need the support of the majority of the union. To start that process we need as many people as possible involved. Again, please sign up to volunteer as an area rep or for the Contract Support Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.