August 24, 2010

State proposes 117% increase in employee premium share, rebuffs unions' creative proposals to maintain benefits

The state today at the bargaining table proposed that your share of health care premiums increase from 12 percent to a whopping 26 percent. The state would only pay 74 percent instead of the current 88 percent.

The state wants to cut health benefits for 110,000 state employees by making them pay about $2,316 more a year in health premiums for their families.


To put that in perspective, that would mean:
  • a pay cut of 7.8 percent for a custodian 1, 
  • a pay cut of 6.8 percent for an attendant counselor 1, 
  • a pay cut of 8 percent for an office assistant 1, 
  • a pay cut of 7 percent for a cook 1, 
  • a pay cut of 4.5 percent for a Community Corrections officer 2, 
  • a pay cut of 5 percent for a financial services specialist 3 – 
  • and the list goes on and on. 
And these pay cuts are based on those at top step. The impact is far greater for newer employees lower down on the salary schedule.

But the Federation-led coalition of all state employee unions proposed a creative path out of the dilemma that would require finding a modest amount of new money (if that) to maintain the current 88/12 premium split and other current health costs.

The Federation also stuck to its position on protecting any surpluses in the health fund and some attempt to help lower-paid state employees with health costs.

The union plan is not unreasonable. It comes in the middle of what could be four years of pay freezes.

Health costs went up this year already by about $1,100 a person. Pension funding has been cut. Thousands of members are taking a 5 percent pay cut through furloughs. And thousands more have lost their jobs.

In that environment, it’s not unreasonable to agree to a plan that maintains your current health premiums and costs when you’ve sacrificed so much already.

Unlike the Seattle Times, which continues to rail against your health plans. Funny thing is, we figured out why. It’s because they don’t like our suggestion that the state dip into some of the billions in tax loopholes to maintain your benefits.

It turns out Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen drove his sporty Porsche to Olympia earlier this year to demand a whopping 40 percent tax break/tax loophole for his financially ailing newspaper.

Blethen and the Times are the last ones to be lecturing office assistants and custodians who would take pay cuts of 7 percent or 8 percent if the state gets its way by jacking up your premium costs.

Much is planned.
  • For now, call the governor at 1-800-562-6000 (or send an online email message here).

    Tell her to nix the 74/26 premium plan her negotiators brought to the table. Work with us to think out of the box on the creative path we’ve presented in health care negotiations.

WFSE/AFSCME representatives on the Health Care Coalition caucus outside the General Administration Building in Olympia Aug. 24. From left: Craig Gibelyou (General Government) Gabe Hall (General Government), Liz Larsen (staff), Brett Clubbe (WSU), President Carol Dotlich, Nicole Kennedy (UW), Vice President Sue Henricksen, Kirk Talmadge (TESC, back to camera), Brandon Taylor (WWU), Don Hall (General Government), Rodolfo Franco (Community College Coalition), Chief Negotiator Steve Kreisberg, Cathy Green (EWU) and WFSE/AFSCME Executive Director Greg Devereux.

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