The November Central Labor Body meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 12, via Zoom. Please email Beth McCuskey at email@example.com to get the link to the meeting.
UEA members at the University of Minnesota Duluth and Crookston have been working without a contract since June, and the union says the institutions are dragging their feet on negotiations for a new one.
The membership met recently, said Elizabethada Wright, a professor in the writing department at UMD and also UEA president, and is determining next steps.“We have offered to make a neutral presentation of the proposed contract to membership, and we thought that was done,” she said. The institutions decided to take the response under advisement and get back to the union, but Wright said the mediator has told the union that there has been no response.
All this comes on the heels of the university system asking the union in April to put off negotiations until the old one expired in June. “The whole thing has been like this — delay, delay, delay,” Wright said.
The union represents members who are known as “term faculty” — faculty members who don’t have tenure and aren’t on a tenure track, but teach under contract. The last contract lasted three years; the university system is pushing for one on the next contract. At issue are birth leave for nonbirth parents and consistency for term faculty.
From the beginning, Wright said, the union was willing to take a pay cut as well because of the challenges the institution is facing because of the pandemic, but they wanted to negotiate it rather than having it imposed. “They offered a letter of understanding that we would agree, but the terms were far worse than they gave the rest of the system, even though they had said there would be ‘system-wide cuts,’” Wright said. “They did not meet with us again until August, when things were delayed again, so we shouldn’t have to get a retroactive cut.”
Also at issue is a clause that says contracts can be revoked at any point because of enrollment numbers or other factors. “It’s problematic,” Wright said. “Term faculty went through the entire summer not knowing whether they’d be employed despite having that contract. When you have a contract, you finish in May and have a term contract saying you’ll be back the next semester.”
But that can cause confusion when it comes to health insurance. Wright said she’s working a case where a term faculty member chose not to renew, and expected to have to pay COBRA charges for July and August. But the university came back and said they owed for June as well. “It’s these real problems that exist throughout the system, exacerbated by this contract,” Wright said.
Wright stressed that the members are willing to do their share as the pandemic goes on, and that the issues go beyond a contract. “Universities are increasingly getting rid of tenure/tenure track professors and relying on term faculty. And when people are having to plan classes, order textbooks and schedule classes but still don’t have a contract, it’s absurd.”
Unlike in many college towns, term faculty jobs in Duluth can be considered a living wage and have good benefits, thanks to the union, Wright said. But this recent round of negotiations shows how union members must always stay vigilant.
“We’re on hold now as we have been for so much of this process, because the university needs to respond,” Wright said.
Health care remains a top priority of voters. The cost continues to increase, while restrictions on what’s covered and which doctors you can see keep tightening. The COVID pandemic has made the problems in health care access and cost all the more alarming.
If President Trump is re-elected, he and the Republicans in Congress won’t reduce these trends – they’ll accelerate them. Here’s what they seek, for the various forms of health coverage we have.
This is the federal program for people 65 and older and many disabled Americans. The Republicans want to put Medicare in the hands of insurance companies. That wastes vast amounts of taxpayer funds, and lets those companies control who you can see and whether specific treatments get paid for.
Their chief goal is to turn Medicare into a voucher system, where the government gives you a set monthly amount to help you buy an insurance policy. The insurance companies, not the government, will then decide what will be covered. The government voucher won’t rise with medical inflation, and so it will pay for less and less each year. The average senior will pay $12,000 out of pocket annually, instead of $6,000, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
If they don’t win their voucher system, their Plan B is to greatly increase the use of the Medicare Advantage program – in which insurance companies already control the Medicare of those who choose it. It’s a voucher system on training wheels, and Trump is trying to expand it.
This is the federal system for low income people of all ages. Much of Medicaid goes for health care for non-seniors, but two-thirds of it pays for long term care, especially nursing homes. It is critical for all the seniors who end up in nursing homes. It’s paid for by roughly half federal money and half state money.
The Republicans want to turn it into a flat grant system. That means the federal government gives each state a total set amount per year, or per enrollee. It will rise according to overall inflation, but not fast enough to cover medical inflation.
Therefore, over time, the federal share covers an increasingly smaller portion of the overall cost. That forces states to either jack up taxes to cover the shortfall, or start reducing Medicaid benefits and/or eligibility.
ObamaCare (aka Affordable Care Act)
Many people understand that the Republicans want to repeal ObamaCare, and that Trump is trying to eliminate it in court. If that were to happen, tens of millions of people would be hurt. A new Supreme Court justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg will likely be rammed through quickly, and could tip the balance against ObamaCare.
ObamaCare increased the income eligibility for Medicaid, which most states took advantage of. Those newer enrollees would be thrown off the roles. The other major ObamaCare program are subsidies to help many people afford to buy insurance. If those subsidies disappear, another set of millions won’t be able to afford good coverage.
ObamaCare stopped insurance companies’ ability to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, and closed up the Part D “Donut Hole.” These would be reversed, too. Although Trump and the Republicans say they’ll protect pre-existing conditions, they actually intend to let insurance companies decide.
Biden and the Democrats, in contrast, would push for an improvement of Obamacare, in the form of a Public Option, to allow all Americans to buy coverage at a more affordable price.
What about the majority of Americans, who get employer health coverage? For most of them, that coverage is the best deal around. However, that deal slowly deteriorates every year: Higher premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. Greater restrictions on which doctors you can see.
Their health care will continue to get less affordable every year. The only fix for that is a very big one – a universal public health care system, which everyone would get regardless of their work status.
That won’t be enacted anytime soon. Our immediate need is to block Trump and the Republicans’ intention of making everyone’s health care much worse.
By By Buddy Robinson. Robinson, an expert on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in Minnesota, is known for his work educating Union members, their families and the community about how to best receive their benefits, as well as policy issues.
This year has been hard for all of us in some way or another. But for families already facing difficulties, the challenges of the pandemic, high unemployment rates and uncertainty around education are hitting especially hard. Renee Van Nett, Community Services Liaison, is on the case, preparing now to help make the holidays a little brighter for local families.
At this point, Community Services is planning on doing food baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and there will be a Kids Party behind the Labor Temple (with heat lamps!).
Local unions can get names and contact information of families who need support over the holidays to Renee by Nov. 2. The Thanksgiving pick-up date will be Nov. 19 at the Labor Temple, and the Kids Party will be Dec. 20 behind the Labor Temple.
Renee says she’s looking for new toys, gift cards and financial support for the events. Contact her for information on when and where to drop off donations. Help build good holiday memories for local families, and thanks for your support!