As most of you already know at this point, due to a resolution recently passed by the Welfare Fund, almost 2000 adjuncts may be without health insurance next year at this time. This crisis is complex–it is not entirely obvious where to point the finger. But one thing is certain–CUNY management has made it clear that they are going to attempt to pit their workers against each other, and to place the blame elsewhere, once again devaluing the health and well-being of the majority of its workforce.
PSC leadership recently contacted the AP co-coordinators about meeting to discuss this crisis and how to prevent it. This is truly a time for all of us–members of the AP, CCU, First Friday Committee, and any and all rank and file union members–to come together and commit to working as hard as we can to see that this doesn’t come to pass.
It would be awesome if there could be a really big turnout at this meeting with PSC staff and leadership on Tuesday August 30th from 3:30-6pm in GC Room 5409, to discuss a response. Some of us have different ideas about the how the union fits into this debacle–this meeting would be a good place to ask questions to this effect and also to push for a better contract that puts adjuncts first.
Part of our response may include attending the PSC-proposed protest at the Board of Trustees meeting on September 26th. But we are sure we can come up with lots of other ways to respond to this potential crisis, as well.
Until the 30th, maybe we could begin to throw out some questions/thoughts over this list so that we can have these ready for the meeting on the 30th? Surely there is a range of issues that Adjunct Project members would like to discuss and see addressed.
For more info on this crisis, see Larry Morgan’s email (head of the Welfare Fund) below, Barbara Bowen’s and Marcia Newfield’s response below that, and CUNY’s official response below that.
Hope to see you all at 3:30pm on Tuesday 8/30 in Room 5409!!!
It is with deep concern that I write to you about a possible change in the Adjunct Health Insurance Plan of the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund, a change that may dramatically reduce the level of benefits coverage provided to you and the rest of our adjunct participants as of August 31, 2012—one year from now.
On July 25, 2011, the Trustees of the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund passed a resolution stating that unless sufficient funding or an alternative source of adjunct health insurance is made available by the end of August 2012, the current adjunct health insurance plan will be discontinued and a substantially reduced benefit will be put in its place.
The Welfare Fund Trustees were forced to take this action because the employer, CUNY,has severely underfunded the adjunct insurance plan. Over the period from July 2002 through June 2011, both the number of participating adjuncts and the amount charged by the health insurance companies have skyrocketed, resulting in a total cost increase of 400%. The employer contribution, however, has remained unchanged, regardless of the number of adjuncts participating and the cost per person. In Fiscal Year 2003, CUNY’s contribution met more than 80% of the costs; by Fiscal Year 2012 (which began on July 1of this year) the contribution will cover only 20%.
The cost increase has been especially steep in recent years. Because the Welfare Fundhas been committed to sustaining the adjunct benefit, we have made extraordinary cost saving efforts to keep it in place, including renegotiating contracts with providers for greater service and efficiency, and restructuring the adjunct plan, as well as the benefits of full-time employees and retirees, to reduce costs across the board. While these measures helped to close the gap created by the underfunding, most of the difference has been met by drawing down the Fund’s financial reserves.
Now that the funding gap has reached its current proportions, the Welfare Fund no longer has the financial resources to cover it. Revamping and reducing Welfare Fund benefits and relying on a diminishing reserve will never solve the problem. What is required is a structural solution, one that provides adequate funds or moves adjuncts into an alternative employee health plan.
The employer funding simply does not come near the actual cost of the adjunct health insurance benefit. The Welfare Fund made up the difference as long as we could, but it is no longer financially possible to continue. After much deliberation—considering alternative insurance plans, increased deductibles, lower levels of coverage—the Trustees found nothing available at the current level of funding. Unless the funding problem is resolved, your insurance in its current form will be discontinued as of August 31, 2012 – one year from now. A committee of Welfare Fund Trustees has been formed to investigate other insurance options that may be open to you. If we must face this reduction, we will provide information to assist .you in what we know will be an extremely difficult transition.
As Director of the Welfare Fund and someone who has been working to sustain the adjunct health insurance plan, I am very sorry that the Fund Trustees and I have to communicate such potentially bad news. We will be in communication with you over the course of the year as we gather information on the scope of any diminished benefit and possible alternatives. Meanwhile, the Trustees have urged the PSC and CUNY to work hard for a lasting solution that will preserve adjunct health insurance.
I know that you will have questions about your insurance coverage and the possible changes; please call our Welfare Fund staff at 212-354-5230. You can read the Trustees’ resolution on the adjunct health insurance on the Fund website, psccunywf.org, or request a paper copy by calling our office. And I will notify you immediately if there are developments or a resolution is negotiated.
Executive Director, PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund
Last Friday, the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund sent letters to CUNY adjuncts who receive health insurance through the Welfare Fund with distressing news about their health insurance benefit. For more than ten years CUNY resisted every attempt by the union to negotiate adequate funding or a stable health insurance plan for adjuncts. CUNY has chronically underfunded adjunct health insurance, and now covers only 20% of the total cost. As a result, the Welfare Fund wrote to adjuncts on Friday that one year from now, unless a source of adequate funding is made available, the Fund will have to discontinue adjunct health insurance. If the current benefit were to be discontinued, the Welfare Fund would implement a severely reduced health benefit for participating adjuncts, based on available funding.
You may be a participant in adjunct health insurance, and feel shocked or scared by the news of a potential end to the benefit. Or you may not be personally affected. (If you are affected and have questions, call the Welfare Fund at: 212-354-5230.) A relatively small portion of the 13,000 adjuncts working at CUNY qualify for and receive health insurance through the Welfare Fund: roughly 1,700, or 13% of adjuncts, participate in the plan. As you may know, in order to qualify for health insurance through the Welfare Fund, adjuncts must have taught or worked at CUNY for a year, be teaching at least two courses, and have no other primary health insurance.
Why make the decision now?
Adjuncts’ basic health insurance is provided through the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund, while health insurance for full-timers and retirees is provided through the New York City Health Benefits Program. For many years, CUNY has radically underfunded the adjunct health insurance plan. From 2003 through the present, the University’s contribution to the Welfare Fund for the purpose of providing adjunct health insurance has remained unchanged—despite a huge increase in the number of participants and the cost of the benefit. In 2003, CUNY’s contribution covered 80% of the total cost of the benefit; now it covers only 20%. In recent years, the cost increase has been especially steep. Because the Welfare Fund and the union were committed to sustaining the benefit, the Fund made extraordinary efforts to keep adjunct health insurance in place, including spreading the cost over the entire Welfare Fund membership and drawing on the Fund’s financial reserve.
Welfare Fund director Larry Morgan wrote in his letter to adjuncts: “While these measures helped to close the gap created by the underfunding, most of the difference has been met by drawing down the Fund’s financial reserves. Now that the funding gap has reached its current proportions, the Welfare Fund no longer has the financial resources to cover it. Revamping and reducing Welfare Fund benefits and relying on a diminishing reserve will never solve the problem.”
What’s needed is a structural solution: a source of adjunct health insurance that increases support as the number of participants and the costs increase. That’s what the PSC has demanded for more than a decade. In every round of contract negotiations since the current leadership took office, the union has called for increased funds for the Welfare Fund and the transfer of eligible CUNY adjuncts to the same health plan as full-time faculty and staff. While the PSC won modest increases in funding and preserved Welfare Fund benefits through contract negotiations, CUNY has so far not agreed to our demand for a structural solution.
An escalating campaign
The union is committed to solving the problem this year. As the crisis in adjunct health insurance funding became apparent, we met with the CUNY administration and urged them to work with the union for a permanent solution. The PSC leadership has made it clear that we would welcome an opportunity to work with CUNY on a plan for stable and lasting coverage. But with 1,700 colleagues in danger of losing their health insurance, the PSC must also use its collective force. We must make CUNY hear our demand—loud and clear and often—for a permanent, equitable plan for adjunct health insurance. Winning this campaign will require extraordinary and visible effort.
These are just the first steps in a campaign that may escalate. If you want to have a part in shaping the campaign, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll contact you about joining an organizing committee.
The PSC will do everything in our power to protect this essential benefit for CUNY adjuncts. We ask you to join us in this fight for a basic human right—health care—for ourselves and our colleagues. Join us in the fight for respect for adjunct labor, and all labor, at CUNY.
PSC Vice President, Part-Time Personnel
CUNY Newswire – August 17, 2011
Update on the PSC-CUNY Welfare Fund
Dear members of the University community,
By now you may have received a letter from the Professional Staff Congress (dated August 15, 2011) or may have read in the media that approximately 1700 adjuncts may be at risk of losing their health insurance, which the union inaccurately asserts is owing to inadequate funding by CUNY.
At the outset, let’s be clear that, contrary to the PSC’s assertion, the University has not underfunded adjunct health insurance. The University has steadfastly lived up to its contractual obligations and provided the mutually agreed-upon funding to the Welfare Fund, which provides the health insurance at issue. The contributions made by the University are negotiated and specified in the collective bargaining agreement between the union and the University. While the union has raised the issue of health benefits for adjuncts in prior rounds of collective bargaining, it has consistently agreed to settle its collective bargaining agreements at the specified funding levels. Despite the fact that the costs have escalated — by the Welfare Fund’s estimates adjunct health insurance will cost about $14 million in the upcoming year — the PSC has over many years and several rounds of bargaining agreed to the specified contributions to the Welfare Fund, and the University has consistently made the mutually agreed-upon payments.
The union, in its August 15th letter, indicates that “Because the Welfare Fund and the union were committed to sustaining the benefit, the Fund made extraordinary efforts to keep adjunct health insurance in place, including spreading the cost over the entire Welfare Fund membership and drawing on the Fund’s financial reserve.” Thus, the union has known that the Welfare Fund has operated by cross-subsidizing the health benefits for about 1700 adjuncts by using the Welfare Fund contributions made by the University on behalf of full-time faculty and staff. The level of benefits and configuration of those benefits are within the sole discretion of the Trustees of the Welfare Fund, the overwhelming majority of whom are appointed by the union; in fact, the University appoints only two out of the 12 Trustees on the Welfare Fund board.
The union’s current campaign, which it indicates it intends to escalate over the upcoming year, is nothing more than an attempt to get the University to unilaterally put up approximately $14 million/year to support these benefits. While the union may characterize its campaign as looking for a “structural solution” and seeks the transfer of adjuncts to the New York City Health Benefits Program, which provides health insurance for the full-time faculty and staff, the core issue is one of funding.
Unfortunately, as the union is well aware, any additional funding that would support these health insurance benefits for about 13% of our adjunct faculty would have to come from other places within CUNY. Thus, during collective bargaining, any available funding – for all employees – would have to be reduced to pay for this enhancement for this cohort of employees. Given these very difficult fiscal times and the contract recently ratified by the State’s largest civil service union — which had three years with no raises followed by two years with two percent increases in each year, coupled with furlough days and significantly increased health insurance premium contributions by employees (http://www.governor.ny.gov/press/081611cseacontract) — we would caution that taking $14 million to support this benefit for 1700 employees is not an action we can recommend.
The University is committed to abiding by our collective bargaining agreement and providing the negotiated amounts of funding. We urge the union to resist inflammatory strategies and work instead to explore alternatives.
Vice Chancellor for Labor Relations