September 2015 Advocate: Fight for better medical benefits for part-timers continues

Fight for better medical benefits for part-timers continues

by Paul Rueckhaus, Skyline Part-Timer Co-Rep. & Michelle Kern, CSM Part-Timer Rep.

Since the Spring semester of 2015, AFT 1493 has made it a priority to fight for improved health benefits for part time employees. We’ve come a long way since we started this campaign in January and still have more ground to cover.

Last February, Local 1493 sent out a survey on medical benefits to all part-time faculty. The 201 responses from that survey revealed widespread challenges in meeting the financial demands of medical care and widespread dissatisfaction with the limited availability of health benefits for adjunct faculty (See full survey results here.)

Following some tough negotiation sessions and an impassioned appeal to the SMCCCD Board of Trustees, we have made two significant gains in expanding health benefits for part-timers. Prior to the current academic year, adjunct faculty teaching at a 40% FTE (6 units) load were eligible to receive $600 in reimbursements for medical expenditures approved by their Division Deans. Beginning this academic year, faculty teaching 40% FTE or greater are entitled to $1000 in reimbursements and no longer need to go through their Divisions for approval.

Use it or lose it

Looking forward, we are trying to further expand access to medical benefits for adjunct faculty either in the form of a greater stipend or eligibility for a district health plan (e.g., Kaiser). In order to make a strong case for any expansion, we need to show robust participation in the benefits that exist currently. So, if you are eligible for the stipend (adjunct faculty working 40% or more), you can contact Anahi Aguilar (aguilara@smccd.edu) to sign up before the deadline at the end of the semester. If you teach less than a 40% load and do not have a medical plan, let the Union know your concerns.

While we’ve made some significant improvements to our part-time medical benefits plan in a short amount of time, we still rank close to the bottom of other community college districts in terms of providing health coverage to their adjunct faculty. We have more work to do in order to offer an adequate medical benefit option for dedicated part timers who have given their time and energy to the students in this district. We’ll need your help to continue to make the case for ongoing expansions of medical benefits, so please respond to surveys and requests for action as we’ll be reaching out to you often on this issue.

Contact Michelle Kern (kern@aft1493.org) for any questions, and if you’d like her to visit to talk about signing up or to share your ideas for this campaign.

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