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September 01, 2006

On Strike for Labor Day? (Part 3)

Today was on the 'lighter' side - only 10 hours. As noted in the last posting, I got home last night after the strike rally about 1am and had to be back at 8am to start again. With some of the adrenalin and anxiety, it was hard to sleep - and that made getting up in the morning easy, but hurt later in the day.

on strike sign 

Although we were supposed to have an 8am session on health care as a 2 (from their team) on 2 (from our team), what meaterialized was a 3 (their team) on 2 (our team) about 9am. The session was reasonable productive and businesslike, a contrast from the night before. The 3rd person on their side was a health care consultant who was helpful in answering some questions.

Basically, the union needs to give back something on health care, which is getting less affordable for everyone. Faculty have three options, so the questions were about the types of variables we could manipulate in each of the plans (for example, drug co-pays, doctor co-pays, deductables, preium contributions etc). We also _finally!!!_ got the information we had been looking for about the three tier ($10/$20/$30) drug plan. The lists they provided left off many drugs faculty used, so we had asked _repeatedly!!!_ for information about what was covered and at what level.

Our position was that it was irresponsible of us to think about adopting a plan when we couldn't tell faculty how much they would be paying for existing prescriptions under the new plan.  We also think it was irresponsible of them to _repeatedly!!!_ put forward the same proposal without having researched this same issue, without exploring it when we(yes, _repeatedly!!!_) raised it. <sarcasm> Guess they day contract expiration is as good as any <sarcasm/>.

leave out health care alone 

That meeting lasted about two hours and included some questions about flexible spending accounts and wellness programs. Even though their goal is to save money and even though all the literature says a well-done wellness program saves money, they haven't put forward a proposal on it - even though we have asked about it (yes) _repeatedly!!!_. Oh, and the University President and their health care consultant also think its a good idea.

One of the big discussion points was about choice and retaining all the options. They would like to force us all on the cheapest provider, Blue Cross/Blue Shield PPO, with two different premium and co-pay options. It wasn't about taking away choice, it was about "unification " - one big, disgruntled family facing the same uncertainties about co-pays for a large number of prescription drugs and no wellness plan. (Since the changes also amount to about 2-3% of salary and the wage increase is 2%, what's not to like strike about?)

For what it's worth, we maintained that different plans fit the diverse needs of our membership. And, having choice is a potection (admittedly limited, but important) against declining health care coverage. If one plan starts to suck too badly, faculty can switch. They pointed out that many plans had declining coverage, and with other insurance like car or homeowner's, the trend was higher deductables. We pointed out that you could still comparison shop and find a range of prices for the same high deductable level of coverage. I'm not usually the first to use a free market argument, and it was both amusing and annoying to have it dismissed as a "theoretical concern."

The rest of the day was BS and more BS. All other negotiations were put on hold for the 3 on 2 discussion, then we agreed to restart after lunch around 1. At 1 they needed more time. Then they needed more time to have lunch. Sometime around 2 we started talking about issues, and they were not interested in anything, although we spent about four hours hearing every direct and indirect permutation of "_NO!!!_"

 faculty picketing

Normally, I try to use down time to write notes in the blog. Today, I was too beat to think about writing. Too little sleep, and too many hours of multiple important conversations going on.

I did walk outside for a while to check on the picketing. During the night, the picketers turned away some garbage trucks. During the day, some construction crews turned away, leaving undone some work that was to be completed for toworrow's move in of students to the dorms. Many faculty called in to come out over the weekend and pass out information to parents and students.

We're negotiating in a building on a busy street, so picketers stood outside with signs getting cars to honk. We're in the basement on the far side of the road and can't hear it, but apparently everyone else in the building was subjected to honking all day. (Mission accomplished.)

The mediator is perhaps as frusted as we are. He suggested we take some time off - obviously neigher side is ready to give, so we need to wait until closer to the (next) deadline of Wed morning when classes start.  So, we're not negotiating Saturday, although our team will be meeting for a while to work though a new health care proposal. (more on that tomorrow)

Nice to be home and have a home cooked - non take out dinner. Many thanks to my wife for the nice meal and accomoation to an exhausted, brain-dead state.

Start: 8am

Finish: 6:05pm 

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