weakening retiree health insurance benefit
EDU (Educators for a Democratic Union), a progressive caucus within the MTA, is deeply dismayed that the MTA leadership has endorsed a report which could result in the dramatic weakening of members’ retirement health insurance benefits. Last week a Special Commission on Retiree Healthcare issued a report that calls on the legislature to pass “reforms” that will in essence mean a giveback by public employees of $20 billion dollars over thirty years. EDU is outraged that this proposal was never presented to the MTA Executive Committee and Board nor to MTA members for debate. And EDU is outraged that MTA leadership has accepted, indeed has embraced, the idea that “reform” only means cuts to public employee benefits. EDU knows that the real issue of skyrocketing health care costs is creating a single payer health care system and a more progressive tax system, not a downward spiral of declining benefits for public employees.
The “reforms” will force future retirees to work longer and likely pay more for their health insurance premiums -- an estimated $1,000 more a year for some retirees. Public employees will have to accrue 20 years of service, up from the current 10 years, to get the minimum retiree health insurance (and 30 years to get the full benefit) and will have to work until age 60, not 55, before becoming eligible to start receiving retiree health care benefits. That applies to current MTA members not just future employees. You can read the MTA’s explanation here.
EDU is shocked that commission member and former MTA president Anne Wass voted in favor of the report while President Paul Toner stood alongside the Governor and praised its recommendations. Both did so having never presented the Commission’s recommendations to the MTA Executive Committee and Board nor secured any vote of endorsement. This is the worst kind of centralized, secretive decision making which turns members off and weakens the union.
EDU rejects this backroom deal which sells out our members, weakens public employee unions, and diminishes many state employees’ hopes for retirement security. We call on members and locals to unequivocally and vocally oppose this deal.
- Communicate your opposition to your MTA Board member. All members are free to attend any and all MTA Board meetings to speak their mind. You should also cc your opposition directly to MTA President Paul Toner (firstname.lastname@example.org).
EDU wants every MTA member to be aware of the pattern: our “friends” on Beacon Hill – usually ones we helped elect with our dues money – have rolled back public employee benefits. First it was municipal health care – members effectively lost their right to bargain over health care. Then it was pensions –all future members will pay more for their retirement and must work longer before they can retire. And now it is retiree health insurance – you better stay for thirty years and be at least age sixty if you want full retiree health insurance benefits. (It used to be you got the benefits after 10 years, and could retiree with full benefits after age 55).
Moreover, the commission’s report is just the starting point for legislative negotiation. The final law could be far worse.
Perhaps the most chilling comment in this latest debacle came from Steve Grossman, the State Treasurer, whom MTA endorsed this past election. He was quoted as saying that the report “is exactly what the investor community wants to hear.” In other words, our members and all future public employees are going to have to suffer financially in order to please the investors and the bonding agencies. And the “investor community”? They haven’t seen one dime of increase in their taxes while state budgets have been cut and public employees have seen their working conditions decline.
And do we think this is the end? If we go along with “the investor community,” the governor, and the legislature this time, will that be an end to all the attacks on our conditions and benefits? Or is it time that we begin to fight back and to take a stand against this sort of action?
jhlh h;oi jk;khi ;h