Published: July 5, 2019

Issues like health care that affect our lives and the lives of our families, are what drives our Union’s choices. Only a union of employees coming together can really address the unique conditions that the staff in those specific workplaces face. This was particularly true over the recent issue of double healthcare coverage In 2017 legislators passed a flawed bill to eliminate double coverage for public employees, mistakenly believing that it would save tens of millions of dollars. Members said in bargaining surveys that protecting our health insurance is a top priority, so we knew that we needed to confront the legislative decision to end double coverage benefits that our working families depend on.

What people often miss about double coverage is that it provides opportunities for complex health needs that can still be difficult and expensive to manage on single coverage, and many families make the decision to have both parents work for the state so that they can get the kind of health coverage their family needs.

“The elimination of double coverage for my family could potentially mean less opportunities for therapies for my son, who has multiple learning disabilities,” said Meghan Tschida, an SEIU 503 member who works for the Department of Education and whose son has special needs and requires a range of therapies, including occupations, mental health, and vision supports. “I also have Multiple Sclerosis and so I also have multiple doctors and appointments I must attend to ensure I maintain adequate treatment. My infusion therapy would be over $1,600 a month as an out of pocket expense if I had to rely on single coverage”

With my double coverage and having my medical cost and medications covered, I have experience a quality of life that I have not ever experienced. I can actually breathe!,” said Kimberly Schlosser-Vixie, who works for the Oregon State Hospital and saw first hand how expensive the medical bills were with single coverage when their son had an emergency stay in the hospital. With her own asthma, Kimberly would not be able to afford the copays for her treatment, nor the cost of controlling her son’s Lupus. “I have worked hard to get what I have and if this is how the state is going to treat it’s employees i’m not sure I can work for the state.”

The union got to work and began organizing to change this rule. The goal was to save the state money, but as a top insurance official shared with legislators, the cut did not conserve funds like it was expected to. House Bill 2266 was introduced and supported by our Union, and Oregon’s governor Kate Brown became its champion.

Because this type of issue is relegated only to public employees, it can be hard for the decision makers in Salem to see its importance on their own. It took employees standing together in union to really make this happen, and without a union no one would have stoop up for the interests of families who use double coverage. Once public employees spoke out about the issue, legislators were able to see that penalizing someone for public service was a problem, and together we fought to correct the situation. 

This is the kind of power we have as union members, and why it is so important that we continue to show our support for a strong contract. Join now to become a member and have a voice in your next union contract!