Student-Worker Alliance (CSWA), formerly known as Workers for Justice, is petitioning the Pitzer
College administration to raise financial assistance for health care costs for Pitzer
workers, some of whom say they are struggling to cover medical expenses.
The Pitzer Budget Implementation Committee (BIC) sent a memo on Feb. 10 to Pitzer staff and faculty. The memo, which was also sent to TSL, states that the 2014-2015 budget for the college will not be adjusted to accommodate an increase in health care cost assistance for staff members making under $52,000 per year.
“Our original communication indicated that we would implement the Pomona Plan: 90/90/90 for those earning $52,000/year or less,” the memo reads. “After analysis, we regret that we are unable to do so.”
A 90/90/90 plan would mean that the college would cover 90 percent of individual coverage, 90 percent of coverage for workers’ spouses, and 90 percent of coverage for their family members.
CSWA member Caroline Bourscheid PZ ’16, who met with Pitzer President Laura Trombley Feb. 7 to discuss the requests of the CSWA petition, said that the content of the memo was frustrating because it contradicted what Trombley had said during their meeting.
“She said they [BIC] were going to discuss bringing up the health insurance to 90/90/90,” Bourscheid said. “And then suddenly on Monday it’s out the window.”
Trombley said that considering the school’s smaller endowment, the Pomona Plan is too expensive for Pitzer.
“If you take the billion-plus endowment schools out, we actually have the best benefits package,” she said.
Trombley also noted that the costs of health care are rising across the nation, not just at Pitzer. According to a survey that the administration conducted, staff members preferred to bring up individual coverage to 90 percent as a priority over the spouse or family plans. Currently, coverage for spouses stands at 80 percent, and coverage for families is at 70 percent, according to an explanation of the health and welfare benefits for college staff and faculty.
A Pitzer employee who asked to remain anonymous discussed the challenges of
covering personal medical costs, some of which are the results of job-related
injuries. This is a problem
faced by many Pitzer workers, the employee said.
“I would go from place to place on Pitzer campus and there’d
be workers crying,” the employee said. “They’re sick, and they couldn’t go get medical treatment
because they didn’t have the money.”
The employee told TSL that, after being injured on the job and unable to work, they were unable to meet their cost of living due to the
mismanagement of workers’ compensation.
“I had a beautiful home … I lost it because what happened was
workers’ comp would pay me my checks late … and so would Pitzer,” the worker said. “So
then in the meantime my bills weren’t getting paid. I lost my home.”
Bourscheid said that she is hopeful that the Pitzer administration will increase its coverage of workers’ health care costs in the future, but does not think that it will be the administration’s priority.
“I don’t know how to make it their
priority unless we’re really in their face about it,” Bourscheid said. “And I hope it doesn’t have
to come to that, but it might, because at this point, they’re not really
“If the administration was what I thought it was, I wouldn’t be doing this,” she added. “I didn’t think I’d be doing a campaign like this at Pitzer.”
Our anonymous employee echoed that sentiment, saying that the administration’s treatment of the workers hasn’t been fair.
“It would be nice if Pitzer College looked at the picture
better and did something for the workers, because we take care of this college and we do a lot of stuff
for the students here,” the anonymous Pitzer employee said. “That is our job, but we shouldn’t be overlooked and
disrespected. We should be taken care of and treated like human beings, not
Kara Freedman contributed reporting.