Monday morning at breakfast, I came across a flyer distributed by the Workers for Justice (WFJ) highlighting recent changes in Pomona’s health-care plan for staff. The flyer claimed that the reduction in monthly payments for the two-party and family plans was a huge improvement, and it credited the WFJ organization with the change, stating, “We are proud of this victory and will keep fighting until we get a fair process to choose a union.”
The reduction in monthly payments is dramatic, and the fact that they will make health care more affordable to employees’ partners and dependents is wonderful. However, the flyer omits two pieces of information crucial to having an informed discussion about the effects of these changes. The first is simply a matter of statistics: while the two-party and family plan monthly contributions dropped sharply, the employee-only plan slightly increased its monthly payment requirements from $36.61 to $39.16, using the flyer’s information. In order to fully understand how much money employees are saving as a result of these changes, the number of employees on each of the plans must be publicly available. If the majority of staff members affected by the new cost guidelines are on the employee-only plan, for instance, then most staff members will be paying more as a result of the changes.
The second piece of information omitted is both more subjective and a good deal more important. While the WFJ flyer implies that Workers for Justice’s activities precipitated the change in Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) policy, no clear evidence was presented to validate the claim. Did WFJ representatives negotiate the change with Pomona administrators? Did they submit a petition asking for the shift to a different plan? My understanding of WFJ is that the organization aims to ensure a fair unionization process, rather than to wrangle down health-care costs. If Pomona administrators decided to switch HMO plans without input from WFJ, or if Kaiser Permanente itself had simply changed the structure of the existing plan, then the change, however beneficial for employees, is irrelevant in terms of WFJ’s activities.
I do not write this to belittle WFJ’s aims, and there may well be evidence which supports what the WFJ flyer currently implies. However, in the interest of intelligent conversation, I ask that Workers for Justice and other relevant groups present all the facts in their materials.