District Council 57

Contra Costa County AFSCME Members Say 'No' to High Healthcare Costs

For weeks, members of AFSCME Local 2700 and Local 512 have been putting more pressure on Contra Costa County to make the healthcare plans of all County Employees fair, and they got their first breakthrough this month.

By joining with other unions to go into coalition healthcare discussions with the County’s Joint Labor Management Benefits Committee, AFSCME members were able to achieve some improvements to their benefits that will be available to all members starting in January 2017:

  • For the first time, the County has agreed to offer members a stand-alone vision plan that will allow them and their families to have an annual eye exam, glasses and/or contacts for a nominal premium.
  • A new tax-free Health Savings Account will be offered to High-Deductible Plan members through Kaiser. 

AFSCME is still fighting to get the County to pay more toward employees’ health care. Members have been outraged since recently learning that the County arbitrarily agreed to start paying 90% of the healthcare costs for some County Employees. Although members have been able to get consistent wage increases since 2014, healthcare costs remain high—especially for Local 2700 members, who are some of the lowest-paid workers in nine Bay Area counties.

Cynthia Julian, a Clerk Specialist at the Contra Costa County Health Services Department, is one of the members who has been feeling the pinch. With all the money that comes out of her paycheck each month, she can only afford to live with one of her two children and she sometimes has a hard time paying her rent—even though she lives in one of the more affordable Bay Area cities.

She participated in a rally that members held last week before the JLMBC meeting to make the County aware that a large number of County employees are suffering because of the unnecessarily high healthcare costs.

“I went to the rally because I wanted to send the Board of Supervisors a clear message that what they have done regarding healthcare is outrageous,” Julian said. “All County employees deserve affordable insurance premiums.”

That’s why AFSCME members agree that one of their next battles with Contra Costa County must be a political fight. With the November election coming up soon, members are developing plans to challenge the current Board of Supervisors by getting out the vote for candidates who have a record of standing up for working families. There are two open seats on the Board, and by helping to put our endorsed candidates in office, members will have a better opportunity to address the rising cost of health care sooner rather than later.

“Once and for all, Contra Costa County needs to do right by its employees, especially our Local 2700 members who are among some of the lowest-paid employees in the county workforce,” said Local 2700 President Cheryll Grover. “The Board of Supervisors continue to pay us rock-bottom wages compared to the surrounding nine Bay Area counties, and enough is enough. We will fight to elect Board members who will stand with working families.”

Correction: This article previously said that HealthNet—one of the healthcare providers available to Contra Costa County Employees—will significantly lower its rates. The statement was incorrect.

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