Tuesday, April 5, 2011

More on the APWU Health Insurance Deal

The U.S. Postal Service and its largest labor union are reportedly trying to ensure that a new incentive for non-career employees to join the union doesn't run afoul of non-discrimination laws.

As reported here last week in Postal Service Agrees To Big Incentive For Employees Who Join Union, the proposed contract between USPS and the American Postal Workers Union calls for thousands of non-career employees to be offered only one employer-subsidized health insurance plan -- one sponsored by APWU.

The current brochure on that health plan says "APWU bargaining unit employees must be, or must become, dues-paying members of the APWU, to be eligible to enroll in the Health Plan." But the APWU has reached a side deal with the USPS to tweak that requirement, according to a source who was briefed on the negotiations.

Rather than having to join the union, non-career "postal support employees" could pay the APWU a fee in lieu of dues to be part of the union's health plan. It's not clear exactly what the fees would be, but they would be much larger than the $35 associate-member fee that federal and USPS employees outside the bargaining unit have to pay to qualify for the APWU plan, the source said.

In fact, because APWU agreed to the provision as a way of bolstering its declining membership ranks, it seems likely that the fee would be at least as large as annual union dues.

There was apparently some concern that offering employer-subsidized health insurance, with an annual value of up to almost $7,000, only to union members would be declared illegal. After all, the National Labor Relations Board slapped the union's and USPS's wrists three years ago for discriminating against non-union members in the way money from a legal settlement was distributed.

APWU briefings on the proposed contract indicate that having USPS fund an incentive for PSEs to join the union will pass legal muster because those who don't join APWU will still be able to enroll in the health plan, the source said.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Curious hairsplitting, isn't it, that on the one hand a requirement to join the APWU in order to acquire a health benefit may be legally untenable, while on the other hand a requisite "fee" roughly in line with the annual APWU dues seems to "pass muster." I guess, in the infamous phrase of one more learned, and certainly more "impeached," than I, it may just depend on what the definition of, "is," is. Right?