Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Imagining Benefits

Back before the latest budget crisis, our union, the one that's not allowed to bargain collectively on our behalf, sent out a questionnaire about benefits.  Basically, they were asking what benefits we union folks would want the union to argue for.

The thing about benefits is that they cost money, along with salaries, and so the balance here has been that we've had lower than average salaries (compared to our peer institutions in the region) for pretty decent benefits. 

We're all mutually subsidizing our basic health insurance, for example, to the tune of $650 or more a year (that's the last number I remember, but it's probably gone up), though we also pay for our health insurance.  Similarly, we're all covered by basic life insurance at the same rate, and only pay more if we want higher coverage.  We also have a state pension (which we contribute to), and have access to a 403B plan (which the state organizes and makes available, but doesn't contribute directly to).

Some benefits are only available to some people, and so the rest of us subsidize those benefits.  People who have a spouse or children covered on their health insurance pay a higher rate for that coverage, but it's still mostly subsidized.  (That is, instead of the university putting in $650 for the second person, it puts in $550 or so.  The second and more people added cost another $150 or so for the employee.)  Those of us who don't have spouses or kids don't benefit, but we're contributing.

There's also subsidized daycare (more subsidy for students, less for employees), which only people with little children use.  And so on.

Employees can also get spouses and kids a campus card so that they can use the facilities such as the swimming pool and such, and also take city buses that the campus pays the city so that campus people (students, employees, etc) can ride "free."

The list of imagined benefits the union suggested were mostly things like free or reduced tuition for kids and such.

Now I don't usually think about what benefits I'd like beyond health insurance, but here goes:

What benefits might one wish for?

Are there benefits one might wish for that would be accessible to everyone, and not just people who have spouses or dependents?

My idea would be to give every employee a "pot" of benefit money after basic health insurance and such, and let them decide which benefit to fund, health insurance for a spouse or dependent(s), day care, or a contribution to, say, a 403b type account or to paying off student loans.

Let's imagine that the additional money averages out to $400 a month.  People with spouses or dependents could put that towards health insurance, though they'd have to also put in more than they do now.  But people who don't have spouses or dependents and who now subsidize those who do could instead get help with student loans or retirement.  (And for single people, who won't have a potential second income to help with such things, that can make a big difference.)


  1. I've always felt that health benefits for dependents are reasonable--but not the definition of "dependent." Why not an aging parent (or two)? Why not a niece? Why not a friend down on her luck?

    If there needs to be proof of some financial distress or dependency--sharing the same address or contributing toward the other person's rent--fine. Not everyone is married or has kids, but everyone has family, even if it's not biological family (as spouses aren't), and this strikes me as a way of recognizing the various ties of affinity and kinship that support us & that we support.

  2. A health-care pot that could cover a variety of things - massage/PT for those who need it, counselling, dietary/exercise consultations, whatever - that is attractive, you're right. Ergonomic consults for offices are great. Ergonomic redesigns of workspaces (including classrooms) are awesome.