Unions are denied same-sex coverage

Temple University’s unions and the university are once again embroiled in a labor dispute. The current conflict is a result of a university announcement on Sept. 9 that it would not be able to provide

Temple University’s unions and the university are once again embroiled in a labor dispute.

The current conflict is a result of a university announcement on Sept. 9 that it would not be able to provide health insurace covereage for domestic partners this semster.

TUGSA alleged in a press release that the “Temple administration has reneged on its contractual agreement to allow TUGSA members to enroll same-sex domestic partners in their health insurance.”

The union earned the domestic partner health insurance benefits in the contract that was reached last April.

TUGSA is the first union on campus to do so. This provision allows gay and lesbian union members to enroll their partners in the same way heterosexual members could enroll a husband or wife.

“That’s called a contract,” said American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 1723 president Gary Kapanowski, “[the university] can’t go back on that.”

Both the AFSCME Local 1723, which represents administrative employees at Temple, and the Temple Association of University Professionals, Temple’s faculty union, are entitled to this benefit now under “me too” clauses in their contracts, according to TUGSA co-president April Logan.

Any benefit that one union on campus receives is automatically granted to the other unions.

According to TUGSA staff representative Kim Rothwell, Temple officials gave two reasons for their inability to provide the insurance coverage.

The union was told that the TUGSA insurance provider, Independence Blue Cross, would not give coverage to domestic partners.

The university also said that a recent Pennsylvania court ruling that overturned domestic partner benefits for Philadelphia government employees would prevent the university from granting the benefits.

“This is absurd,” said Kapanowski, “None of these excuses ring true.”

Kapanowski also said that Independence Blue Cross has been providing domestic partner benefits to city employees since city workers won the benefit in 1995.

He added that both the University of Pennsylvania and Community College have domestic partner benefits through Blue Cross.
As to the court ruling, Kapanowski said, “Temple has nothing to do with [the ruling].”

Temple Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, and Treasurer Martin Dorph refused to comment on the reasons why Temple was unable to provide the coverage, saying only that it was a “legal problem.”

Both Logan and Rothwell have also complained that the university has provided “insufficient documentation” of the reasons for the denial of coverage.

Rothwell said that the university had sent some documents regarding Blue Cross to TUGSA on Tuesday, but remarked that it did not show that the university had done anything to rectify the situation.

“We don’t know what the hell [the reasons for the coverage denial] are,” said Kapanowski.

TUGSA, TAUP and AFSME members met Tuesday to discuss the filing of grievances against the university.

The three unions are planning to each pursue a separate grievance.

According to Logan, filing of grievance is the first step in addressing a labor dispute.
“The onus is on Temple to find health insurance that will provide same-sex coverage,” said Rothwell.

Kapanowski added, “We’re going to see that [the domestic partner benefits] are followed through on.”

“The employees at Temple who are homosexual work just as hard as the heterosexual workers,” Kapanowski commented, “so why shouldn’t they be able to enroll their partners for health insurance coverage?”

TUGSA and the University reached last April’s contract after over a year of contentious negotiations characterized by allegations of stalling and bad faith by TUGSA against the administration.

The union earned increased wages, better health insurance options and limits on workload in addition to the domestic partner benefits.

“We are sad that we have been disappointed [by the university] once again,” Rothwell said.

Brian White can be reached at zapata@temple.edu

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