Billy Bragg to lead U employee rally against health care proposal

Caitlin Boley knows it never hurts to ask.

The University of Minnesota AFSCME member says the union, which is protesting the university’s cuts to the employees’ health care plan, is planning a rally against the plan on Thursday and figured it wouldn’t hurt to invite British singer/political songwriter Billy Bragg to take part, since he’s making a stop in Minneapolis on his tour.

So they invited him via Facebook. He said yes.

“It was totally a Hail Mary pass sort of thing and he responded saying that he’d be happy to attend our rally because health care in the U.S. is such an important issue,” she says.

The university is proposing to increase copays for primary and specialty care (from $15 to $25), and require employees to pay deductibles. It says it’s because of a provision in the new health care law that taxes so called “Cadillac” plans.

That tax, however, doesn’t begin until 2018. It’s intended to reduce unnecessary tests and medical expenses by making the employee bear more of the cost of health care.

The union, meanwhile, is countering with a sliding scale premium.

In an editorial yesterday, the Minnesota Daily campus newspaper opposed the U’s proposal:

University administrators might make the argument that lower base salaries for University employees are appropriate if the quality of the benefits package compensates for the gap, but this logic crumbles when considering the cost shifts that are expected to be made to employee health plans.

The University cannot expect to attract top talent or maintain satisfied employees if there is not a reasonable wage-benefits balance. If the University shifts health care costs to employees in order to avoid the 40 percent excise tax, it should implement a sliding-scale premium plan, as well as make employee base salaries more competitive with other Big Ten schools.

This change will be advantageous for the University’s reputation as a rewarding place to work. And by keeping salary increases on track with market demand both in the Twin Cities and nationwide, the University has a better chance of continuing to lure the best and brightest faculty and staff.

University employees will rally Thursday at noon on Northrop Plaza.