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Health benefits highlight value of UFT membership

New York Teacher
UFT President Michael Mulgrew discusses the anti-union forces spreading misinfor
Jonathan Fickies

UFT President Michael Mulgrew discusses the anti-union forces spreading misinformation to union members.

Paula Washington, the chapter leader at LaGuardia HS in Manhattan, asks a questi
Jonathan Fickies

Paula Washington, the chapter leader at LaGuardia HS in Manhattan, asks a question related to injury in the line of duty.

At the May 22 Delegate Assembly, UFT President Michael Mulgrew repeated his warning that the anti-union forces looking to capitalize on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME ruling are ramping up their efforts to get workers to leave their unions.

“Their major tools are chaos, confusion and conflict,” Mulgrew told the delegates gathered in Shanker Hall at UFT headquarters in Manhattan.

New York City public school educators, he said, have stood steadfast with their union.

Telling the story of why the union matters, Geof Sorkin, the executive director of the UFT Welfare Fund, discussed the benefit package that UFT-represented employees have.

“The UFT covers 400,000 lives through the Welfare Fund,” Sorkin said, providing dental benefits, eyeglasses and contact lenses, hearing aids and prescription drugs.

The fund also paid out $29 million for paid parental leave, a new benefit the UFT negotiated with the city last year after a hard-fought campaign spearheaded by rank-and-file UFT members. Just shy of three-quarters of the 2,837 UFT members who have used the paid parental leave benefit are women, he said.

The Welfare Fund, Sorkin said, pays out about $111 million annually for prescription drugs for in-service members and $47 million for retirees’ optional rider reimbursement for prescription drugs.

“Our formulary covers drugs nobody else covers,” Sorkin said, “and we have licensed pharmacists on staff to help you when you have a problem.”

Sorkin gave several examples of medications covered by the fund and the costs associated with them.

A member prescribed Uptravi, a maintenance drug for hypertension, pays $360 annually, Sorkin said, but the Welfare Fund pays an additional $240,000 on that member’s behalf.

Hepatitis C drug Harvoni costs a member $90 for a three-month supply, while the fund pays $90,000 for that member. The cystic fibrosis maintenance drug Kalydeco costs a member $360 annually, while the fund pays $300,000 more.

Truvada, for the treatment of HIV, costs a member $120 a year, while the fund picks up an additional $18,000.

Sorkin reported that most UFT members are enrolled in GHI or HIP health care plans, which do not have premiums. New York City pays about $9,000 annually per member for either coverage, he said, as well as $21,000 for members enrolled in GHI’s family plan and $23,000 for those in HIP’s family plan.

“The city would love to pass this cost on to you,” Sorkin said, “but the union fights hard not to allow that.”

In other business, the delegates voted on two political endorsements and approved a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in New York City.