Letter to the editor: employee should share benefits burden

Tracy A. Laux

Dear Editor,

Recently, the employees of Kent State participated in a process called Open Enrollment. This process requires all employees to choose which medical benefit package is best for themselves and their family. Undoubtedly, we are all thankful to have these benefits.

Many of us have sacrificed greater salary increases in exchange for these benefits at some point in our careers at Kent State. These benefits are not altogether ‘free’ as we all pay a portion of the actual cost of these benefits. Historically, the cost to employees and any increase in the cost to employees for these benefits has been distributed in a manner that was less burdensome to those earning a low salary and a bit more burdensome to those making a higher salary.

Apparently, the powers that be have had a change in heart. Though employees earning a higher salary still pay more for their medical benefits then the lesser paid, it appears now that administration thinks that the lowest paid of all Kent State employees should suffer the greatest increase in benefit costs, not only in regards to the increased dollar amount, but a higher percentage of increase as well. For example, if President Lester Lefton chooses the 80/60 Medical Mutual Family plan, the cost of his benefits will increase next year by 5 percent. If an employee earning $22,000 or less selects that same benefit package, their costs will increase by 101 percent.

Back in the good old days when there was still a semblance of decency and a true sense of a university community, all Kent State employees shared the same percentage increase if the medical benefit premium went up. Thus those that earned more paid more for their benefits. This of course was balanced by salary increments. For the most part, if my salary increases by 3 percent, so does the salary of those making more than me. Of course their 3 percent amounts to many more dollars than my 3 percent. I imagine that the salary philosophy will be retained by our very well paid administration.

I reviewed the new employee insurance costs derived by our administration. It clearly shows that the new philosophy is to place a greater burden of the increased costs on the backs of the lowest paid employees at Kent State, which allows for the highest paid employees to suffer less. Our administration should be embarrassed. They should be ashamed. Every president, vice president, associate vice president, assistant vice president, dean, associate dean, assistant dean, school director, department chair, highly paid faculty member, legal counsel and on and on should be sickened by this abuse. In fact, all employees of Kent who are benefiting from this abuse of their co-workers should be ashamed. I consider them all self centered and just as guilty as those who decided to implement such a deplorable distribution of costs. I will continue to think that until each of them personally and publicly informs President Lefton that this abuse is despicable and needs to stop.

To the fools who respond with “Why should I subsidize the benefits of my co-workers here at Kent?” the answer is simple. You subsidize others because you are able to and you choose to live in a society. Generations of people have subsidized your sorry self and continue to do so. If you are a Kent State employee, the taxpayers of Ohio subsidize a portion of every dollar that you see. That road that you traveled to get to work here at Kent was NOT paid for entirely by you.

This type of abuse suggests that Kent State is an institution at odds with its own Core Values statement which promises “integrity in all of our actions” and declares that “higher education is a powerful force for personal, social, and global change.” Obviously this can only be true if you don’t work here. Furthermore Kent’s mission statement claims that we “foster ethical and humanitarian values in the service of Ohio and the global community.” This seems like empty rhetoric since this institution is unable to practice these values in its own, much smaller, university community. How can a university that can’t adopt an ethical and humanitarian policy toward its own employees ever be successful in fostering or teaching these values?

Tracy A. Laux