For decades, employees who decline their health insurance have been able, when bargained into a contract, to receive a payment for making that choice. The waiver, which is only a fraction of the value of a policy, itself, saves employers money while offsetting the difference an employee not taking insurance might otherwise find in their overall salary and benefit package.

Although waivers are collectively bargained, in 2012, the Department of Civil Service issued a memo that attempted to render employees whose spouses are also covered under NYSHIP plans ineligible to receive waiver, or “buyout” payments. Aside from the financial impact this would have to employees, unions immediately recognized it as undermining the power of collective bargaining.

As each union and employer interpreted the situation locally and incorporated it into their negotiations, the battle has gone back and forth throughout the various courts of the State of New York. If you know teachers in other unions, you probably have already heard that some have lost their waivers, some have them sitting in “escrow” pending the outcome of the legal battles, and others have continued to receive them, as we do here based on the language we placed in our contract during last negotiations.

There are one or two appeals still available to reinstate and protect waivers as subject of collective bargaining, and NYSUT’s legal team is leading the charge. As the case moves forward, we’ll continue to keep you and your reps informed.