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Union members protest changes to county health plan

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Members of AFSCME Local 2025 packed Tuesday's Rock Island County Board meeting, protesting possible increases to their health insurance premiums.

Crowded in doorways and wearing stickers and union tee-shirts, dozens of AFSCME members said now is the time to talk about county budget cuts.

"I personally feel like it's been on the agenda, it's budget time, now is the time to talk about it," said Kelly Webber, vice president of AFSCME Local 2025 and co-chair of of the health insurance planning committee.

"The chairman has cut the budget by almost $900,000, and now, that creates a 72-28 split, which is going to be a big hardship for some employees," said Webber.

Webber said county employees currently pay anywhere from 6 to 17 percent of their health insurance costs, based on their individual plan. Health Department worker Kelly Carroll strongly opposes the proposed increase.

"I work two jobs. I have a part-time job. My two employees here, my fellow employees, they both have part-time jobs. Do I have to take another part-time job to pay for the insurance? Who's winning here?" said Carroll.

Rock Island County Board Chairman Phil Banaszek said he can understand employees concerns about paying more for healthcare, but that the tradeoff is a fair one.

"We feel we have a generous, very generous, healthcare plan for the employees, too, and that's why we're asking for the changes," said Banaszek, adding that tough budget cuts were looming for everyone. "There won't be anything that we won't take a look at. If we can find some ways to generate new revenue or reduce expenses, we're gonna do it."

No vote or proposal regarding employee health plans was on the County Board's agenda Tuesday. The budget committee is scheduled to start meeting this week, and that group will take up the issue over the coming weeks.