Metropolitan Museum of Art Workers Win Health-Care Dispute

Local 1503 members celebrate their win of a dispute over health-care waivers. Front, left to right, Michele Camisa, Lara Pink, Angelina Shkoza and Rogelio Maclang. Rear, from left, Tim Broderick, Ozzie Forney, Local 1503 President Rawle Campbell. Photo: Clarence Elie-Rivera

By GREGORY N. HEIRES
Thirty-four guards at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will have extra cash on hand for the holidays thanks to the resolution of a payroll dispute between the union and management.

Each guard is due $1,200 as the museum acknowledged its failure to meet its obligation to compensate workers who declined to sign up for health-care coverage because they enrolled in an outside plan. Earlier this year, Metropolitan Museum of Art Local 1503 President Rawle Campbell started to investigate the problem after three members — Maria Mantzavinou, Lara Pink and Vera Quehaja — brought the matter to his attention.

They had noticed their paychecks didn’t list the payments for the health-care waiver.

Pink said the personnel department told her the payments weren’t made because the federal government adopted a new policy requiring recipients to request the opt-out every year. Before, recipients were only required to sign up once. The museum also claimed it had notified Local 1503 about the change. The members didn’t recall receiving notification. If the museum did try to inform them, the museum communicated poorly, according to the workers.

“I signed up for the health care waiver two years ago,” Pink said. “Nothing was ever relayed to us.”

Because she received her pay through direct deposit, Pink said she didn’t closely examine copies of her paychecks. She discovered the missed payments when she looked at her employee online account at the museum.

Campbell worked on a grievance with Rep Daniel McCabe. Facing the possibility of a dragged out fight with the union, the museum caved and agreed to pay the workers a $1,200 lump sum to cover the lost payments. The local’s contract guarantees the benefit.

“We had the grievance written and we were ready to file it,” Campbell said. “With our executive board, we had let the museum know we were reaching out to members” to encourage them to document the lost payments and join the grievance, he said.

The agreement requires members who take the waiver to submit documentation verifying their outside coverage during the museum’s annual benefits open enrollment period in January. Local 1503, DC 37 and the museum signed the agreement in Sept. 11.

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Public Employee Press.

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