July ’12 Cleveland Citizen Article

Brothers and sisters:


With the school year over and if all the apprentices pass their finals, Local 17 will have seven apprentices eligible to sit for the mechanics test in the fall.  Brother Rick Myers has agreed to teach a review class if there are enough interested apprentices.  The classes would start July 23rd and meet every Monday for six weeks.  If you are planning on sitting for your test, please send your letter to Business Agent Tim Moennich as soon as possible.

On the continuing education front, Local 17 has added 17 new welders certified through the NEIEP class offered through Lincoln Electric.  The two week class gave 25 constructors from Cleveland and Akron the opportunity to certify in vertical up and overhead welding.  Six constructors from Local 45 also passed at least one of the certifications.

Local 17 also has twelve new certified signalmen.  This is a two-part online and in person offering through NEIEP which goes deep into the silent communication used during hoisting operations.  After completing the course through the NEIEP website with an 80 percent grade, the student must pass an in-person evaluation by our NEIEP regional director with a 100 percent score.  A couple of months back, Schindler had to hire two signalmen from another trade to help unload at the Medical Mart because no signalmen were available.  Remember, this is our work and only through continuing your education will we be able to retain it.

If you have driven by the new Campus Village going up on the north side of Cleveland State University, you might have noticed several protests over the past few months.  The grassroots organization, Committee to Protect Local Jobs, is running the Protect Cleveland Jobs NOW campaign to educate the community about the CSU Campus Village project.

CSU made a deal with private entities to build its new $50 million residential community project using out-of-state workers.  While CSU owns the land under the project, under a lease agreement Polaris Real Estate of Pepper Pike will own the buildings and Buckingham Companies of Indianapolis is building and will maintain them after completion.

This arrangement skirts what is referred to as the Fannie Lewis Ordinance that requires at least a 20% set aside for city residents as well as benchmarks for women and minorities.  Lewis was the outspoken longtime councilwoman for the Hough neighborhood.  She passed away in 2008 at the age of 82 while still serving on Cleveland City Council.

The deal CSU used to build this project allows these out of state workers to take their money and much needed tax revenue from the city.  These contractors are largely non-union.

A recent study by Dr. Thomas Kriger of the National Labor College, the Silver Springs, MD based institution specializing in labor and labor-related issues, categorized the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) as “a small trade association that is more astroturf than grass roots.”  An article by Davis Moberg in the June issue of In These Times magazine continued by saying that the $20 million a year budget and $1.5 million PAC make it a moderate-sized political player.  It has worked closely with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to attack PLA’s and the Employee Free Choice Act.

Quoting from that article Mosberg continues “ABC’s effort to replace the comprehensive craft training provided by the union with its own schools has not been nearly as successful, Kriger says. Few workers enrolled, and the ABC-affiliated schools’ strategy wrongly assumed that the industry could thrive with mostly lower-skilled, lower-paid workers. What’s more, the quality of the schools was so low that in 2004 the FBI and the Education Department inspector general effectively shut down ABC-related Decker College, a for-profit business.”  This has contributed to a degradation of wages and skills in the non-unionized trades.

On June 1, the Building and Construction Trades Division (BCTD) of the AFL-CIO announced that 34 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted with 184 Democrats to remove anti-PLA language from the Fiscal Year 2013 Military Construction/VA appropriations bill.  Among these are representatives La Tourette, Renacci and Turner, all of Ohio.



Insurance Boondoggles and Conference Calls


I recently received an email from one of IUEC Local 17s retirees about an issue that has a profound impact on everyone considering the affirmation late last month of the presidents Affordable Health Care Act by the US Supreme Court.  Following is the text of the email edited for clarity and anonymity.

Recently I’ve been doing battle over a claim from ( a local ) hospital for services provided by one of their doctors, who appears to be out of network, even though his group is in our network of preferred providers.

We were referred to this doctor by my wife’s family practitioner for a procedure.   We looked on line for the list of preferred providers and his group was included as in-network. It turns out that this one and only doctor was the only one not signed into the agreement between (our benefits office) and the practice he worked at.


When we arrived at the office I presented my ID card and it was remarked what great insurance we have.  We had the procedure done at the office, and I was satisfied that everything insurance wise was taken care of. 


Then the proverbial —- hit the fan.


The hospital refused to give me any explanation as to why the bill was not paid, only saying that it was sent to our carrier and they said they would not pay the bill for an out of network provider.  I contacted the benefits office and talked to a claim representative that on that day was really ticked off about the way hospital billing departments were treating our members.


During our conversation she got us in a three-way conference call with the billing department and let them know in no uncertain terms that the member (me) was not at fault for being treated by this particular doctor.  She let them know that even if the doctor is out of network, he will still be paid at a lower rate than a network doctor, but he would be paid if the bill was sent to the proper insurer.


I guess the moral of this story is that even if we go to a network provider there is a chance that the particular doctor treating you is not in-network.  She cautioned me that next time I go to a referred doctor, make sure he is in-network or ask for a doctor in the group who is. She informed me that this is happening more often and they are looking for a way to correct it before it turns into the boondoggle that kept me busy with hospital billing departments, a collection agency, and my lawyer for eight months before it was finally settled.


We certainly won’t get any help from the hospital billing department, but we will get help from our benefits office representatives who really do have our interests at heart.”


I shared this story with a friend who works in medical billing.  She told me that it is not an uncommon situation to have a group of doctors that do not all sign on to the same networks.  The benefits provided by our unions are a contract between us, the plan and the provider and it is very important for each and every member to understand their benefits, coverage and terms.


In a medical emergency situation we will receive the professional treatment we need and worry about the details later.  This is not unexpected.  When follow-up care is needed, be vigilant that you are seeing a provider that is in-network or you may receive an unexpected and costly surprise.

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