In April of 1983, an article in the National Education Association's newsletter
explained that the MEA had instituted a support program for unemployed teachers which
provides them with career planning workshops, notification of employment openings through
a "Job Search" newsletter, and prolonged insurance coverage. The article
For the first few months, the Michigan Education Special Services Association
(MESSA)-MEA's affiliated insurance service-picks up the cost of the health care plan a
RIF'D employee had at the time of layoff. (Costs range from $61 to $240 monthly.) Even
after the free coverage period runs out, pink-slipped members still qualify for MEA's
The NEA conveniently revealed that MESSA was providing a gift of "free"
insurance coverage to unemployed members of the teachers' union, but a vital question was
not answered: Who ultimately pays for MESSA's gift coverage program?
This question has provoked continued concern among school districts, as districts want
to know if they are paying the insurance costs of people who do not even work for them.
Fairness dictates that school districts should only be paying insurance premiums for their
employees, and not their "unemployees." According to MESSA's financial
statements dating back to the time the gift coverage program was instituted, the only
direct insurance contributions that MESSA receives from the MEA are for employees of the
MEA.78 And if MESSA "picks up the cost of the health care plan," this
would indicate that MESSA, rather than the MEA, pays the costs of gift coverage for
unemployed members of the union. To this extent, customer school districts which pay for
the overall cost of MESSA programs are absorbing the component costs of providing gift
coverage to unemployed MEA members. However, in certain cases, school districts may offer
to pay insurance premiums for laid off employees when the districts negotiate layoff
settlements with the union.
Based upon unemployment trends in public education, the actual costs of providing
insurance benefits to unemployed MEA members is probably quite small. Once the costs are
spread out, the impact felt by each of MESSA's customer school districts is too minor to
have any noticeable consequence on insurance premiums. This, however, does not justify the
fact that both the MEA and MESSA are taking unfair advantage of their relationships with
school districts. No effect is too small when MESSA is breaching the trust of its customer