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Ridgewood District Custodians Plead for Family Health Insurance

Superintendent Daniel Fishbein says district can't intercede on privately-negotiated contracts.

Despite a hopeful appeal to the Ridgewood district to help them procure family health insurance, custodians in the village are likely to be left out in the cold for at least another year.

Custodian Ashton Murray, a worker with contractor GCA Services Group, told the Ridgewood school board Monday that according to the worker agreement with GCA, if the district provided enough capital in the current year's budget GCA employees could receive family health insurance.

School officials say the agreement GCA signed with its workers in 2009 is a private matter and they cannot "arbitrarily increase the fee" on the contract. The district will go out to bid on a new deal in July of 2013.

It's a hard reality for custodians to swallow.

Not having family health insurance has become a burden, financially and emotionally for Oralie Edwards, 63, and his family.

His wife, a part-time nanny, is without insurance, as is his 24-year-old son.

"It could be the worst of the worst," Edwards said. "If she gets hospitalized...we only have half coverage. It scares me. If she gets sick, I cannot afford it. And my son too – he doesn't have insurance." 

Edwards pays $325 a month for his individual plan, which doesn't cover prescriptions or the needs of his family. To go it alone with full family coverage, he said he'd have to pay $500 a month, a price he can't afford.

"We don't have that kind of money," he said. Edwards says he makes $12.85 an hour and works 40 hours a week at GCA. 

"We'd like to get this insurance as soon as possible. As far as I understand, [GCA says] they don't have the money for that coverage; they say it will cost them half-a-million."

Were the board to open up the contract, it's possible other bidders who lost out could initiate legal action on the grounds the terms of the deal changed, according to school officials.

All of this means one thing — GCA workers will have to go it alone to procure family coverage.

Edwards' frustration extends beyond just the company's apparent refusal to provide for greater care.

"We were better off before the union," said Edwards, who's worked as a custodian in Ridgewood for 11 years and became unionized two years ago. "My wife had insurance and we didn't have to struggle to pay for medication. I didn't want to join the union but my boss said to me if I don't join the union, I can't work."

Not working was not an acceptable choice, he said.

The custodian also works at King's Supermarket in the village to help make ends meet but with limited work hours and East Ridgewood Avenue rent needing be paid, it just isn't enough.

Though he's thankful his wife has not needed to visit the hospital — where costs can mount in the thousands for simple medical attention — Edwards says a doctor visit with a prescription will cost him anywhere between $200-400 out of pocket.

"It stresses me," he told Patch. "I try not to think about it but when the circumstances arise, I do. Because I'm under pressure having two jobs to meet demands, I have much time to think about it."

Phoebe Schell, a Service Employees International Union Local (SEIU) 32 union rep, said the union has been negotiating with GCA Services to no avail.

Calls to the custodial company's corporate office were not returned.

GCA, employs over 30,000 workers nationwide and claimed over $700 million in revenue last year, according to the company's website. 

"If you're in this country, there are serious problems when you're without health insurance," Edwards said. "But what am I going to do?"

Ridgewood Mom September 01, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Translation = Let them eat cake.
Ridgewood Mom September 01, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Bill, Please explain how Moist Cake's statements were racist.
Ridgewood Mom September 01, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Are Ridgewood's district custodians lazy people who sit on their butts all day? I though they were people who were working as district custodians? Just curious, are people who "let their money work for them" lazy people who "get aid in various forms" and receive "checks for doing nothing?"
Ridgewood Mom September 01, 2012 at 02:05 PM
I always enjoy hearing people's rags to riches tales about their own hard work and industry. There is nothing more noble then winning the hustle.
USAUSA September 01, 2012 at 02:29 PM
But folks do we really believe that Obamacare is the answer? Once you read between the lines you will see how it will have direct and indirect effect on you and your family members, you will see it is not.
rich mooney September 01, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Well said Maryann
Fan of Ridgewood September 01, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Well, Ridgewood Mom, did u notice that Moist Cake labels people as "white" and "black"? Race has no bearing here. In fact, there's program speciflcally designed to allow blacks to advance. so it's racebaiting in this case.
Fan of Ridgewood September 01, 2012 at 04:05 PM
so, Ridgewood Mom, people who make it in this country are winning a hustle? working honest, smart and hard to become successful doesnt exist in your world. We know who ur voting for in November. Love to know what you do to live in Ridgewood. Too bad an "honest" person like you wont use ur real name in these blogs. still waiting for you to tell me how we, "screw the teachers"
Fan of Ridgewood September 01, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Ridgewood Mom, tell me where i call the healthcare industry a luxury. in an early post on this blog i noted that everybody should be able to obtain affordable insurance. And if you read a little more, you'll note that one of the workers said he was better off without the union. Now folks here want to transfer the responsibility of the union to the village. Adults read the whole situation.
Fan of Ridgewood September 01, 2012 at 04:12 PM
are they still rioting in England over a rollback on entitlements?
Fan of Ridgewood September 01, 2012 at 04:20 PM
So you think we'd be just as safe with less of a defense industry? Are all the cold, mean adults just in the U.S.? Yes, i believe all workers should be able to afford healthcare, but it is not a simple answer. Welfare back in the 60s created the unintended consequence of generations of dysfunctional people. Go around these people's unions and employees will demand entitlements beyond union contracts. This is how businesses go out of business or leave areas. Sometimes adults have to say no.
Ridgewood Mom September 01, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Ridgewood district custodians, here, will not get health insurance if they work hard any more then they will if they are lazy. Meritocracy is an excellent ideal. The problem is that there are many "working honest, smart" people who do not "become successful," and there are many "successful" people who are not "working honest, smart." Meritocracy, here as in many circumstances, isn't the case as it should be. Regarding your more personal probings, I'm sorry that you consider my choice to remain relatively anonymous to be a form of dishonesty. For what it's worth, I consider your choice of using your real name as foolish and I see no meaningful integrity or courage in it. Moreover, it strikes me that you are attempting to establish authority of persons over reasoned discussion. I am a stay at home mom, which is the most challenging and important job for society that I can imagine any person doing. That aside, I bring in more then enough money on my own, via investments, to afford living in Ridgewood. So that puts me in the "let my money work for me" group, as is the case for MOST Americans who are financially secure. My husband also works, but that is beside the point. We are very fortunate and don't take our relative good fortune for granted. I find it particularly curious that you claim to know who I will vote for in November. I don't. I don't think that you understand my views so well as you think. Nor those of the two central presidential candidates.
Ridgewood Mom September 01, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Bill, maryanne argued the case that health care is more important than wars and the defense industry. You countered her statement by emphasizing that defense was not a luxury. Is it not your position that health care is less important that national defense? If not then I was hasty in interpreting your point. But if that is the case, then what was your point? I have not made any statements, here, regarding the issue of transferring the costs of insurance for Ridgewood's custodians onto the Village.
John Hahn September 01, 2012 at 05:47 PM
JV The custodians work for GCA because the Ridgewood BOE out sourced custodial services a few years back. In order to be profitable the powers that be at GCA probably cut benefits. This is an example of taxpayers not wanting to pay hi taxes, the BOE making changes and the workers utlimately losing out or falling behind. Expect much more of this type of slight of hand business deals to seemingly save taxes.
Fan of Ridgewood September 01, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Ah, Ridgewood Mom, a stay at home mom. That says it all. It explains your world view. I wont ask you to explain anything anymore. I understand now why you use one sentence replies to solve the world's problems and then dont reply to requests for explanations. Stay at home moms have the best job security in the world and are important by their own definition.
Fan of Ridgewood September 01, 2012 at 06:15 PM
and, no, i dont believe in this country that there are a lot of people who have worked hard and smart and arent successful. i think most people who do so are successful. They're just not loud about it. They do their work and reap their benefits.A basic law of nature is that those who do the least do the most complaining.
Ridgewood Mom September 01, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Sure Bill. We housewives don't know anything about hard work or contributing to others. We are just pampered princesses living off handouts from our husbands. Stay in the kitchen and out of the parlor and let the men make the big decisions. We are all just emotions. But let's just suppose this housewife brings in more income off of investments, husband aside, then you bring in from whatever you do. I don't know or care if that is the case, but let's just suppose. Would that necessarily mean that I work harder and give more to society then you do?
Fan of Ridgewood September 01, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Housewives have no requirements. No necessary skillsets. You can be illiterate, you can be horrible or good. There is no competition. You cant be fired. Your's, or anyone's personal wealth, is a seperate issue to their job. But u didnt earn it as a housewife. It's not pc to say, but, i dont think being a housewife is a worthy job for an adult. In my experience, housewives are intellectually detached from the real world. You mentioning that people who have made their own wealth as,"winning the hustle" is a good example. Regarding the investments.if you got them without government welfare, you have every right to make them work for you. You obtained them. Theyre your tools. Regarding who you will vote for, in every post ive seen of urs, u've demanded that taxpayers pay to solve every private situation. There's one candidate that steadfastly agrees with you.
Fan of Ridgewood September 01, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Ridgewood Mom, i dont make a choice between defense spending and healthcare spending. You're projecting. Neither is a luxury. In earlier posts i've explained some methods to help reduce healthcare spending.
Laura O September 01, 2012 at 08:34 PM
@Bill. It looks like you are missing the skill set to spell correctly. - skill set - yours - separate And typing “u’ve” and “urs” is something I’ve only seen TeeNAGErs do. Are you 12?
Moist Cake September 02, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Yes it is. The republican solution is to do nothing which helps nothing.
USAUSA September 02, 2012 at 04:20 AM
No the Republicans solution is to build our economy and create jobs. An idea that Obama I guess did not think about when he decided to run with Obama care when the country’s economy needed jobs!!!
sally watson September 02, 2012 at 04:45 AM
come on...health insurance for all. get real
Lee R. September 02, 2012 at 01:32 PM
So many mean-spirited comments here, so many caustic words to our neighbors on these forums. Sad.
Moist Cake September 02, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Hey remember the late 1990's? That surplus in the budget, I wonder where it all went from 2001 on. I grow tired hearing about our next conservative savior is going to create jobs. Where? In the military? Anything for less the 7 bucks an hour? Anything with any real benefits? No! I am not totally happy with obama either but I gotta tell ya, there is no way I am voting for a man who refuses to release a document you and I are forced to file for every year. To be honest, looking at history and oh how it repeats itself, I think we are on the final slide down and I dont see how it can reverse. We make nothing here anymore and sooner or later the people building the crap you and I buy overseas will become richer and more powerful then us because we are throwing money into their hands. People can care less about each other in this country and I see it all the time, its all about ME ME ME MINE MINE MINE. A simple thing like health care, a RIGHT in most developed countries is debated here as if we excuse the fact that some people just cant afford to live. Our healthcare industry should be nationalized and I don't see a need for it to be an industry. Business sucks and all its about is screwing someone before they screw you and making that oh so important bottom line. Our healthcare isnt the best in the world and when you have countries like Cost Rica who have a better healthcare system you gotta wonder what we are doing wrong.
Ridgewood Mom September 03, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Happy LABOR day everyone!
Harlan Consider September 03, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Moistcake: That so-called budget surplus never really existed. It was the result of a lot of very creative accounting that measured in projected revenues and a raiding of the Social Security Fund. Clinton was also probably the luckiest President of the modern era, whereupon he no longer had to fund the Cold War effort and Islamic terrorism had not developed into the global threat we have today. I could go on talking about the BS dot.com economy of that time, but I suspect you have your mind made up and would rather not let facts muddy it up.
USAUSA September 03, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Cake, cake, cake...Why would you vote for a President that believed national Obama Care was more important than a slumping economy and the creation of jobs while he had a Democratic house? In fact it was this useless healthcare plan which helped him lose the house to the Republicans. Healthcare is extremely important yes but not at the cost to millions and millions of americans who were out of work then and are out of work now! If you would like to live in a country with national healthcare and think Costa Rica is sooooo great, please move there, you will be missed!
John Johnson September 05, 2012 at 03:44 PM
FROM THE GCA Services Group WEBSITE Employee Benefits GCA Services Group prides itself on its ability to attract and retain the best people. Every employee is an important asset and central to our success. We strive to ensure that GCA is an appealing place to work. We offer an array of employee benefits programs designed to encourage, enrich, and promote employee health and well-being. Our comprehensive benefits package includes(*): Life Insurance Long-term Disability Short-term Disability Medical Insurance Dental Insurance Vision Plan 401(k) Vacation Time Paid Holiday Time Sick Time (*) Eligibility for benefits will vary based upon job responsibilities, job classification, and location.
Ridgewood Mom September 05, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Very interesting John.

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