Same-sex benefits close to approval by LCC trustees
By Daniel Sturm
Lansing Community College appears set to adopt same-sex domestic partner
health benefits as early as next week, making it the second of 31 Michigan
community colleges to do so.
LCC maintenance workers approved a new health-care benefits package
Tuesday that includes the benefits. Members of the five other unionized
bargaining units have voted on the same package, but they were not expected
to report the results to LCC till today.
The trustees are expected to approve the agreements when they meet Oct.
21. If approved by all parties, the benefits would cover 460 full-time
workers. Employees who could document a committed relationship would
If approved, LCC would join Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor as
the only community colleges in Michigan to have domestic-partner benefits.
Eight four-year schools, including MSU, have also adopted DP benefits.
LCC spokeswoman Ruth Hohl Borger said that once the benefits are approved
they will not be difficult to implement because there are many
models out there to model ours after.
Hohl Borger said same-sex benefits allows us to be a competitive
and attractive, good quality employer. Its something that our
competitive institutions, MSU and General Motors, have done. Thus, its
not something in which were cutting edge on.
Tim Zellar, LCCs director for labor relations, said that LCC has
not yet projected what the benefits would cost.
Six of LCCs seven trustees said they favored domestic-partner
benefits. Trustee Todd Heywood said the board recently decided in a
closed session to add the benefits to the health care package. You
cant operate any business today without offering benefits to everybody,
Heywood said. He added that he was not disappointed that the benefits
wouldnt apply to heterosexual unmarried partners. They have
the ability to get married, which isnt an option for same-sex
In addition to Heywood, board chairman Brian Jeffries, Olga Holden,
Kathy Pelleran, Mark Canady and Thomas Rasmusson confirmed they would
support the proposal. Board member David Patterson couldnt be
reached for comment.
Canady earlier had criticized the board for acting grossly irresponsible.
He said that because the trade unions had never requested same-sex partner
benefits, it seemed as if the board was willing to just give away taxpayer
money without negotiating any type of counter balance. He
also said he would have preferred that the trustees had had a public
vote on offering the benefits to the unions.
Ingham County Commissioner Chris Swope applauded LCCs decision,
saying it would potentially influence the attitude of other public
entities. It may also attract unions to get interested.
The first news of the benefits decision came out at a candidates
session for members of the gay community at Club Parside in downtown
Lansing on Oct. 9, when Jeffries revealed what was in the works.
The Lansing Association for Human Rights Political Action Committee
has rated Jeffries somewhat positive on gay rights issues.
It has rated his Pelleran, his opponent, higher as positive.
Swope, who is treasurer of LAHR, said Jeffries announcement would
not affect his rating. This year was the first time Brian Jeffries
ever responded to our questionnaire, Swope said. It kind
of tells us that he didnt mind being rated negatively, said
Swope. LAHR-PAC rated Jeffries lower when he served on the Ingham County
Commission 1987 to 1992.
Three trustees Heywood, Holden and Rasmusson e-mailed
LAHR that they consider Jeffries a true friend of the gay
community and criticized Pelleran as weak on the issue of (lesbian,
bisexual, gay and transgender) people on the campus of LCC.
Pelleran said she has always supported same-sex partner benefits.
She said she was surprised by Jeffries announcement since the
trustees had discussed the issue in closed session only and hadnt
received the report of its negotiating team. She criticized Jeffries
for making the news public in a venue that promotes himself rather
than the college and rather than the community. I find it offensive
in a campaign year.
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