Government
2:25 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

Union wants health care benefits extended to same-sex married couples

The city of Omaha says same-sex spouses of union employees can get pension and flexible spending benefits, but not health or dental care benefits.

In a letter sent to City Attorney Paul Kratz on Tuesday, Omaha Police Officers Association president John Wells questioned whether same-sex couples would receive those benefits. Wells says a Union member brought the matter to his attention after learning during the city’s open enrollment period that their spouse wouldn’t get health or dental benefits, something he calls “inherently unfair.”

"These are men and women who wear the same uniform and have the same job description, are out there putting their lives at risk for the citizens, and quite frankly, when officers are out on the street standing shoulder to shoulder, we really don’t care what your personal feelings are or what your personal stance on anything is. It’s are you going to be there at the time when myself or another fellow officer needs backup."

The city says the health insurance provisions in the current plan are clear: that the definition of “spouse” doesn’t apply to same-sex married couples. Mayor Jean Stothert says extending those benefits should be done through collective bargaining.

"If this is important to you and your membership, we have seven collective bargaining units in Omaha, let’s bargain it. Let’s negotiate it. If you want this as part of your contract, or if you want to expand what is in your health care coverage, let’s bargain it, because I can tell you if I unilaterally tried to change any other portion of their health care benefits or expand their benefits, I would probably get sued and be in court."

Wells says the union is considering whether or not to file a grievance over the matter.