GE Workers Plan Strike Over Health Care

  1. From NY Times

    By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Filed at 8:04 a.m. ET
    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/nati...GE-Strike.html

    FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) -- Thousands of General Electric Co. employees vow to soon strike to protest rising health insurance payments. It would be the conglomerate's first national strike in more than 30 years.

    GE said the strike would involve about 17,500 employees at the company's manufacturing plants. Union officials say the strike could involve at least 20,000 workers.

    Employees are protesting GE's decision to increase co-payments for health insurance Jan. 1. GE says the increases would cost the average employee about $200 a year and follow sharply rising health care costs.

    The last national strike by GE employees was in 1969 when workers were off the job for about 14 weeks. This time, the strike is expected to be much shorter.

    ``I think we're talking about a strike of a relatively short duration -- I'd say a week or less,'' said Douglas Meyer, research director for the International Union of Electronic Workers -- Communication Workers of America, which represents about 18,000 GE employees and retirees affected by the health care issue.

    Meyer said he expects the strike to begin later this month or in early February.

    ``It is definitely going to occur in the next several weeks,'' he said.

    Union officials passed a resolution last month calling for a strike after Jan. 1.

    Manufacturing plants that would be affected by the strike include those in Lynn, Mass.; Erie, Pa.; Louisville, Ky.; Schenectady, N.Y.; and Fort Edward, N.Y., Sheffer said.

    GE, based in Fairfield, also makes jet engines, power turbines, and owns the NBC television network.

    GE and the unions are not negotiating to resolve the issue. Union officials say the strike targets negotiations planned this spring for a new contract when GE will seek additional increases in the amount employees pay for health insurance.

    Company officials say GE will weather the strike, which would affect about 6 percent of its global work force of 310,000.

    ``We plan to continue to meet the needs of our customers,'' spokesman Gary Sheffer said.

    Similar to many other companies, health care costs at GE have soared. Its health care costs have gone up by more than 40 percent in four years, from $965 million in 1999 to $1.4 billion last year, officials say.

    ``We've seen dramatic increases, with the increases expected to continue for the foreseeable future,'' Sheffer said.

    GE has pledged to not increase co-payments in the new contract for most medical services, he said.

    Union officials said the increase amounts to a shift of about $30 million from the company to workers, and that older workers will be especially hard hit because they rely on prescription drugs and other medical services.

    ``Who is in a better position to bear the cost? Is it a $300 billion corporation or some hourly worker having enough difficulty making ends meet from week to week?'' asked Stephen Tormey, secretary of the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America, which represents about 5,000 GE employees.

    Union officials also say that GE profits substantially from rising health care costs as a maker of medical equipment and providing insurance through its finance arm.
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  2. 9 Comments

  3. by   -jt
    <<Union officials said the increase amounts to a shift of about $30 million from the company to workers, and that older workers will be especially hard hit because they rely on prescription drugs and other medical services.... "Who is in a better position to bear the cost? Is it a $300 billion corporation or some hourly worker having enough difficulty making ends meet from week to week?''.... Union officials also say that GE profits substantially from rising health care costs as a maker of medical equipment and providing insurance through its finance arm.>>

    Oh my! How dare those workers go on strike. How unprofessional. Dont they care about the poor customers? Whos going to make the needed medical supplies if they strike? Maybe we'll just have to fly in, "cross the line", to take their place & work their manufacturing plant for the duration -- just to make sure those customers are taken care of -- for a price, of course.

    Bull.

    Healthcare is a basic human right. EVERY worker in this country should strike for health benefits all at once. Bring the company's businesses to a standstill. If they were all faced with loss of revenue & the threat of having to pay rising healthcare costs for their employees themselves, these corporations would get right after their friends in DC & we'd have a national universal healthcare law finally passed -- in about 2 minutes.
    Last edit by -jt on Jan 7, '03
  4. by   Youda
    And in the meantime, GE stock has split twice and brags that in its 26 year history, it has always given investors a dividend check each quarter. I'm sure the insurance companies aren't hurting, either. When will the American workers wake-up and realize that investors, insurance companies, and large corporations are feeding off your hard labor, and start to demand their "benefits" back?
  5. by   sjoe
    GE is not the problem here. The workers are not the problem here. The insurance companies are not the problem either.

    The problem is the out-of-control annual increases in healthcare costs. How long do healthcare facilities think we can afford the 14% (8.7% per year for ALL healthcare services and equipment and drugs) and more yearly increases in their prices? This goes on year after year after year, with no one saying STOP! Instead, the discussion gets side-tracked into "who will pay these bills?"

    Even if funding could presently be found to pay all of 2003's medical expenses, at the rate of 14%/year the total bill would be DOUBLED in just over 5 years from now, and doubled yet again in 5 more years (or 8 more years for ALL healthcare services, etc.).

    We simply cannot afford this amount of squandering of resources and there is no solution to be found in just continuing to pay the bills--nor, certainly, in arguing about whether workers or companies or "the government" should pay them.
    Last edit by sjoe on Jan 8, '03
  6. by   Repat
    The announcements of increased employee costs for health benefits seem to always appear on the same page as the announcements of the 20-30% increase in quarterly profits of the insurance companies. Yet no one seems to be able to make the connection. In fact, one company's PR person said that they hope to continue their profit margins by increasing the cost of coverage to their customers. Yet no one yelled! Where is everybody?!
  7. by   -jt
    <Yet no one yelled! Where is everybody?!>

    You have to wonder why the govt leaders dont think its obscene that the head of my HMO can boast in a news article that his company will see $258 million in profit in one year. And we're supposed to just keep scraping to give them more --- so they can donate more to the govt leaders campaigns? If big business employers dont mind if their cronies in the insurance & HMO business are rolling in it, fine let them supply the dough themselves. But they shouldnt be expecting us to pay for it.

    In NYC, our Mass Transit Authority (MTA) last year had a SURPLUS of $500 MILLION. But last month, they still tried to cut the transit workers health benefits anyway. The transit workers yelled Absolutely Not! And held firm right down to the wire - the week before Christmas they came within minutes of going on strike, when the MTA finally backed off..... and the City Controller called for the MTA to open their books ' cause where the heck did a surplus of $500 Million go all of the sudden? The city residents & the transit workers have the right to know - especially if they are being expected to pay for the loss.

    Point that may be of interest - the workers were fighting for their families but some people around here thought only of themselves & their inconvenient Christmas shopping and business losses if buses & subways went on strike. They complained that they dont have such great health benefits in their own office jobs so why should transit workers have anything better than them and the transit workers should just consider themselves lucky they had a job at all since so many are out of work. How helpful is that defeatist attitude in making progress for the workers of this country? In spite of others, the transit workers held together for their families & obtained what they needed. But it shouldnt have to be such a damn contentious fight for people to obtain a basic right.

    <<<Health Care Benefits

    The United States spends more on health care than any other country in the world, yet nearly 41 million Americans lack medical coverage.

    While most Americans with health insurance rely on their employers for access to quality care, employers are increasingly shifting its rising cost to workers who struggle to pay higher premiums, deductibles and co-payments. And as workers with coverage find themselves in a rapidly changing health care market where managed care is now a given and health maintenance organizations are increasingly converting to for-profit status, workers may find themselves denied care, while profiteers work to prevent governments from protecting their rights as patients.

    Managed-care plans and insurance companies make billions while denying care and refusing coverage. Patients deserve better. What can be done? Learn what's going on and how to make health care work for working families. Go to http://www.AFL-CIO.org and click on "Issues and Politics", then "Healthcare".

    Overview:
    What's Wrong With Our System and How Can We Fix It?
    Some of the problems facing health care.
    Too many Americans have no health insurance
    Employers refuse to pay their fair share
    Rising drug prices and drug company profits are driving up health care costs
    Our health care system lacks safety controls that endanger front-line workers

    How to Improve Access to Affordable, Quality Health
    Some solutions that move us in the right direction.
    Support the use of public programs to supplement private health care dollars
    State-based bulk drug purchasing plans can help the uninsured buy prescriptions
    Quality measurement and assurance controls are key
    The new "defined contribution" employer-provided health coverage is no answer
    Bargain smarter for health care at work
    Compel Employers to Pay Their Fair Share of Health Care Coverage
    Adopt a Patients' Bill of Rights

    Employer-Based Health Insurance Coverage Falls as Employers Refuse to Pay Their Fair Share

    Require Employers to Pay Their Fair Share

    Adopt a Patients' Bill of Rights

    see Issues and Politics - healthcare - at http://www.AFL-CIO.org
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Last edit by -jt on Jan 7, '03
  8. by   flowerchild
    The GE employees are going to strike over a couple of hundred bucks. A united strong front from the workers.
    We nurses have had health care benefits totally stripped from us, they told me, oh you can still work for us, we just decided not to provide insurance anymore and btw, we are changing your pay scale and you'll get less, and you must work manditory OT, etc. etc. etc. and as all this happened, no one in my state (anti union) did or said anything about it.
    Hmmmmm. What gives? Are we nurses so programmed to avoid confrontation that we just let employers walk all over us?
    I joined my union, anti union state...tooo freakin bad! I've had it and will fight from now on. Not a patsy anymore.
  9. by   -jt
    <I joined my union, anti union state...tooo freakin bad! I've had it and will fight from now on. Not a patsy anymore.>

    LOL! I love the sound of that.
  10. by   Youda
    sjoe, healthcare costs keep rising BECAUSE of the insurance companies, corporations, etc. Where do you think that money is going? Is the 14% increase you mention equivalent to inflation or the GNP? Nope! I keep saying this, on several threads, and no one yet seems to get appalled by it: 25-33% of every dollar spent on healthcare goes to "administrative costs" (i.e.: CEO salaries). Another huge chunk of your healthcare dollar goes to investors. These "costs" continue to rise at alarming rates while the actual health care is being cut/slashed/downsized by reducing benefits, staffing ratios, supplies. However, unnecessary procedures and tests are on the uprise, and Tenet is not the only place doing it, according to the World Health Organization and many other studies.

    Again, the working class is getting their backs broken so the wealthy in this country can get wealthier. Oh! Don't even let me get started on the legislation that has been passed or where your healthcare dollar goes!
  11. by   sjoe
    Youda writes: "I keep saying this, on several threads, and no one yet seems to get appalled by it: 25-33% of every dollar spent on healthcare goes to "administrative costs" (i.e.: CEO salaries). Another huge chunk of your healthcare dollar goes to investors. These "costs" continue to rise at alarming rates while the actual health care is being cut/slashed/downsized by reducing benefits, staffing ratios, supplies. However, unnecessary procedures and tests are on the uprise, and Tenet is not the only place doing it, according to the World Health Organization and many other studies."

    Exactly right, but the 25-33% includes the massive waste in healthcare facilities themselves, as well as in the insurance companies, etc. The last I heard, healthcare admin costs in Canada were something like 8-10% contrasted to the money we squander this way. Ditto for the CYA testing and procedures and paperwork done ONLY for facility support in case of a lawsuit.

    There is plenty of money for reasonable healthcare for all, if it were only spent reasonably. Just as there is NO nursing shortage, simply a shortage of adequately-run facilities in which to work.

    We do not disagree

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