UAW strike fund covering members' health care after GM benefit cancellation

FLINT (WJRT) (09/17/19) - UAW members on strike from General Motors won't have to worry much about their health care after the company canceled benefits during an ongoing strike.

Retirees also don't need to worry about health care benefits or pension payments.

GM announced Tuesday it was canceling health insurance for striking United Auto Workers members immediately. A statement from the union issued Wednesday says UAW leaders had no warning of the health insurance change.

"GM’s failed attempt to hurt our members and force us into a bad agreement was cold, heartless and immoral," said UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg. "One minute they say they care about their workers and next GM is cutting off people’s lifeline."

Regardless, he said UAW members won't have to worry about their health care while on strike.

"That means our membership is now on this strike and defense fund for medical benefits," said UAW Local 598 Chairman Eric Welter.

He said the union will make sure workers medical needs are met during the strike. Members can see their doctor and bring the bill to their union hall for the cost to be covered.

Welter said members dealing with chronic conditions can file a claim through the UAW's COBRA policy. The UAW International Union is paying employees' COBRA rates.

"So everybody's medical insurance and prescription drug coverage is as the same as it was before the strike," Welter said.

He added that retiree health benefits also are secure during the strike.

"Retirees sacrificed and now they are out there and they've got limited income, so it's very concerning for them, what's going on," Welter said. "But the good thing about the UAW, their deal is intact, so their health insurance does not change and their pension will get paid on a regular basis, so there is no impact to retirees at all with the labor dispute."

He said union workers have been paying two and a half times more in dues to help build the strike fund with the knowledge that contract negotiations would be a challenge this year.

"There has been more preparation leading into this negotiation than there's ever been around a possible labor dispute." Welter said.

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