Union workers at GE's Appliance Park in Louisville, KY, U.S. are preparing to take the next step aimed at organizing a strike to protest increases in co-payments under a major company health care plan.
Randy Payton, president of the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers-Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, Local 761, said the union's conference board will vote Oct. 25 on whether to give union conference board chairman Art Smith the authority to order a strike as a means of protesting the insurance cost increases. Any strike would involve all 35,000 members of the IUE-CWA at GE plants nationwide, Mr. Smith said. The 100 conference board members represent IUE-CWA employees at GE operations across the U.S. The vote will be held during the conference board's annual meeting, which runs from Oct. 25-28 in Fort Lauderdale, FL, U.S.
The IUE-CWA executive board "has already taken the position to strike if this continues," Mr. Payton said. "My gut feeling is the conference board will vote to give the board chair the power to authorize a strike."
Mr. Smith said the union has a U.S. $300 million strike fund in place. "This is something we know we have to do," he said. "If we roll over and do nothing now, when the next contract bargaining session begins next June, we'll just be waiting for the steamroller." Mr. Smith said that the length of any strike would be based on whether, and how much, the company will change its stance on the co-pay increases.
Kim Freeman, general manager of global communications for GE Consumer Products, said the company has a contingency plan in place to keep production running at Appliance Park in the event of a Jan. 1 strike, but declined to disclose the details of the plan. "While we would hope that employees would see the fact that we still have one of the best health care plans in the region, we understand that there is a possibility that workers may strike in protest of proposed increases," Ms. Freeman said. (Business First)
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