Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Teamsters strike in Chicago after company unilaterally cancels health benefits

Teamsters strike in Chicago after company unilaterally cancels health benefits


SK Workers on Strike!


Posted On: Aug 26, 2009 (08:08:38)


Workers at SK Hand Tools in Chicago and McCook have

been on strike since 5:30am Tuesday morning over the

company's unilateral withdrawal of their health care coverage.


The strike is being covered by every Chicago media

outlet, which shows how important the issue of justice

is to the general public.




Workers strike after health care yanked

SK Hand Tool union's contract expired


by Francine Knowles And Cheryl V. Jackson,

Staff Reporters


Chicago Sun-Times - August 26, 2009,CST-NWS-strike26.article


Unionized workers launched a strike at SK Hand Tool

Corp.'s Chicago and McCook sites Tuesday after the

company dropped employees' health insurance coverage

without notice, according to a Teamsters official.


The company's action in May has left some workers

saddled with costly medical bills and others worrying

what they will do if they or their families get sick,

said Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743.

The union represents about 75 workers at the company.


Workers found out their insurance was dropped after

they noticed no health care insurance premium

deductions were taken out of their paychecks, Berg said.


The union has been in discussions with the company, but

has been unable to resolve the matter, which prompted

the unfair labor practices strike, he said.


"This has been devastating," Berg said. "It's like

anybody else in society. If you don't need health

insurance, you're fine, but when you need it, you

really need it."


Donna Pustul is now paying $354 to refill a 90-day

prescription that had cost her $40.


Other workers, such as Lazaro Godeaez, are putting off

visits to the doctor.


"I'm supposed to go see him every six months. Now that

I don't have insurance, I don't go see the doctor,"

said 54-year-old Godeaez, who says he's healthy, but

any new maladies might have been brought on by cuts at

work. "I've got anxiety maybe."


A high blood-pressure patient, Kim Prach, is supposed

to go to the doctor every three months. His last visit

was two months ago, and he's not planning another

anytime soon, he said.


"I'm afraid because I might have to go to the

hospital," said Prach, 51, a 25-year SK employee. "I

may break down and die at home."


His co-worker, Dejan Gavatski, had emergency hernia

surgery last month, leaving him with more than $20,000 in bills.


"The doctor said I couldn't wait," said Gavatski, 28.


He's paid $2,000 to $3,000 in related hospital costs.

Had he had health insurance, as he did up until May 1,

he would have paid about $1,000 out of pocket.


"People are threatened with losing their homes, with

financial ruin," Berg said.


The company said in a statement, "We realize that

employees want to have health care, and we wish that we

could provide them with coverage. The elimination of

the coverage was not our choice; rather, it was due to

a third-party's decision to remove coverage, which was

beyond our control."


The National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint

against the company in July, and a hearing has been

scheduled for Sept. 3.


If found in violation of the law, the company would be

required "to restore the status quo" as it was before

the violation and would have to bargain with the union

in good faith, said a board spokeswoman. If workers

suffered any financial hardship, the company would have

to remedy that as well, she added.


The union's contract with the company expired in

February. New contract talks began in January, but

there was no discussion of dropping health insurance

before the company dropped it in May, according to Berg.


"Health insurance wasn't a sticking point" before, he said.


The company "is having some financial difficulties,"

and has sought wage concessions, including a 20 percent

wage cut, plus a $4-an- hour wage cut for the first six

months of a new contract, he said, adding that workers

have not had a wage increase in six years.


Workers' hourly wages range from about $11 to $19, and

the average hourly pay is $14, according to a union representative.




Update on SK Strike


Updated On: Aug 27, 2009 (08:16:00)


"People's spirits are high from all the community

support," said Emilio Lunar (pictured below on the

left).  "Please come out and stand with us - even if

you only have 5 minutes," he continued.


SK management called the union into a negotations

meeting today with a mediator, yet only offered the

same proposals they've been offering all along.


The union has been offering to bring the company into

the Local 743 Health and Welfare plan at a greatly

reduced rate but the company keeps declining.  In

response to SK's press release yesterday about being

dropped by a 3rd party administrator, union officials

say they don't know what the company is talking about.


"This strike has captured the imagination of people of

concience across Chicagoland," said Local 743 president

Richard Berg.  "The strikers are strengthened by the

overwhelming show of solidarity from supporters.  We

will continue to fight till we get justice," he continued.


Click here to see the coverage on the International Brotherhood of Teamsters website.


Click here to see the coverage on the Joint Council 25 website.




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