By Kay Tillow
FireDogLake, April 1, 2010
Detroit Diesel has been around since April 1937, a few months after the Flint sit down strike that won union recognition.
This year, 1,100 retired auto workers at Detroit Diesel suffered a giant cut in company provision of health benefits because their Voluntary Employees Benefits Association, VEBA, went belly up. Workers who retired between 1993 and 2004 will have to pick up an increasing share of the premiums that were once fully covered by the company. Some retirees will have to pay as much as $4,000 per year, or even higher, just to keep their health coverage.
VEBAs are spreading. Many companies seek to shift their liability for future health costs to the workers or the union through establishment of a VEBA.
So how do unions and workers, who are in danger of losing health benefits for which they worked for decades, fight back? Educate and organize for national single payer health care, HR 676, an improved Medicare for all. Build a movement that demands it. Spread the word. March for it.
With HR 676 what happens to locked out workers? Health coverage continues. To workers on strike? Coverage continues. To early retirees? Coverage continues. To laid off workers? Coverage continues.
“Our struggle is not for more or better VEBAs. That was the condition we faced in the last decade. In this decade, we only have one choice, National Health Care (HR 676),” says Al Gladyck of the UAW Local 7 Retirees Chapter and former Chief Steward at Chrysler’s Jefferson Assembly Plant.
“HR 676 would make this situation a thing of the past” Gladyck said, referring to the Detroit Diesel retirees’ loss.
Gladyck is one of the leaders of Retirees for Single Payer Health Care which meets regularly at UAW Local 22, 4300 Michigan Avenue in Detroit. He has written three articles on Detroit Diesel, VEBAs, and the solution. They are well worth reading.
To find the ongoing activities of Retirees for Single Payer Health Care in Detroit, click here.