USA Today Examines Unions’ Reactions to Rising Health Care Costs for Employees
USA Today today examines how "rapidly" increasing health care costs have "risen to the No. 1 spot" in negotiations between unions and employers. Health care premiums will rise an estimated 15% on average in 2003, and many employers are trying to "shift some of the burden" to their workers. However, unions are trying to save their benefits and threatening strikes in order to do so. For example, up to 17,500 General Electric union workers on Tuesday are expected to begin a two-day strike over higher health insurance deductibles. Stephen Tormey, spokesperson for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, one the unions that has called a strike at GE, said, "Until we take some of the profit out of health care and start serving the needs of people, this crisis will not get better." Gary Sheffer, a spokesperson for GE, said, "Our benefits are among the best in the industries we are in. We are simply asking employees to share a modest portion of the double-digit increases we've seen in health care." According to USA Today, the unions face a "public relations battle" because non-union workers have already begun sharing some of the increased health care costs. Kenneth Kovach, a professor of industrial relations at George Mason University, said that while unions will win some of their "skirmishes" over health care costs, they will "lose the whole war, because there will be a lot of cost-shifting to workers" (Appleby, USA Today, 1/9).
NPR's "Morning Edition" yesterday reported on the scheduled GE strike (Mann, "Morning Edition," NPR, 1/8). The full segment is available in RealPlayer online. MPR's "Marketplace" yesterday also reported on the strike (Palmer, "Marketplace," MPR, 1/8). The full segment is available in RealPlayer online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.