Friday, March 24, 2006

How labor's fight for "health care for all" can help build new strength for all GE workers!

On February 20, 3,600 aerospace workers at Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, CT went on strike because management wants to shift the burden of skyrocketing health care costs to its employees. A month later, they are still on strike.

Local 201 members (and all WAGE supporters) cannot afford to sit on the sidelines. If management succeeds at Sikorsky, it will only embolden GE to seek similar concessions in contract talks with our union negotiators next year.

Why fight for health care for all?GE workers must prepare now to rise to the challenge of defending their health care and retirement benefits in an environment where affordable employer-based coverage is rapidly disappearing. How long will the increasingly small number of workers who have good plans (like at GE) be able to hold on to what we've got?

That's why it's essential to link our union's campaign to preserve health care and retirement benefits for GE workers to much broader reforms that would benefit everyone. Failure to do so divides us from the majority of working people who now already pay a large share of their health care costs, or worse, have no insurance at all. That makes it all too easy for the company to paint members' resistance as just stubborn selfishness.

What's the link to organizing?The struggle over "who pays" is also our best opportunity to demonstrate to the non-union majority of workers at GE -- and elsewhere -- that our ultimate goal is not just hanging on to what we've got, but using our power to win real reforms that benefit everyone.

A look back at history shows that when the labor movement fights for broad benefits like Social Security and Medicare that help everyone, it creates an environment that stimulates more workers to organize.

In Massachusetts, more than 35 unions -- including the North Shore Labor Council and CWA District One -- have joined a movement to amend the state constitution to make health care a right for everyone. It's an ambitious plan, and undoubtedly opposition from big corporations and special interest groups will be fierce. But this campaign offers an immediate opportunity for union members to take a stand for real reform so that all workers see our union in a struggle for 'justice,' not 'just us.'

Learn more about the campaign at

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Support the Sikorsky Strikers! Contributions to support the Sikorsky strikers and their families should be made payable to: Teamsters Local 1150 Strike and Relief Fund, 150 Garfield Ave., Stratford, CT 06615.