First Shot of the Health Care Revolution
General Electric’s two largest labor unions launched a nationwide two-day strike today to protest the company’s decision to require workers to pay more for health care benefits despite increasing profit margins. GE officials cited increasing health care costs and concerns over company profitability as reasons for the cuts in health benefits. Consumer advocates responded by calling on company officials to make cuts in executive compensation packages and benefits in order to protect employees.
“It is unconscionable that one of the world’s largest and most profitable companies should bow to Wall Street at the expense of the health of its employees,” said Jerry Flanagan, Health Care Advocate for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. “This is the first shot of the health care revolution in America.”
GE is one of the world’s largest corporations with 300,000 workers. GE’s 2002 profits were approximately $16 billion. According to GE’s financial statements: third-quarter 2002 earnings of $4.1 billion, or $.41 per share, increased 25% over third quarter 2001, and year-to-date cash flow from operations, excluding progress collections, increased 16%.
It has been estimated that the GE plan will mean a $400 increase per year in out-of-pocket expenses for workers. Employers’ attempts to shift more health care costs to workers in the form of co-pays and deductibles are expected to be a major issue in contract bargaining this year.
“There is a truly obscene inequality in American society. Today’s CEO makes 400 times the average employee’s salary and enjoys the best health care benefits that money can buy,” continued Flanagan. “Workers should not be forced to take to the streets in order to keep heath care affordable.”
The strike by IUE-CWA and the Electrical Workers, General Electric’s two largest unions, involves approximately 19,000 workers. GE plans to seek further increases when national bargaining begins in May, the unions said.
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a national non-profit consumer advocacy organization. For more information visit us on the web at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org.