End Of Free Health Insurance Leads To Two-Day Picket

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Workers at Inland Employees FCU staged a two-day picket of the credit union's two offices last week over a continued impasse on contract negotiations.

The United Steelworkers Union, Local 2003-21 staged the two-day strike to protest one-day suspensions meted out three employees for using the credit union's Intranet system to disseminate criticisms of management's negotiating tactics, but also to drive home a point over the dissatisfaction over the failure to reach a collective bargaining agreement. "Those women were just exercising their federally protected rights," said Sue Beckman, a spokesperson for the union.

But John Wohadlo, president of the $160-million credit union, said the three workers were disciplined because they were using the company's Intranet to harass management and to improperly disseminate information that was not approved by the credit union.

The union has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board over the employees' suspensions.

CU Says It Had No Choice

The workers were expressing their dissatisfaction with the credit union's act to unilaterally impose health care costs after negotiations over a new contract broke down. The credit union, according to Wohadlo, was forced to end its full subsidization of employee health care premiums because of a 31% hike in its costs imposed by its health care provider, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, costing the credit union an additional $370,000 a year. "We can no longer afford to offer free insurance," said Wohadlo, explaining that credit union workers have received free health insurance since the 1937 inception of the credit union.

Under the credit union's proposal, employees without families would pay 20% of their health care premiums, while those with families would pay 25% for themselves.

The 42 members of the union ended their two-day picket last week and returned to work just as the two sides were scheduled to meet in contract negotiations. A federal mediator was expected to sit in on last week's bargaining session. The union represents about two-thirds of the credit union's 60 employees. The last contract expired Jan. 31.

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