Workers Strike Over Health Care

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Dozens of union workers picketed the seven city offices of Philadelphia FCU last week after negotiations on a new two-year labor contract came to an impasse.

The union, local 32 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union, went on strike April 11 after PFCU management refused to budge from an offer that would pass along some of the increases in insurance premiums to employees.

Karen Eavis, a spokesperson for Philadelphia FCU, said the $380-million credit union was faced with a significant increase in insurance premiums when the local Blue Cross / Blue Shield raised rates by an average of 36% and alternative health care providers quoted similar rates. Up until now the credit union paid all of the health care premiums for its workers. "Our backs were up against the wall. We have to be fiscally responsible to our members," she said.

Steven Tully, a union representative, said the credit union proposal would require some employees to pay as much as 50% of the health care premiums and cost some as much as "hundreds of dollars a month." The union local represents about half of PFCU's 's 205 employees.

The credit union was struggling last week to maintain normal business hours with a skeleton crew, including dozens of union members who crossed the picket line. "At this time, we're still operating regular business hours," said Eavis.

The strike threatened to get rough when the union filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board over claims of harassment and coercion, prompting some of the 104 union members to resign from the local.

"The reason we're out on the street is intimidation tactics," said Tully, who charged the credit union was engaged in "union-busting tactics."

The two sides have apparently agreed on giving workers a 3% raise for each of the two years being discussed. The union was working last week to obtain support from other locals in the heavily unionized city, many involved with PFCU.

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