Striking UAW Workers' Healthcare Now Back on GM's Tab

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
striking uaw workers healthcare now back on gm s tab

As reports point to progress in efforts by General Motors and the UAW to reach a tentative collective agreement and resolve the now 12-day-long strike, the automaker has removed a contentious element of the drama. Announced Thursday, GM will resume covering workers’ health benefits.

GM withdrew the coverage early into the strike, forcing hourly workers to go through their union to fund temporary COBRA plans. As one would expect, GM’s about-face hasn’t left UAW all smiles.

In a letter from a GM labor official to UAW Vice President Terry Dittes outlined by CNBC, the automaker says it backtracked after seeing the “significant confusion” that resulted from its move. At the time, GM said the practice of removing coverage from striking workers was standard operating procedure. It would seem this latest move is more of a goodwill gesture than a realization of error.

After all, a dwindling UAW strike fund would serve to boost GM’s bargaining position. Cynical thinking? Maybe.

Certainly, Dittes wasn’t in a mood to thank GM for its graciousness. In a letter fired back at Scott Sandefur, GM’s North American VP of labor relations, Dittes chastised the automaker for its initial callousness.

The letter, in part, reads:

On Monday, September 16, 2019, I wrote to you via email to get a status update regarding our Members’ health care. On Tuesday, September 17, 2019, you provided an answer that our striking members and their families no longer had health care coverage. You also wrote, “Our employees should be eligible for COBRA paid for by the UAW fund so that their health care benefits can continue.” The same day you informed me that health care was no longer in effect I sent correspondence to all UAW Local Leadership informing them of such.

Finally, a week after terminating benefits, you write me a letter dated Wednesday, September 25, 2019, and received on Thursday, September 26, 2019, stating, “GM has chosen to work with our providers to keep all benefits fully in place for striking hourly employees.”

These irresponsible actions by General Motors are toying with the lives of hundreds of thousands of our UAW families.

Late Wednesday, Dittes told UAW members that negotiations were progressing, claiming, “All unsettled proposals are now at the Main Table and have been presented to General Motors, and we are awaiting their response.”

On the ground, GM dealers claim that, while their stock of new vehicles remains sufficient to tide them over, the supply of replacement parts is already dwindling. Many dealerships report a backlog of customers awaiting custom-order parts.

[Image: James R. Martin/ Shutterstock]

Join the conversation
3 of 18 comments
  • Lokki Lokki on Sep 27, 2019

    Stopping healthcare for a moment was merely a shot across the bow to remind UAW workers how good they have it already. It’s from the same hardball playbook as announcing closure of several plants before the strike. Instead of fighting to get more, the Union has to focus on fighting keep what it has now. Job security at unprofitable plants, free healthcare, or wage increases. Choose one. As for antagonizing the workers/union.... nothing GM could do would make them happy, so why even bother to try? The relationship is an antagonistic one, has been since the 70’s, and isn’t going to change.

    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Sep 28, 2019

      "As for antagonizing the workers/union…. nothing GM could do would make them happy" The UAW carries with them into the negotiations the battle ax of the bailouts, handouts and nationalization of GM in 2009, all to keep them working for putting their guy in the White House in 2008. The US gov't is not going to let GM fail, no matter who is in the White House or who runs the Hill. A number of US taxpayers have decided that buying from a UAW automaker is a losing transaction for the US taxpayers and have voted with their wallet and their feet in favor of any one of the excellent non-union automakers in the right-to-work South.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Sep 27, 2019

    You know what they say: "Don't bite the hand that feeds the health care system which is profiting from your chronic conditions while actively working to kill you with medical errors."

  • NormSV650 You forgot to mention this is not a ground EV but based on Volvo CMA ICE platform. Which is also shared with XC40 and Polestar 2. So it may be a few years old now and not cutting edge as other EV's.
  • Peter E. Puffington IV EBFlex puffs peters
  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys for that money, it had better be built by people listening to ABBA
  • Abrar Very easy and understanding explanation about brake paint
  • MaintenanceCosts We need cheaper batteries. This is a difficult proposition at $50k base/$60k as tested but would be pretty compelling at $40k base/$50k as tested.