Defending Union Health Benefits

October 17, 2013: Hoffa and Hall have lied to members about our contracts and healthcare. But in the fight to protect our benefits, we shouldn’t turn against union health plans.

Given all of Hoffa-Hall’s lies about Teamster contracts, it’s no wonder that many members don’t trust the union to run our health plan.

But in the fight to protect our benefits, we shouldn’t turn on union health plans.

The fact is union health plans work. They benefit millions of Americans. They have strong advantages over company plans and for-profit insurance companies.

Union health plans are efficient and don’t skim money away from benefits to pay profits, high executive salaries or costly advertising.

Not one dime of health plan money goes to the union, to union officials or to the employers.

The Central States Health and Welfare Fund pays 94 percent of its income in members’ benefits. General administrative costs take 3.2 percent. TeamCare administration costs are 2.8 percent. (TDU went to court to make quarterly Central States financial reports available. The most recent one is available here.)

Union health plans are jointly governed: 50 percent by corporate trustees and 50 percent by union trustees. Thus they are not really “union” plans, but “union-employer” plans. The union and management trustees are unpaid, except expenses.

This structure gives our union a voice in our benefits. Union health plans can’t be changed at the whim of management. The corporation’s bottom line doesn’t rule. It can be checked by the union.

Like union contracts, union health plans are good for workers.

That’s why all Teamster leaders support the concept, from Hoffa to Teamster reform leaders.

Betraying Members Trust

Again and again, Hoffa and Hall have betrayed members’ trust.

  • They held contract rallies against healthcare cuts and then agreed to allow UPS to cut members’ benefits.
  • They told members UPS was “getting out of the healthcare business” and negotiated a UPS Freight contract that keeps Teamsters in a substandard company health plan.
  • They told members a No Vote on the contract wouldn’t affect their benefits and exposed their own lie when they improved TeamCare benefits after the No Vote.

Lying to members hasn’t just hurt Hoffa and Hall’s reputation. It’s undermined members’ trust in their union.

Hoffa and Hall gave members a devil’s choice on healthcare. No wonder so many Teamsters say they’d rather have a company plan than a union plan.

Benefit Cuts?

Members are also concerned that, down the road, Central States could cut benefits.

Of course, under a company plan, UPS can also cut benefits. UPS just slashed benefits for 15,000 supervisors, and they would surely do the same to Teamsters if they could.

The contract fight revealed that Hoffa and Hall can’t be relied on to defend our benefits. If we want to protect our benefits, members have to be organized and vigilant.

Despite all the problems with the Hoffa-Hall administration, we are 100 percent Teamster. We are pro-union and pro-contract so management doesn’t have all the control. We are pro-union health plan for the same reason.

We don’t want a corporate CEO to control our health, impose extra costs on families or deny coverage to working spouses.

The issues for Teamsters are fighting benefit cuts, and adding a maintenance-of-benefits clause in the contract to prevent cuts in the future.

The problem is not the concept of a union health plan. The problem is the Hoffa-Hall leadership.

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