(For those in the Albany, NY area, you can attend a Rally at the plant gate, 260 Hudson River Rd, Waterford, NY 12188, this Tuesday, Dec. 13th at 5:30 PM, followed by a 6 pm march to Chrome at 405 Hudson River Rd. and an indoor rally, 6:30-8:30 pm. Further info on how you can help is here: http://momentiveworkers.com/ .)
The following note was sent to us by Dr. Andy Coates who practices medicine in the Albany, NY area where this strike is taking place. Coates is a former Executive Board member of the Public Employees Federation (PEF) a joint affiliate of AFSCME/SEIU and past president of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP).
Just north of where the Mohawk River joins the Hudson, in upstate New York, the highly skilled members of IUE/CWA Local 81359, have been on strike since the beginning of November.
A chemical plant, once owned by General Electric, today Momentive Performance Materials, would like to drive workers back to a minimum wage with no benefits. The IUE/CWA local endured setbacks in two recent contracts and this time has said NO MORE.
One important issue is the right to retire at age 60--with health benefits. The company wants to eliminate retiree health benefits altogether. This would make retirement unaffordable.
The workers at the plant live with a high risk of illness due to occupational exposure to dangerous chemicals. Health benefits to augment Medicare and health benefits to bridge to Medicare for those under 65 were won in previous union struggle. The Momentive Company wants to tear this up and move on, leaving the workers flat, with no retirement health benefits.
Workers at the Momentive plant had access to a "PPO" plan, a "preferred provider" scheme with an ability to choose your doctor. Now the company demands a high deductible plan, starting at $3,500 for an individual. Workers in the local recognize this as an unaffordable trap, with further restrictions in the fine print threatening care.
Defined retirement benefits were taken away with the 2013 give-back contract. New workers have been put into a 401k scheme since. Now Momentive proposes to reduce its contribution to the young workers' retirement, with the aim of deserting the company's obligation to workers' retirement altogether.
Here are remarkably unified, conscious and energetic local union people we should be proud to know - and everyone should know them!
PS If we had a single payer health care system, access to necessary health care would not be an issue of collective bargaining.