The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Attack on retiree health care

Sep 10, 2007

The auto companies say they can’t continue to shoulder what they call the “health care burden.” So they want the union to manage a retiree health care fund.

Under their plan, the companies would put some money up-front into the fund. To be more exact, the automakers want to fund this retiree health care plan, known as a VEBA, at much less than what’s needed. And then walk away. Health care for retirees would no longer be guaranteed.

The UAW agreed to assume responsibility for retiree health care plans like this at other places. In the case of Detroit Diesel and Caterpillar, the union-managed funds have already run short of money, forcing retirees to pay much more for their own health care coverage, or go without, and inducing current workers to cut their wages to make up some of the difference.

It is clear why the auto companies want to divest themselves of any health care obligations.

But it would be a disaster for workers to give up guaranteed health care – something that was fought for and won years ago, something workers have paid for by their labor all their working lives.