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Should Striking Workers Keep Their Employer's Health Insurance Plan?

Should Striking Workers Keep Their Employer's Health Insurance Plan?

One of the tools sometimes employed by organized workers to reach their goals

, such as improving working conditions or pay, is the strike. During a strike, employees refuse to work until the company agrees to negotiate with their labor union and they reach an agreement. Although American unions have declined in popularity over the past several decades, they continue to have a major influence on several industries.

Typically, workers on strike forgo their paychecks during that time. Presumably, their benefits package would also be suspended, although that has rarely been tested. However, striking Coca-Cola employees want to keep their health coverage intact during the process.

The company decided to play hardball with nearly 500 workers last week by canceling their health insurance plan. This is somewhat surprising, since Coca-Cola took that course of action just one day after the strike began.

Without their employer's health insurance, employees and their families will either have to find more expensive individual coverage or remain uninsured. Even if their spouse's job can provide insurance to dependents, most open-enrollment periods are several months away. As a result, the workers (of Washington Teamsters United) filed a class-action lawsuit against the company. They contend that the company is violating the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).Should Striking Workers Keep Their Employer's Health Insurance Plan?

A spokesperson for the western Washington state-area Coca-Cola factory denies that the employees' coverage was revoked out of retaliation. Rather, it is company policy that employees who are not currently working are not eligible for the company's health insurance. So far, their coverage has been canceled through the end of August. Depending on how long the strike lasts, the employees could be uninsured for months.

It remains to be seen if the union will prevail. Certain states' laws are more organized labor-friendly than others. Regardless, economic hardship is a risk workers take when they go on strike. It is unfortunate, but they sacrifice temporary comfort for the potential of long-term benefit. Short term health insurance could help them hold out, even if their lawsuit fails..

Should Striking Workers Keep Their Employer's Health Insurance Plan?

By: Yamileth Medina
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