WHITE HALL, W.Va. — Today, Cummins engine mechanics and service-workers came down from their shop in White Hall, W.Va. to the main street, to inform motorists and community members about what’s gone wrong with Cummins, Inc.
Cummins diesel engines and generators are everywhere. Teamsters Local 175 members maintain them, providing critical backup for key infrastructure and public and commercial transportation, as well as construction and energy projects in Northwest West Virginia, a release from Teamsters Local 175 stated.
They ensure that kids’ school buses are running and that trash gets picked up, and that hospitals like MonGeneral, nursing homes like Genesis, water treatment plants and even MonPower, the local electric utility, have backup power, the release continued.
“We take great pride in keeping Cummins engines operating because we help our community,” said Bryan Quirk, chief steward. “We help protect the public health, and we’ve helped Cummins become so profitable it’s now number 148 on the Fortune 500. It’s outrageous that we have to fear for our own families’ health, and have been working without a contract for nearly a year.
“Cummins wants to push our families’ out-of-pocket medical costs sky high, up to $6,000 in deductibles upfront, and they will not give us real access to cheap primary care and other health services they now offer to their headquarters employees in Indiana. These cuts will be very harmful, and this is health discrimination against our families.”
West Virginia Cummins workers and their families are currently covered by a Local 175 Health and Welfare health insurance plan. Cummins operates two shops servicing the state, one in Fairmont and one in Charleston.
“The union plan’s annual deductible is nearly nine times cheaper than the company’s unaffordable and harmful plan. Cummins wants us to give that up. Cummins also wants our families to lose access to Local 175’s free primary care clinic in Charleston, in exchange for nothing. And the company plan’s immediate future is uncertain, given all the talk in Congress of repealing the Affordable Care Act. That’s just morally wrong, and it’s also unsustainable,” said Luke Farley, Trustee of the Local 175 Health Fund.
Cummins forced high-deductible health plans onto employees across its American operations beginning in 2011, and the company is now in the process of extending these plans to their service shops, the release stated.
There are many employee complaints across Cummins’ national footprint, including those who say that the Cummins plan is known as the “the No-Surance Plan.”
High-deductible health plans in general have been exposed as plans that undermine affordability, and can endanger the health of patients. These plans are “particularly inappropriate for children,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Under these plans, children are in danger of not getting the health care they need.
Most Fairmont Cummins Teamsters provide health insurance for their families. Many have children on their plans.
The growing strife at Cummins could be a problem for West Virginia-area infrastructure reliability needs, since Cummins mechanics are highly skilled technicians and the company might have problems with retention or a possible breakdown in labor relations, the release continued.
“We don’t know if we can continue to provide maintenance service under these conditions,” Quirk said.
Just a year ago, in Charleston, Cummins backed down from a similar effort to cut its mechanics off of good Teamsters health insurance, after its employees threatened to strike.
SOURCE: Teamsters Local 175 press release