The United Auto Workers struck General Motors yesterday because of negotiating impasses. One of the principle areas of disagreement is over the creation of a health care trust. Once again, the lack of single payer, universal health care is having a serious negative impact on our economy. The idea of union run health care trusts for workers is gaining ground where companies are willing to adequately fund them.
Here's the concept. Instead of a corporation guaranteeing health care coverage for it's workers they pay into a fund owned and managed by the union. The onus is on the union to provide coverage. This frees up the legal obligation of the company, as negotiated in it's union contracts and the union members are guaranteed they won't lose their health care if a company goes under or unilaterally decides to cut benefits.
The argument is over how much the company will contribute. The United Steelworkers/Goodyear strike was over this same issue because Goodyear refused to adequately fund the trust. They finally came to an agreement and the UAW and GM will also.
The over riding issue, though, is why corporations building cars and unions are in the insurance business at all. GM, Ford and other automakers should only have to concentrate on their own businesses. Unions should only have to concentrate on worker issues like safety, pensions, wages, rules and resolving grievances. Even this solution is bad because all it does is transfer the responsibility for managing health care coverage to unions. What experience do they have in this?
The unions are trying to guarantee their workers won't be left holding the bag. If GM goes bankrupt (or Ford for that matter) the workers lose their jobs and health care. This way, even if the companies go under the union still has the health care coverage to provide. It's a safety net for workers. It's imperfect though because those benefits could be cut as costs continue soaring.
The only real solution is comprehensive, single payer health care for all. Nothing else is going to save our manufacturing industries and good jobs. It also has the side benefit of providing healthier, more productive employees and saving and extending lives at less cost.