Padilla Introduces Legislation to Protect Workers’ Health Care During Strikes
Revoking Health Insurance Coverage Has Been Frequent Corporate Tactic Against Striking Workers
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) joined Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in introducing the Striking Workers Healthcare Protection Act, which would require employers to continue providing health insurance to workers who are exercising their right to strike. Working families shouldn’t be forced off the health coverage they’ve earned and negotiated and have to pay out-of-pocket for potentially lifesaving health care.
The bill would create a separate unfair labor practice category, punishable by fines, for when employers cut or alter workers’ health insurance while the workers are on strike. The fines would vary based on their history of violations, size, the scope of the harm, and the public interest.
“Every worker in America deserves dignity and respect and they should be guaranteed the right to strike without fear of retribution,” said Senator Padilla. “Threatening access to health care should not be a tool that employers use to dissuade employees from going on strike. That’s why I’m proud to cosponsor the Striking Workers Healthcare Protection Act to ensure that workers continue to have access to potentially life-saving health care.”
“Too many times in Ohio and around the country, we’ve seen corporations kick their workers off their health coverage in an attempt to break a strike. Employers shouldn’t be able to cut off health insurance for workers and their families or threaten to as a way to silence workers,” said Senator Brown. “Threatening the wellbeing of employees, their families and their communities because they’re exercising their right to strike for fair pay, good working conditions, and a voice in their workplace is unacceptable and shouldn’t be a tool employers can use to break a strike and force workers back into subpar conditions.”
“When workers strike, they do so because they’re fighting for a level playing field for themselves, their coworkers and their families,” said Senator Casey. “Employers should be coming to the table and negotiating with workers, not forcing them to choose between health care and their voice in the workplace. I’m proud to join my friend Senator Brown to introduce legislation to ensure employers can’t kick workers off their health care while they’re exercising their fundamental right to organize.”
As the pandemic has illustrated, health insurance can be the difference between life and death, prosperity, or financial ruin. As more workers go on strike across the country, more companies are using this harmful tactic to try to break worker strikes.
- Members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union (BCTGM) Local 37 have been without health care benefits since January 1 while on strike from their jobs at Rich Products at the Jon Donaire Desserts plant in Santa Fe Springs, California.
- GM dropped workers’ health insurance, including the coverage of workers in Ohio, during a 2019 national strike.
- During the United Auto Workers strike last fall, John Deere threatened to cancel the health care coverage of thousands of striking employees across the Midwest before deciding to continue that coverage until a final contract was reached with UAW workers.
- Warrior Met strikers represented by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) had their health care coverage cut off when they went on strike in April 2021 and the union has been paying the health care coverage for those members since the strike began.
Senator Padilla is a steadfast advocate for stronger workplace protections and of striking workers’ rights. Earlier this year, Padilla sent a letter to Bob Rich Jr., Chairman and majority owner of the Rich Products Corporation, to express support for bakery workers at the Jon Donaire Desserts production plant in Santa Fe Springs, California. He recently helped introduce the Schedules That Work Act to ensure that employees have more certainty about their work schedules and income. The Department of Labor also recently began implementing a plan to protect workers from heat hazards based on provisions included in the Asunción Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act, a bill that Senator Padilla co-led with Sens. Brown and Cortez-Masto.
In the Senate, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Cindy Axne (Iowa-03).
The legislation introduced today has the support of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers (BCTGM), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Communications Workers of America (CWA), United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), International Association of Iron Workers (IW), United Steelworkers (USW), and the Teamsters.