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Thursday, September 27, 2007
Union enlists Detroit 3 for health care reform
article by Tom Walsh
Sept 27, 2007
The UAW is pushing all three Detroit automobile manufacturers to join with the union in forming a group to push for national health care reform, according to people involved with UAW contract negotiations.
General Motors Corp. has agreed to participate as part of its tentative contract deal, said the people, who asked not to be identified because of an official blackout on contract details.
The push to enlist the Detroit Three's support for the union's long-standing crusade for universal health care is indicative of the UAW's growing profile as a major player in the nation's health care policy debate.
Wednesday's historic deal to shift GM's $50-billion retiree health care obligation into a union-run independent trust, called a voluntary employee beneficiary association, or VEBA, means that the UAW now has some serious skin in the national health care game. If Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC also agree to a VEBA for retiree health care, the UAW would wield incredible clout as one of the nation's largest purchasers of prescription drugs and medical services, from MRI scans to artificial hips.
It's not clear whether the auto companies will be 100% in lockstep with the UAW on every detail of various national health care proposals. But the union's request that each company pledge to join what one person called a "health care institute" is definitely an attempt to rally their support for a federal system that ensures care for all Americans.