PITTSBURGH, July 9, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --The United Steelworkers (USW) today denounced FreightCar America Inc. management's unilateral decision to abrogate benefits agreements that provide life and medical insurance for about 700 workers who retired from the company's Johnstown, Pa. production facility.
The USW called the company's scheme to shed its obligation to these union retirees a mean-spirited and greed-fueled money grab aimed at men and women who dedicated their lives and careers to building railcars and earning profits for FreightCar and its predecessors.
Over decades of service at the Johnstown "car shop," as it was known, retirees earned the right to receive company-paid health and life insurance benefits.
These rights were created through collective bargaining between the successive employers and the USW, where the parties agreed that the employer's obligation was to provide these benefits as long as the retiree remained retired, "notwithstanding the expiration of this agreement, except as the company and union may agree otherwise."
The USW never "agreed otherwise." It never agreed to convert these important retirement provisions into benefits that were "gratuitous," or terminable at the employer's whim, as the company's lawsuit claims.
In a letter today, FreightCar informed the USW of its intention to stop paying for the retirees' health and life insurance and brought a complaint against the union and retirees in federal court for the Northern District of Illinois seeking approval to terminate the benefit programs on October 1, 2013.
The USW and the retirees are filing a lawsuit of their own in federal court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to fight the company's announced termination of these benefits.
The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.
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SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)