GM to cover health insurance costs for striking workers, as sources say no deal in site

Union leaders accuse them of "toying" with their families.

September 27, 2019, 10:34 AM

General Motors has reversed course and agreed to resume paying health insurance costs for striking workers, as union sources tell ABC News Friday that a deal is not likely to be reached before the week is up.

GM faced widespread backlash when, three days after early 50,000 union workers walked off their jobs on the night of Sept. 15, starting a nationwide strike at General Motors, the company said it would cease paying the costs of workers' healthcare, effectively shifting the costs instead of to a union fund.

GM on Friday confirmed in a statement to ABC News that it has chosen to keep “all benefits fully in place for hourly employees, so they have no disruption to their medical care, including vision, prescription and dental coverage."

In a letter sharing the update that health coverage was back, UAW vice president Terry Dittes called GM's actions "another attempt to toy with our lives and the lives of our families, they say, GM health care will be back on."

Dittes also shared a letter he wrote to GM with ABC News, telling them: "There is no doubt that public sentiment see these actions of GM as a shameful act!"

Earlier this week, it appeared the two sides were on track to reach a deal.

Union leaders have argued that GM workers deserved a bigger slice of the company's profits, which they say have totaled $35 billion in North America over the last three years. Union members are calling for fair wages, saying for every $1 a GM employee made, CEO Mary Barra made $281.

They are also fighting to keep their health insurance plan, which requires to pay about 4% of the costs, as well as an improved pension and assurances that GM -- the maker of Buick, Cadillac, GMC and Chevrolet -- will not close four plants in Maryland, Ohio and Michigan.

The strike comes nearly a year after GM announced it was laying off 15 percent of its salaried workers and shuttering five plants in North America.

For Keondris Howell, an assembly line worker at a GM plant in Flint, Michigan, he is striking because as a temp he said there “has not been a pathway from coming in as a child to becoming a full time employee” and as a temp, he doesn’t “get any benefits.”

“We do everything that everyone else does. We do everything that nobody else wants to do. We work more days a year because we don't have any vacation time. We don't get any benefits,” Howell told ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast.

Howell said that even when his son passed away four years ago, he had to go straight back to work even before he buried him because there “was no bereavement.”

“Before I even buried him I had to be back at work because I still got bills to pay, my family still had to eat,” he said.

ABC News' Alex Perez and Whitney Lloyd contributed reporting.

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