Corporations would no longer be able to cut off health insurance for striking workers under a new bill introduced by Rep. Cindy Axne of Iowa.
The Striking Workers Healthcare Protection Act would make it illegal for companies to take away or alter workers’ health benefits in order to pressure them to end their strikes. Employers who violate the proposed policy could face civil financial penalties of up to $50,000 per violation.
“Exercising your right to fight for a better contract shouldn’t mean risking your ability to get essential health coverage for yourself or your family,” Axne said. “This is a basic measure, one born of the unfortunate reality that employers use termination of health coverage to break strikes and force employees to accept a subpar contract.”
In October, thousands of Iowa-based employees of John Deere went on strike, demanding the agricultural and construction giant improve their pay and benefits. Within days, the multi-billion dollar global corporation threatened to cut off their health insurance if they continued to strike.
While John Deere ultimately declined to follow through on that threat, other companies have taken that step. In 2019, General Motors dropped tens of thousands of striking employees from their health coverage for one week, before reversing course.
Axne’s bill has already won endorsements from a constellation of labor unions, including the United Auto Workers, Service Employees International Union, the United Steel Workers, and the International Association of Iron Workers.
Under Axne’s bill, the National Labor Relations Board could also double the civil penalty up to $100,000 in cases where the employer has committed the same violations in the past five years and where it involves the discharge of an employee.
“If a corporation claims to care about their workers, they should already be renouncing this cruel tactic—but we should update our laws to ensure we’re not just relying on companies to do the right thing,” Axne said.
by Keya Vakil