Union workers across the country this year are learning: This is not your father's benefits package. Contract negotiations in some of the biggest industries have ended with workers accepting that they have to bear more of the cost of health care.Verizon and its two unions — the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — settled in early September, with workers agreeing to higher copayments for doctor visits and prescriptions. That, Verizon officials say, is worth $500 million over the life of the five-year contract.
Union officials count as a victory the fact that Verizon will continue to pay the full health insurance premium for workers.
That's a line that the United Steelworkers of America could not hold against Goodyear. Under that three-year pact, 19,000 employees will have to pay health insurance premiums for the first time. In addition, copayments for prescription drugs are expected to jump from $4 to as high as $80. Goodyear workers agreed to the health care cost increases in exchange for more job security.
Meanwhile, the United Auto Workers tentatively agreed to four-year contracts with Ford and Chrysler that include increases in the copayments that union members must pay for prescription drugs and physician visits.