Portland Chapter Leader, Dan Bryant, shared his thoughts with the readers of the Portland Press Herald about health insurance issues facing Hannafords and its workers.
Employment-based health insurance, now covering 56 percent of the nonelderly population, was introduced during World War II to help employers avoid wage controls. The issue of health care coverage in the recent contract negotiations between United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445 and the company that operates the South Portland Hannaford distribution center provides an opportunity to examine that persisting model. When we do, several problems leap out.
Employers are saddled with the unpredictable cost and hassle of insuring workers, while remaining vulnerable, as in the Hannaford case, to the threat of strikes. (A 2003 strike over health care benefits in Southern California cost three grocery chains over $2 billion.)
“In most labor negotiations during the past 30 years, more time and effort has probably been spent on the health care plans provided by labor agreements than on any other contract provisions, including pensions,” attorney Arthur Smith Jr. wrote in HR Magazine in 2013.