Wednesday, August 05, 2009

GUEST COLUMN: "Obama Administration Denies Health Care for IUE-CWA Workers" by Rep. Mike Turner

By Rep. Mike Turner

As the Obama Administration continues to push its health care plan, the federal government is already denying promised health care benefits to 50,000 Ohio workers, many of whom live in the Miami Valley. Today, many General Motors employees and their families are wondering what happened to their hard-earned health benefits.

Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a $1 trillion government health care bill even as many in Congress were calling for more time to review the details and to weigh the potential impact. While the government health care bill, also known as the “America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009,” will not come up for a vote in the full House until September, one decision has already been made. Thousands of area auto workers, who were once promised their health care benefits, will get no help.

General Motors, which is now owned by the federal government, has been forced by the Administration to institute cuts to satisfy its plan for the company’s emergence from bankruptcy. Part of that plan is to take away practically all health insurance coverage for almost 50,000 GM retirees and dependents represented by IUE-CWA and other non-UAW union workers.

In June, I signed a letter with other Republican and Democrat members of the Ohio congressional delegation to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asking him to present the same benefits to IUE-CWA workers as other GM workers. In July, my colleagues and I also wrote a letter to President Obama calling on him to provide fair and equitable treatment to these 50,000 Ohio workers. As was noted in our letter to the President, the federal government is the driving force behind the loss of benefits.

I personally spoke with GM president Fritz Henderson by phone on July 23 encouraging him to honor his company’s commitments to IUE-CWA retirees. To date, the Administration has not given Ohio workers any indication of how they plan to protect their much-deserved health care benefits. In fact, GM is reportedly seeking billions more in government funding while IUE-CWA retirees get nothing but silence from the Administration and GM.

Last week, in the midst of the House Floor debate about national health care, I called for equitable treatment of the IUE-CWA workers:
“Mr. Speaker, my father retired from General Motors after over 40 years. When General Motors closed their assembly plant in Moraine, Ohio, thousands of lifelong GM employees lost their jobs. Now, due to the Obama administration's negotiated bankruptcy, the retirees are at risk of losing their health care benefits. Isn't it ironic that as this House tries to rush through a misguided health care bill, the Federal Government has denied IUE-CWA workers in my community their promised health care benefits?”
With the Federal Government now owning over 60 percent of General Motors, it's time to honor the promises that were given to these workers, including my father.

I have joined my Ohio colleagues in asking President Obama to not discriminate between UAW and non-UAW retirees in protecting their health care benefits. I have also talked to the President of GM last week, asking for fair treatment of these employees. Now it's reported that GM will apply for more than $10 billion in additional government funding.

If President Obama is serious about health care, he should start by protecting the GM workers who are losing their benefits in this administration's acquisition of General Motors.”

To view a video of my floor speech on behalf of IUE-CWA retirees, visit my web site at

– United States Representative Michael Turner represents Ohio’s Third Congressional District.