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Unions, GE retirees lose appeal on health care benefits

Unions, GE retirees lose appeal on health care benefits

More than 100,000 union retirees were affected; salaried retirees handed similar loss in 2017
Unions, GE retirees lose appeal on health care benefits
GE retirees were among those in attendance during a rally at the main gate last year
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

CINCINNATI — A federal court last week dealt another setback to GE retirees fighting their former employer for restoration of health care benefits.

Multiple unions and dozens of their former members started the court action after General Electric replaced the retirees’ health plans with access to a private health exchange, effective Jan. 1, 2015. 

The retirees called it a damaging cutback. GE called it a change that offered new choices and options for savings, while noting that other large corporations were making similar changes.

A similar fight was mounted October 2014 in federal court in Wisconsin by two retirees who sought class-action status for 65,000 other former salaried GE employees who were not represented by unions. That case was thrown out in June of 2017.

The union case, filed in November 2015 in federal court in Cleveland, sought to:

  • Declare unlawful GE’s decision to cancel its post-65 Medicare benefit plans for more than 120,000 of its union-represented retirees, effective Jan. 1, 2016;
  • Recover damages for those retirees who suffered losses because of that cancellation;
  • Restore the benefit plans.

One of the plaintiffs was the IUE GE Conference Board, which is based in Ballston Spa and conducts collective bargaining with GE on behalf of the IUE-CWA.

The other plaintiffs were the IUE-CWA itself, seven other labor organizations and 26 individuals who are retired members of those labor organizations.

Several of the individuals are Capital Region residents, all of them affiliated with the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers: William Cervera, of Ballston Spa; David Esperti, of Gloversville; Jeffrey Marshall, of Schenectady; Floyd Miklic, of Albany; Raymond J. Reksc, of Amsterdam; Donald Rosbozom, of Glenville; and Lloyd Terrell, of Delanson.

General Electric moved to dismiss the complaint, saying the plaintiffs did not make their case. U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson agreed, and on July 28, 2017, granted GE’s motion to dismiss.

The plaintiffs appealed, but on Aug. 16, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District in Cincinnati rejected the appeal. 

In their decision, the judges said controlling case law “compels the conclusion that the collective bargaining agreement does not vest healthcare benefits for life.”

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