IAM Joins Lawsuit to Protect GE Retirees

The IAM this week joined with a coalition of labor unions and more than 20 individual retirees to file a federal class action lawsuit against General Electric Corporation in the Northern District of Ohio.

The union coalition contends that GE violated federal labor law and the Employer Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by unilaterally depriving its post-65 retirees of important retiree medical coverage that was negotiated in their union contracts.

“GE made a solemn oath that it would provide certain long-term health care benefits for its workers after they retired,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “Walking away from that promise brings shame on GE, and sets a new low standard for corporate greed and deceit.”

GE triggered the lawsuit when it announced it would unilaterally terminate its post-65 retiree medical plans on January 1, 2016 and replace them with an opportunity for retirees to purchase post-65 health insurance coverage from a private broker healthcare exchange selected by the company.  

GE is offering, for now, a $1,000 yearly credit for its retirees to offset some of the cost of replacing this medical coverage that was being provided by the company. Thousands of GE retirees, particularly those on life saving drugs, are facing much higher drug costs as a result of this change, and GE is refusing to commit to supplying the yearly credit throughout the lives of the retirees.  

In a statement, coalition chairman IUE-CWA President James Clark said, “We are outraged that a very profitable General Electric Corporation would choose to break promises to its retirees during the most vulnerable time of their lives, after they gave decades of service to this company. I am glad these retirees have unions that are willing to step up and fight for justice.”

In addition to the IAM, the union coalition includes the members of the GE Coordinated Bargaining Committee: the United Electrical Workers, United Auto Workers, Steelworkers, Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Teamsters and the Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.