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Working America has Health Care Options for Those Who Still Need Coverage

WAWorking America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, has a Health Care program available to UFCW members who don’t have collectively bargained health insurance. The program provides a simple way for members to learn about health care options, the costs, and how to sign up for insurance. With the health care open enrollment ending date two weeks away, it is important for members to check out the Working America Health Care program and get themselves and their families covered before February 15. If members don’t have health coverage during 2015, they may have to pay a penalty.

The Working America Health Care program offers members an easy way to help them find the best plan that fits their needs. With the program members can:

-Have someone help walk them through tax credits and subsidies to pay for health insurance; and

-Talk to licensed health care professionals who can help them pick the most affordable insurance option.

If members sign up for an insurance plan that is supported by the Working America Health Care program, members will also receive access to a personalized Health Advocate service. The Health Advocate service can help coordinate care and answer any coverage claims or clinical questions.

Visit the Working America Health Care program website to enroll in health insurance and then access a Health Advocate.

Below please also find an informational flyer in English and Spanish.

Member Spotlight: Towanda Carter

towandaTowanda Carter was recently recognized by UFCW Region 1 for her outstanding service as a union member and for helping her fellow workers, both at her own workplace and elsewhere.

After noticing unfair treatment of workers at her job working at Catholic Charities Brooklyn & Queens Inc. in 2005, Towanda and her coworkers filed to unionize with the UFCW Local 888. Her strong morale and sense of member engagement among her colleagues helped them win their first union contract in 2006.

Towanda says that working in a metroarea at a non-profit revealed to her how people are often mistreated at work, especially when they are vulnerable. Although she works for a charitable faith-based organization, management had a very anti-union stance.  The Workers were under-paid, demoralized and lacking adequate company health care–leaving many to seek charity care. Many could not provide for their families without assistance from social welfare programs. That’s why Towanda was so adamant about spreading the word about the benefits of being a union member.

Years later, Towanda is a Chief Shop Steward, representing her fellow union members on both the Bargaining and Labor Management Committees. She has also expanded her efforts to help working people throughout her community, not just her own workplace.

As a Medical Coordinator serving the less fortunate for twenty years, Towanda has been a voice of justice for her fellow union members since the beginning. She has seen her coworkers through countless grievances and group grievances, and mediations and arbitrations–all as part of their ongoing struggle to keep their employer accountable to the collective bargaining agreement they all worked so hard for.

Towanda says she was surprised to learn she had been picked to be recognized for a member award, but honored as well. Her advice for other members trying to ensure that workers have respect on the job and at the bargaining table? “Be proactive. Be active!”

Union members and activists like Towanda make our union strong. Standing together, we can all make a difference.

Member Profile: Mike Davis

mike davisFor 38 years, retired UFCW member Mike Davis worked at Kroger as a member of Local 550 and later Local 700. We chatted with him this week about his experience as a union member:

Beginning work at Kroger at age 17 in 1969 in Indiana, Mike says he decided to work there because it was “a good outfit” which paid a good wage and provided benefits. Back then, he says, everyone got raises once a year, and from 1968 to 2003, “I never paid a dime for medical” or healthcare.

In 1970, Mike joined the army reserve and was on active duty while still working for Kroger–which he did for over 20 years.

Under his union contract in 1983, Mike reflects that  he and his coworkers were making over $10 an hour, had ten personal days, and some even had six weeks vacation. Then Mike was out on army leave for three years. When he returned, things in the store were not as good as they had been previously, and eventually Indiana became a Right to Work state, making Kroger one of the only union grocery stores in the state. “In Indiana,” he says, “if you’re hurt on the job, your employer will pay your medical bills but once you are able to come back to work they can fire you.”

However, it’s being a union member, Mike says, that ensured his job remained a good one throughout the years, and keeps jobs protected: “The UFCW fighting for us was what got us back.”

When Mike’s former manager gave him a hard time about getting weekends off for when he had army reserve training and drilling, which is a federally protected right, Mike stood up to him, knowing that the union was behind him. Nevertheless, the manager still tried to fire him for not being at the store when he had to fulfill his duty with the reserves. So, Mike filed an official grievance with the union. Mike’s UFCW Local stood with him and helped him ensure that his rights as a union member and army reservist, as well as his job, were protected.

Mike also says that being a union member helped him win justice when he was wrongfully accused of stealing cigarettes from the store by a manager, and was told he was fired. When Mike, the union, and management met to settle the dispute, it turned out that the store had scheduled a week of vacation for Mike’s coworker, who had witnessed him paying for the cigarettes, so that he would not be able to vouch for Mike’s innocence at the meeting. But the union backed Mike up in proving management wrong, and Mike not only was rightfully able to keep his job, but the manager was transferred to another store.

“I’m glad the UFCW had my back for all those years because there were managers who didn’t want to obey labor laws and thought our contracts were a floor mat,” he says, looking back at these experiences. “I was lucky to have good representation and make good friends.”

Now that he’s retired, Mike still follows the union lifestyle by telling all his family and friends to buy union.  He also supports Walmart workers and other workers fighting to make their jobs better. As a vet, Mike finds it upsetting that Walmart has been said to change the job titles of workers who are out on military leave, so that when they return they don’t have to keep them at the same position of level of pay that they were before they left.

Mike also enjoys doing polar plunges with his family and volunteering for the state’s plane pull each year, all in order to raise money for the Special Olympics. He also manages to find time to lobby on Capital Hill with a charity group called American Veterans, which he has helped raise money for now for many years.

“It’s all about trying to pay it forward,” Mike says. That’s why he wants younger new hires at Kroger, or any workplace, to get involved with the union and be proactive. Educating people about what being a union member is can help ensure that they aren’t taken advantage of at work, Mike says.

Like Mike’s story? Share your union story with us by going here.