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  • authored by Members for Democracy

UA Local 787

For Whose Benefit?

In 1972, the members of UA Local 787 Refrigeration Workers of Ontario were presented with the idea of a Health and Welfare Benefit Plan. The members decided that they didn't want to participate in the plan because it appeared that they would have absolutely no control over the type of benefits or what would happen to any excesses in the benefit plan fund.

In 1978, the union again decided to sell a benefit plan to its' members, however, because of the prior experience, they gave the men a "Proposed Plan" of benefits to vote on. The proposed plan contained specific benefits and the cost per hour to the members. This was an individual plan not a pooled one. The members had their own accounts and the employer had no involvement other than sending the premium to the local. The cost of this plan was about $42.00 per month and an extra $2.50 was taken for the members to be included in any improvements to the plan in the future.

As the first of several members went on disability, they were horrified to find that the plan they had voted on to accept had not been implemented. The trustees had sent specifications to bidding insurance companies that were different from those contained in the "Proposed Plan". The plan eventually accepted by the trustees through Maritime Life cost about $28.00 and was filled with restrictions and exclusions. As a result, the disabled found that the meager benefit they received, initially $500.00 per month, was cut in half by offsets. As the years rolled by, the benefits were increased but those members already on disability were specifically excluded even though they had paid the $2.50 to be included in the improvements.

To this day, there are members who receive about $290.00 per month when the present level of disability benefit is $1800.00 per month. To compound this atrocity, the disabled had their prescription drug and dental coverage cut off after 6 months. The proposed plan that they had voted on gave them the choice of whether to continue paying the premium directly to the union or let their coverage lapse. To a member with a family and no other coverage this was a huge deal. Several of the affected members became very depressed by the treatment they received from the union. Two marriages broke up and as a consequence one had to move in with his mother for care. Just six months before he died another was threatening suicide and one member who sits in diapers and wheel chair, had his affairs turned over to the Public Trustee.

There are 5 Local 787 trustees. Usually, 3 of those trustees are the union's fulltime paid officials. The Business Manager is a trustee by virtue of his esteemed office. The paid officials of Local 787 have been using the huge excesses in the Health and Welfare Trust to subsidize the operating costs of the local, more especially since the Business Manager decided in the late 80's that he wanted to purchase land and build an office and training center. The members of Local 787 had turned down the idea of a new building in a vote at a local union membership meeting but, no problem, the paid union officials erased the record of the vote from the meeting minutes and went ahead and indebted the membership about 2 million for the edifice.

The Business Manager badly needed funds from the Health and Welfare Plan to help pay for his endeavor especially when he found out that he couldn't free himself of the lease on the old premises for 11 years. Needless to say, any attempt made by the disabled to get access to the funds they were entitled to were viciously defended by the Business Manager and his cohorts. He told members that the disabled were a burden on the rest of the membership and that one in particular, which had decided to seek the aid of the courts, was just greedy. And "out to ruin the union." The local threw this member out of the local for his efforts, having changed the minutes of a prior membership meeting in which the membership turned down the union officials attempt to charge him with going to court without exhausting remedies in the UA Constitution.

In 1996, a letter was sent to the trustees further stating the disabled' right to the improved benefits. A majority of the trustees decided it was time to get the matter settled. They told their consultant to see just how many of the disabled were involved. A few months passed. When there was no response from the consultant, one of the trustees asked the Business Manager the reason for the delay. The Business Manager said that the consultant told him that the search was going to cost $5000.00, so HE decided to tell them to forget it.

The Business Manager has spent hundreds and thousands of dollars in legal fees to stop the disabled from claiming the money owed to them. What was $5000.00 to settle the problem permanently? The trustees spend thousands each year to attend Benefit Plan conferences and come back no wiser to their responsibilities to the beneficiaries of the Benefits plans than before they left. How can they blindly take off for Hawaii when there are members who don't have the word 'vacation' in their vocabulary anymore?

The union officials say that the disabled are disgruntled members and that everybody in the union is tied with the same constraints in the Health and Welfare Plan. Not so. In the early 90's, one of the paid union officials was seriously injured in an accident in the US. The other officials had him flown home by air ambulance and then had the Insurance Policy changed so that, retroactively, they could top up the $1800.00 per month he received from the Local 787 Disability Benefit to cover his ENTIRE SALARY.

And they told the membership that the disabled were a burden?

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