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USW

National Grid Cuts Off Health Insurance for Little Boy with Cancer

The company locked out 1,250 employees and took away his father's healthcare coverage

Brian Young's picture
Jul 18, 2018

1,250 United Steelworkers (USW) members have spent the last month walking the picket line in Massachusetts after their employer National Grid decided to lock them out last month. The lockout came after the company refused to continue contract negotiations.

The company decided to lockout the workers after the company decided that negotiations on a new contract had stalled. According to USW Locals 12003 and Local 12012 the company wants to eliminate pensions for new hires, current workers health plans, and contract out more work. While they had not reached an agreement, this wouldn’t be the first time that Locals 12003 and 12012 went without a contract. When the last one expired in February of 2016, both sides stayed at the bargaining table and got a new contract by July of 2016, without the company locking the members out.

In a completely despicable move, National Grid also took punitive action against the locked-out employees by canceling their health insurance on July 1st. For 29-year National Gird veteran Paul Baszkiewicz, this meant that the $8,500 a month miracle drug that is keeping his cancer-stricken wife alive is no longer covered. This forced the family to scramble to come up with an alternative to pay for her life-saving medication. For member Brian Harvey, his insurance was terminated just a week after he found out that his son has stage three cancer. You can watch his story below:

The employees are not the only ones blindsided by the lockout. Towns like Somerville, Lowell, Braintree, Medford, Malden, and Haverhill have decided to halt all non-emergency gas work within their borders until the lockout is finished. They cited safety issues that may result from the use of scabs who are unfamiliar with the standard operating procedure of the equipment. Many of these towns also issued declarations of support for the locked out workers.

“Our members have observed and reported serious safety violations that threaten contractors and residents, so it makes sense that elected officials want to take steps to minimize the risks to their communities,” said John Buonopane, President of USW Local 12012. “These safety violations committed by replacement contractors are very real and communities are rightly concerned, especially since the lockout is completely preventable. It’s deeply concerning that National Grid is willing to jeopardize public safety so needlessly and recklessly.”

The scabs have already been caught driving unlicensed and unregistered backhoes on public roads, digging near high-pressure pits without supervisors there to let them know when they get too close to the pipes, and covering up emergency valves which must be kept clear so that they can be accessed in an emergency.

The locked-out workers are holding a rally tonight in Boston to pressure the company to come to a settlement quickly. At the rally, they will be joined by the Greater Boston Labor Council and New Kids on the Block singer Joey McIntyre as they march from City Hall to the State House.

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