On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., UE Local 150 members who work at the Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant in Rocky Mount, NC held a service to commemorate Dr. King and renew their commitment to fight for economic justice for all people at Cummins.
The service was part of a Cummins Inc Workers Joint Day of Action for Affordable Health Care and End to Medical Discrimination, and the workers wore stickers pointing out that the high deductibles for Cummins’ healthcare plan remain so large “they make us sick.”
“We have coworkers who are facing $6,000 or more each year out-of-pocket to get health care for their families, so this is a huge financial cost for us to bear,” said Jim Wrenn, president of the Cummins workers’ chapter of UE Local 150/Carolina Auto, Aerospace and Machine Workers Union. “We are still fighting, trying to make [Dr. King’s] dream become a reality,” added Cummins worker and UE Local 150 member Rev. Robert Farmer. Dr. King famously declared that “of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”
Cummins workers who are members of Teamsters Local 175 in Charleston and Fairmont, West Virginia, also joined the action, and UE General President Peter Knowlton and Field Organizer Gary DeLuke braved a blizzard to leaflet the Cummins plant in Jamestown, NY.
In television coverage of the service, Cummins defended itself by listing changes the company was forced to concede by the unions’ campaign. Union members at Cummins have pushed the company to raise the wage floor to $15/hour minimum, reduce the out-of-pocket maximum for those paid less than $60,000, and bump up the Health Savings Accounts contribution for those making under $40,000.
While union members are proud of having won these concession from the company for direct employees, there are many workers that have Cummins as ultimate employer, but are hired through temp agencies and contractors. UE and other Cummins unions are continuing to push for fairness for those workers as well, as Cummins has real economic responsibility over their inadequate wages and benefits. "We can’t stop fighting, we've got to continue to press forward" said Jimmie Throne, who works in for the contractor C&W.
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UE General President Peter Knowlton speaks with a Cummins worker in Jamestown, NY