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Western New York workers rally to save retiree health care benefits

Workers protest a proposal to force City of Jamestown retirees onto Medicare in violation of the city’s collective bargaining agreements. (Photo credit: CSEA/AFSCME Local 1000)
Western New York workers rally to save retiree health care benefits
The mayor’s proposal seeks to renege on hard-earned benefits for which City of Jamestown retirees worked their entire lives.

As the COVID-19 pandemic surges, state and local governments have experienced budget shortfalls as Congress continues to drag its feet on delivering much-needed aid.

Some cities, like Jamestown, New York, have tried to cut corners.

Mayor Sundquist of Jamestown suggested in his fiscal year 2021 budget proposal that forcing retirees 65 and over onto Medicare instead of the city-funded insurance plan would be one such way to cut the city’s costs. This proposal violates city collective bargaining agreements and seeks to renege on hard-earned benefits for which the city’s retirees worked their entire lives.

Last week, members of AFSCME Local 418 (Council 66) and CSEA Chautauqua County Local 807 joined forces in a rally against the proposal, showing up with over 200 members to protest in a responsible and socially-distanced manner.

“The local unions representing City of Jamestown employees have come together to protect the legally bargained rights of their members,” said Ryan Card of AFSCME Local 418.

CSEA Western Region President Steve Healy said, “We are demanding our city’s elected officials make no changes to retiree health care provisions spelled out in our contracts. We are demanding our retiree members be held harmless throughout the 2021 Executive Budget process.” 

Healy went on to say that, “If the mayor and our Jamestown elected officials ignore our demands, all six unions will collectively pursue legal remedies to keep our retired working families whole.”

The city’s leadership declined to vote on the budget as planned and currently are in talks with union leadership on a solution that honors their agreements between workers and the city.

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