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Bowling Green Workers Relieved As GM Reverses Course And Pays For Health Insurance

Lisa Autry

  General Motors is restoring health care to hourly workers in Bowling Green, and across the nation, who are on strike for a second week. 

The reinstatement of medical benefits could signal that GM and the United Auto Workers union are closer to reaching a new contract that would end the work stoppage.

The nation’s number one automaker announced it would end company-paid health insurance the day after the strike began on September 16. 

Health care costs were shifted to the United Auto Workers Union, whose strike fund provided hourly workers more expensive COBRA coverage, but excluded dental, vision, and other benefits.  GM said in an email to the union that it will keep benefits in place due to significant confusion among members. 

"Throughout this negotiation, GM has said that our number one focus was on the well-being of our employees," said Dan Flores, Manager of GM Corporate News Relations. "That remains the case today."

Among the 900 hourly workers in Bowling Green hailing the company’s reversal is Steven Greene.  Speaking while on the picket line outside the Corvette Assembly Plant, Greene, 58, said good medical benefits trump a paycheck.

“It really means more to me," Greene told WKU Public Radio. "You can make money, but health care is a whole new ball game.”

It’s unclear how much the reinstatement of health-care benefits will impact contract talks that center around wages, profit-sharing, and the use of temporary employees.  The work stoppage is starting to have a trickle-down effect, with some auto suppliers in Bowling Green and across the nation furloughing workers until the strike ends.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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