Brown, Casey Lead Colleagues In Introducing Legislation To Protect Locked Out Workers’ Health Insurance

Brown Recently Introduced Legislation that Would Protect the Health Insurance of Striking Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 24, 2022 – Today, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Locked Out Workers’ Healthcare Protection Act that would protect the health insurance workers earned and negotiated in their contracts, by penalizing an employer for terminating the coverage of an employee’s health insurance during a lock-out. The bill would create a separate unfair labor practice category, punishable by fines, for when employers cut off or alter workers’ health insurance while workers are locked out.

“Too many times in Ohio and around the country, we’ve seen corporations lock workers out of their contracts and kick them off the health coverage they earned and negotiated at the bargaining table. Employers shouldn’t be able to threaten the health of workers families’ as a coercive tactic to silence their employees,” said Brown. “This would protect workers’ rights, and protect working families from having to pay expensive out-of-pocket costs for health care.”

“When workers strike, they do so because they’re fighting for fairer wages, better benefits and safer working conditions,” said Casey. “Employers should be coming to the table and negotiating with workers, not forcing them to choose between health care and their voice in the workplace. Senator Brown and I are going to keep fighting to ensure employers can’t kick workers off their health care while they’re exercising their fundamental right to organize.”

“Standing up for your workplace rights should not come at the expense of health care coverage for you and your family. By holding accountable employers who threaten to strip health benefits from employees during a lockout, this measure will support the right of workers to organize and speak up,” said Blumenthal. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in this effort to protect American workers and their access to essential, quality health care.” 

“American workers shouldn’t have to choose between the health coverage they’ve earned and their right to strike for better pay and working conditions. Employers forcing that choice simply isn’t fair,” said Whitehouse.  “I’m pleased to join Senators Brown and Casey on this bill to protect Americans’ health coverage and basic rights as workers.”

“In this historic time when more workers are using their collective power for the benefits they deserve, it’s time to level the negotiating playing field. That means the country’s wealthiest corporations shouldn’t be allowed to misuse continued health coverage via lockouts as unjust leverage to hold workers hostage,” said Wyden. “This legislation would ensure workers aren’t forced to sign unacceptable contracts in order to avoid losing health coverage for their families. Health coverage should be a given while they are fighting to secure better pay, better hours, and better working conditions.”

“Building upon previous efforts, this legislation will guarantee that workers who are locked-out still have access to quality, affordable health care for themselves and their loved ones,” said Booker. “As workers across the country demand better wages and working conditions, Congress must protect them from retaliatory and punitive measures taken by employers in an effort to undermine employees’ right to organize and bargain.”

In February, Raytheon Technologies, owner of Collins Aerospace’s Plant in Troy, Ohio, used this tactic to try to force nearly 300 employees, members of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 128, into an unfair contract by locking them out and withholding their paychecks and access to health insurance after management and the local union did not reach an agreement. Brown led the call for Raytheon to honor the Dignity of Work and negotiate a fair contract.

In March, Brown introduced the Striking Workers Healthcare Protection Act which would require employers to continue providing health insurance to workers exercising their right to strike, so working families aren’t forced off the health coverage they’ve earned and negotiated, and aren’t forced to pay out-of-pocket for potentially lifesaving health care.

“Senator Brown’s bill protects working families from corporations that lock out workers’ and seek to use their health care as a pressure point against workers who are advocating for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. No working family should be forced to choose between the right to advocate for better pay and benefits and the need for medical care,” said UAW President Ray Curry.  “Senator Brown’s legislation protects the dignity of all working families, and we encourage Congress to pass this common-sense bill. UAW commends Senator Brown’s unwavering commitment to working people.”

The Locked Out Workers Healthcare Protection Act has the support of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers (BCTGM), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Communications Workers of America (CWA), United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), and International Association of Iron Workers (IW).