The District Council of Carpenters terminated health coverage for 120 secretaries, draftsmen and other nonunion workers Monday — the day it declared a strike against the woodworking companies that employ them. That’s left 12 companies that comprise the Manufacturing Woodworkers Association scrambling to find private coverage.
BY GINGER ADAMS OTIS / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The NYC District Council of Carpenters’ strike against woodworking companies has turned into a real pounding for nonunion staff members who’ve lost their health insurance.
The New York union terminated health coverage for about 120 secretaries, draftsmen, administrative assistants and other nonunion workers on Monday — the day it declared a strike against the woodworking companies that employ them.
That’s left the 12 cabinet- and furniture-making companies that comprise the Manufacturing Woodworkers Association scrambling to find private coverage.
“For almost 10 years the union has enabled us buy health care coverage for our private employees that is similar to what the carpenters get,” said Anthony Rizzo, co-owner of the family-run Rimmi Woodcraft Corporation and president of MWA.
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“They surprised us with a letter two days before the strike. I’ve had to rush to find a way to cover my workers. It costs more, but I can’t leave them without.”
Rizzo is challenging the union’s action in court — including its position that none of the 120 workers are eligible for COBRA benefits under the union’s terminated deal. COBRA is a federal program that extends health insurance for temporarily jobless workers.
“We feel it’s illegal for the union to deny COBRA. We will challenge it but it takes time. I have an employee in the hospital who was denied coverage and that can’t happen,” Rizzo said.
They’re also challenging the legality of the union’s strike, he said, and will be in federal court Monday looking for an injunction.
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District Council of Carpenters represents the 350 woodworkers and wood installers in Local 2790 who walked off the job Monday in protest over stalled contract negotiations.
The MWA wants to cap benefit contributions at 40 hours a week so it would no longer have to make pension, vacation and health care contributions on overtime pay.
It’s a deal that Stephen McInnis, president of the District Council of Carpenters, says he “has to refuse.”
But Rizzo, who said there used to be about 70 woodmaking companies in the region — now down to about 12 — said the union’s demands were driving employers into bankruptcy.
“We’re not asking for lower wages, just to lower some of the benefits. It’s not even a major concession,” Rizzo said.