(CHARLESTON, W.Va.) – Cummins (NYSE:CMI) workers from West Virginia, North Carolina and New York participated in a joint day of action Wednesday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., recognize the 50th anniversary of his assassination and continue his fight for economic justice and affordable health care.
Cummins workers in North Carolina, and their union, CAAMWU-UE Local 150, organized the 50th Anniversary Remembrance Ceremony at the Bloomer Hill Community Center in Whitakers, with the theme, “Health care as a human right.”
Cummins workers in West Virginia and New York wore “Cummins High Deductibles Make Us Sick” stickers at their work sites. In North Carolina, stickers said, “Cummins High Deductibles Keep Us Sick – All Cummins Workers Want $1,000 More in Their HSA.”
Health care is a human right, yet Cummins has moved almost all of its employees into unaffordable, high-deductible health insurance plans. Cummins workers want affordable health care restored, and are exposing persistent health care discrimination at the company.
Cummins is one of the largest diesel engine manufacturers in the world. In 2017, Cummins had revenues of $20.4 billion and net income of $1 billion. Shareholders received $700 million in dividend payments in 2017.
Since introducing high-deductible health plans at Cummins, the top five managers made more than $150 million in total compensation, and shareholders received more than $3 billion in dividend payouts, though the company itself has not achieved lasting medical cost savings.
Cummins workers in Fairmont and Charleston, West Va., who are members of Teamsters Local 175, are fighting to preserve their affordable union health care. They have been working with members of CAAMWU-UE Local 150 who are already enrolled in the company’s high-deductible health insurance at Cummins’ Rocky Mount Engine Plant in North Carolina.
“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, Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant employee and representative of CAAMWU-UE Local 150. “This is not the Cummins of Irwin Miller anymore.”
Cummins’ former CEO, J. Irwin Miller, forged a powerful relationship with King during the civil rights movement, helping organize the original March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. As CEO of Cummins, Miller understood the importance of providing employees with affordable health care. He once said, “You can’t have a healthy company without a healthy community.” Dr. King felt the same way. King said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
Online and in surveys, workers across America are denouncing Cummins’ high-deductible insurance plans as unaffordable and dangerous to their health—the high out-of-pocket costs lead people to skip medications and delay doctor visits. Many have racked up large medical debts because of the high costs. Retirees complain of seeing their retirement checks eaten up by the cost of the company’s insurance.
Cummins is also discriminating among its employees. While forcing workers into an expensive, high-deductible plan, Cummins built a primary care health and wellness center at its headquarters in Columbus, Indiana. Headquarters staff and nearby employees now have access to free-and lower-cost care at the LiveWell Center that includes doctors’ visits, lab work, X-rays, personal health and wellness coaching, massage therapy and more. Meanwhile, Cummins workers in other parts of America have no such access to free services.
In fact, in West Virginia Cummins intends to force its mechanics to lose access to their free union health clinic.
“The best way to honor Dr.King’s sacrifice is to recommit to the values of solidarity and justice that inspired him, and to stand up together. We call on Cummins to stop its attack on affordable family health care,” said Luke Farley, business agent with Teamsters Local 175. “Cummins can’t bankrupt families and endanger their health on one hand, while calling itself socially responsible on the other.”