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Western New Yorkers claim victory for retiree health benefits

Workers protest a proposal to force City of Jamestown retirees onto Medicare in violation of the city’s collective bargaining agreements. (Photo credit: Ove Overmyer, CSEA/AFSCME Local 1000)
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City leaders in Jamestown, New York, passed a budget last week removing any language suggesting a change to retiree health care agreements – and that was a victory for AFSCME members in Western New York.

In an effort to cut costs and cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the city’s original, mid-November proposal had threatened to force retired members of AFSCME Local 418 (Council 66) and CSEA City of Jamestown Unit retirees who belonged to Chautauqua County Local 807 and were at least 65 years of age onto Medicare instead of the city-funded health plan.

However, when the budget was first discussed publicly by city leadership, members of AFSCME Local 418 and CSEA Local 807 joined forces in a rally against the proposal. More than 200 members protested in a responsible and socially distanced manner.

The unions also threatened legal action against the unilaterally proposed measures if necessary.

“The rally in Jamestown showed that when AFSCME members band together to fight for a common cause, we win,” said Dan DiClemente, Council 66 president.

Bonnie Peters, CSEA Local 807 president, expressed satisfaction with the way the council handled the budget proposal, saying, “We hope this sends a strong message to other municipalities that you can expect a labor fight if you try to circumvent the language in our collective bargaining agreements.”

Christopher G. Larson, AFSCME Local 418 president, added, “With the help of all four City of Jamestown Unions, we have achieved our goal. The planned action ahead of this vote brought our issue to the forefront. Our retirees worked their entire lives to obtain health care that was negotiated by the union, and we will continue to fight to preserve their benefits.”

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