UAW Gears Up for Contract Talks on Health Care

Current system must change as retirees outnumber active workers
By Heather McPherson,  Newser User
Posted Jul 19, 2007 9:11 PM CDT
United Auto Workers union President Ron Gettelfinger addresses the media at the UAW Solidarity House in Detroit, in this May 14, 2007 file photo. Gettelfinger said Monday, June 18, 2007 that the union...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – The United Automobile Workers Union starts high-stakes contract talks with Detroit automakers tomorrow, at a time when the union counts more retirees than active workers in its ranks—meaning higher health-care costs—and the American automotive industry is in dire financial straits. The talks are being called "the most important in a generation," the Times reports.

Retirees fear an erosion of benefits, while carmakers say they need concessions to compete with foreign companies. Health care and pension benefits cost $1,000 for each car they sell, Detroit claims, vs. a few hundred dollars for Japanese carmakers. One possible solution, with potential appeal to both sides, is the creation of a health care trust. The current contract expires in September.