Friday, November 12, 2004
Employers saddled with the skyrocketing medical costs of union retirees are getting aggressive about trying to cut those benefits. Instead of unilaterally slashing benefits and waiting to be sued, companies like railroad car manufacturer American Car Foundry (see product shot at left) are reportedly taking the offensive, suing workers themselves to get declarations that they can change benefits. This allows the companies to control the choice of forum—an important consideration in an unsettled area.
One of the more—well, creative arguments by employers relates to the "lifetime" benefits promised to retirees. Some employers are said to be claiming that "lifetime" does not refer to the life of the worker, but rather to the life of the labor contract. Since the old contracts have expired, these employers argue that the benefit protections expired with them.