The United Steelworkers (USW) filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana to protest Alcoa USA Corporation's terminating life insurance benefits for approximately 8,900 union-represented retirees.
Alcoa informed the retirees by letter on Dec. 4 that it would eliminate life insurance coverage effective Dec. 31, 2019. The company included with the letter a check equal to a fraction of the face value of their life insurance coverage and a federal 1099 tax form, since the payment would be taxable.
"We negotiated these retiree life insurance benefits with the company, and they are a critical part of our collective bargaining agreements with Alcoa," said USW International President Tom Conway. "The company agreed to provide these benefits. Abruptly cutting off this coverage is not only immoral, it's unlawful."
"Families rely on the contractual death benefit to assist with funeral and other expenses," said Mike Millsap, Director of USW District 7 and chair of the USW's Alcoa bargaining committee. "It is deeply disturbing that Alcoa would show so little respect for its retirees, many of whom devoted decades of work helping the company grow and thrive."
The lawsuit was filed as a class action, and three Alcoa retirees have joined the complaint as proposed class representatives. The Wenatchee Aluminum Trades Council, a coalition of unions representing workers at an Alcoa facility in Washington state, is also a plaintiff.
The union is also studying other announcements that the company made regarding the health care benefits for certain retirees effective in 2021.
The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.