PLYMOUTH, Mass., June 29, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Locked-out Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant workers and their families are bracing for a devastating blow as Entergy Corp. prepares to end their healthcare coverage at midnight on Saturday, June 30.
Less than a day after the U.S Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more than 240 highly skilled workers and their families face the prospect of no healthcare in less than 48 hours – including dozens facing major health issues and in some cases life threatening circumstances. The Louisiana-based Entergy is slashing benefits as part of a hard-line lockout, while inexperienced and lesser trained replacements try to manage the 40-year-old plant's complex operations.
"Our members have literally risked their lives time and again to keep this community safe and to help Entergy make $1 million a day in profits," said UWUA Local 369 President Dan Hurley. "This is a supremely cruel gesture from a company that is tone deaf to mounting safety concerns, unbending on basic contract fairness, and now unconcerned that families who rely on them for vital healthcare will be left with nowhere to turn."
UWUA Local 369 spent nearly two months negotiating with Entergy over key healthcare, safety and staffing issues before they were locked out by the company on June 6. An offer with severe cuts to employee health coverage and other provisions that would hurt worker families was rejected by Local 369 members on June 20.
Local 369 member Ken Johnson has worked at Pilgrim Nuclear for more than 40 years. Earlier this spring his wife, who was battling end-stage liver disease, was the first patient at UMass Memorial Medical Center to receive a live donor transplant. The transplant was a success, and now Johnson's wife requires extensive and costly follow-up treatment, and Johnson wonders how the family will afford it when Entergy cancels worker healthcare at midnight Saturday.
"It's like a nightmare. Having my wife diagnosed with end stage liver disease was an incredible shock. But the one benefit above all that we have always been able to rely on at Pilgrim is our healthcare," said Johnson. "I've dedicated 40 years of my life to this company. First they tell us we can't do our jobs. Now they tell us we can't take care of our health. Who could do such a thing?"
During the lockout, Entergy has employed inexperienced, lesser trained replacement workers to run the 40-year-old plant – raising a variety of alarming concerns about emergency preparedness, fire safety and the competence of Entergy managers to operate the plant without its skilled workforce. Elected officials and community leaders have blasted the company for its disregard of safety in favor of huge profits. State Treasurer Steve Grossman further criticized Entergy for its willingness to rob families of their healthcare.
"Entergy's ill-conceived lockout has impacted the livelihood of 250 workers, but worse still, now that lockout is poised to impact the health of these workers and their families," said Grossman. "The proposed termination of health benefits is simply unacceptable, and it runs counter to the fundamental respect that these workers should be shown. I strongly urge Entergy to reconsider this drastic and irresponsible decision."
Added Hurley: "Massachusetts is a national model for providing health care for all. But our members and their families are literally counting down the hours until a Louisiana company reaches in and basically robs them of their medical coverage."
Entergy operates or manages 11 nuclear power plants around the nation, including those in Michigan, Vermont, Arkansas and Mississippi.
SOURCE Utility Workers Union of America Local 369