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Blue Cross Michigan Workers reach a tentative contract agreement following 11 weeks of strike

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan workers strike outside Lansing headquarters in October.
UAW Region 1
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan workers strike outside Lansing headquarters in October.

Striking workers at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan have reached a tentative agreement for a new contract.

Hundreds of Blue Cross Blue Shield employees walked off their jobs September 13 after union officials failed to reach an agreement with the health insurance company.

United Auto Workers reports the union has now reached a verbal agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“Our members have proven that when workers stick together, they can achieve historical gains at the bargaining table.” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock, who also serves as the Director of the union’s Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) Department.

“There were difficult times during this strike, especially with the cold weather, but our members never gave up hope and they continued to stand with one another for as long as it took to enable our bargaining team to win an equitable contract that our members deserve.”

Bargaining on behalf of workers in Lansing, Amy Castanon says the deal includes raises, bonuses, and a decrease in the time it takes workers to reach the top of the wage scale.

“The three big issues that we were walking the line for were retiree health care for people hired after January of 2009, our wage progression was another issue and job security was the third,” Castanon said.

Currently workers at Blue Cross Blue Shield must wait 22 years to reach the top of the wage scale.

“We went down to a five-year progression in the new contract,” she said.

A customer service representative making $19 dollars per hour will automatically receive an increase of more than three dollars an hour upon contract ratification.

“They are going to get taken to $22.50 because that’s the new minimum wage for that classification,” Castanon said.

The contract also includes a $6,500 ratification bonus for Blue Cross Blue Shield workers, a $5,000 ratification bonus for Blue Care Network workers and inflation protection bonuses of $1,000 each year of the contract.

“So literally throughout the life of the agreement, the average wage increases is 25%,” she said.

The contract covers 1300 employees at Blue Cross Blue Shield and Blue Care Network. While the contract at Blue Care Network doesn’t expire for two more weeks, union officials agreed on a contract that would cover workers at both companies.

Castanon said she’s very optimistic employees will overwhelmingly approve the contract. Workers are expected to vote on the contract on Tuesday.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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