- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Jan. 14 (UPI) — A woman picketing outside the gate at a General Electric appliance plant died Tuesday after she was struck by a police car.

About 14,000 members of the International Union of Electronic Workers-Communications Workers of America walked out just after midnight Monday in a 2-day strike to protest rising health insurance co-payments — the first national strike against GE Corp. since 1969.

About 3,500 members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of American also are participating in the 48-hour walkout at 48 company facilities in 23 states. GE's last strike in 1969 dragged on for more than 100 days during bitter contract negotiations.

Picketers set up two tents at gates outside General Electric's Appliance Park facility emblazoned with orange and black signs reading: "On strike because GE doesn't care."

The striking employee was hit by a patrol car from a suburban police department about 5 a.m. as she walked with a picket sign in the dim pre-dawn light. She was pronounced dead at the scene but her identity was not immediately released.

The union called the strike after GE raised health insurance co-pays by an average $200 a year for its Health Care Preferred plan. The increase was effective Jan. 1 and the union claims it will be significantly more than $200 for each worker.

"IUE-CWA is taking on the flight for affordable health care for all GE workers, including underrepresented workers," said IUE-CWA President Edward Fire. "GE has provoked a strike through its greed. A company that sets record profits each year — $14.1 billion in 2001 — can afford to maintain health benefits without forcing workers and retirees to pay more."

Union officials said GM has raised co-premium costs for workers 16 percent since 2000, and that the latest co-pay increases amount to a minimum 62 percent increase in out-of-pocket costs.

GE said the health insurance changes would remain in effect.

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