BOSTON (CBS) – Gas workers with United Steelworkers’ Locals 12003 and 12012 rallied outside the Department of Public Utilities in Boston Wednesday, to raise awareness of the toll National Grid’s lockout is having on more than 1,200 families across Massachusetts.
“It should never have come to this. It was wrong what they did,” said Bill Doherty.
Their contract expired June 24. Workers say in the past they continued doing their jobs during negotiations, but this summer they were locked out.
“We didn’t go on strike. We were locked out. This wasn’t our choice. We all wanted to continue working,” said David Monahan.
Health insurance was cut July 1, not just for the workers but for their spouses and children as well.
“I’m only one of many out there suffering like this,” said George Tessier, a 31-year-employee.
Tessier’s wife is fighting colon cancer. The family panicked when they got the call from Mass General that their insurance had been denied.
“Each treatment is like $13,000 and it’s every other week. Every month she has to go for a scan to make sure the tumors aren’t growing. She’s a trooper, she’s strong,” he said.
Within days of the contract expiring, Bill Doherty had the scare of his life. His 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, was rushed to Children’s Hospital with concerning symptoms. They soon found out she needed brain surgery.
“It’s like an aneurysm that popped. The bills coming now, we have to bring her to PT, OT, specialists for her eyes. We don’t know how we’re going to do that yet,” he said.
Another locked-out worker, David Monahan, is the provider and the patient. On top of caring for a toddler and pregnant wife, he was diagnosed in June with a cancerous bladder tumor.
“Our COBRA insurance costs us $2480.09 for a month. That’s more than we receive through unemployment for the state of Massachusetts. I don’t even have enough money coming in to pay COBRA never mind my other bills,” he said.
The next weekly negotiation meeting is Thursday. Workers say they’re not asking for more, but they don’t want less either.
“We’re not looking to gain anything major. We’re looking to keep what we had and keep doing the jobs we’ve always done,” Monahan said.
National Grid released this statement:
“We remain committed to bargaining in good faith with the unions, with the aim of reaching an agreement that balances the needs of our employees and customers and we continue to make ourselves available for negotiations seven days a week. During the time they are not working for our customers, the locals are ineligible for compensation and benefits from the company. In the meantime, employees may elect to retain their benefits through the company at their own expense.”