Health care premium costs doubled between 2000 and 2009, forcing unions to face a constant trade-of between negotiating for higher wages and maintaining health benefits. Not only have health care costs skyrocketed, but the quality of benefits has gone down. Workers who are laid-of or do not work enough hours to qualify for coverage must chose between paying the high price of COBRA or going without coverage. Today forty-seven million Americans lack health benefits altogether.
The high cost of health care also hurts the competitiveness of union employers. Union employers are much more likely to provide coverage and better benefits than non-union employers. To stay competitive, union employers are forced to look for various ways of cutting labor costs, including demanding wage and benefit concessions, downsizing, outsourcing, and off-shoring.