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Union rallies to keep jobs and benefits

The Intelligencer

There are rumors that the Express Scripts Inc. facility in Bucks could be closed, putting more than 900 employees out of work.

Chants of "No justice, no peace!" blared through a bullhorn Saturday morning as more than 100 union workers rallied in Bristol Township in an effort to keep their jobs and medical benefits.

"We're not asking to be millionaires, we're just asking for fair wages, good healthcare and just a little bit of a better lifestyle," said Express Scripts Inc. employee Ray Teachey to the crowd assembled behind the Boilermakers Local 13 building.

Teachey - a member of the Service Employees International Union currently in negotiations with ESI, the second-largest pharmacy benefits manager in the country - is a father of six who has worked as a data entry technician at the company's Bensalem plant for seven years.

The union's contract expires in December and members said there are rumors that the Bucks County facility could be closed, putting more than 900 employees out of work.

"(The company) is being very vague about whether they want to close it," said Pam Rogers, the SEIU Healthcare PA chapter president and ESI employee. "They have asked us to make concessions and we have but they always seem to want more from us."

According to Rogers, ESI wants to eliminate the union's current healthcare system and have all employees come under the company's plan.

"They want the pension cut out completely," she said. "They don't want to have to pay for it all anymore. They want to cut our healthcare benefits as well. We told them that we would pay for a portion of our healthcare in order to keep it, but it's still not enough for them."

In a statement from ESI's public affairs director Maria Tonge, company officials said they respect the right of the union to communicate its position beyond the bargaining table.
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"Our goal has been to arrive at a competitive wage and benefits package that would allow us to keep jobs in the Bensalem community," the statement said. "Labor costs in Bensalem are the highest in our system by a significant margin. We have asked the Bensalem union to agree to some adjustments that would bring that facility in line with other facilities nationally. These adjustments are essential for us to continue to make the use of prescription drugs more affordable, to stay competitive and to keep these jobs in Bensalem."

At Saturday's rally, the workers were joined by Congressman Patrick Murphy, D-8, and other state and local politicians and officials.

"This is about standing together," Murphy said. "This is about the 900 hardworking men and women who built Express Scripts from the ground, up and made it one of the most profitable companies in our country. They made $290 million last quarter because of your hard work."

Several union members boarded a bus after the rally that will eventually make its way to ESI's headquarters in St. Louis in the hope of bringing more attention to the issue.

"We've contributed so much to ESI," Teachey said. "We've been there for them when they were down. We've helped them keep contracts and get new contracts and all we're asking for is a fair shot."

The 8th District includes all of Bucks County, some districts of Abington, Upper Dublin and Upper Moreland in Montgomery County and two wards in Philadelphia.