When Tom Brooks was on disability and in danger of losing his health benefits, his union came to the rescue.
“When you move from temporary state disability to permanent Social Security disability, it can take years for it to be approved,” Brooks recalled. “It was during that period that I needed two extensions on my health benefits.
“That was no problem, thanks to UFCW 8. I don’t know what my
family and I would have done without those extensions, because the cost of COBRA coverage was much too expensive for us to handle.” When Brooks was injured on the job in December 2005, he was working as a Meat Manager at an Albertsons store in Pittsburg that is now closed.
“The door handle on the inside of the meat locker was broken, and to open it you had to hit it really hard,” he said.
“I had to pound it 10 times that day so I could get out. I was soon in severe pain.” Brooks tried to “tough it out” and work through the discomfort. But when the pain became unbearable, he sought medical care. “They found I broke some bones under my palm,” Brooks said. “I also injured my neck and shoulder.
In spite of two hand surgeries, I couldn’t grip a knife any more and eventually had to go on disability.”
Brooks always has been a strong supporter of his union. he served as a Steward and helped mentor new members.
“I felt it was important that our younger members know why we have a union,” he said. “My wife and many of my friends work non-union. There is no comparison in benefits, and they have no pension.
“Also, without a union to back you up, you are always at the mercy of your supervisor. And when it’s time for layoffs, seniority doesn’t count.” Brooks said he is still in constant pain and he is unable to engage in his two favorite hobbies: jewelry design and golf.
“I especially miss making jewelry,” Brooks said. “I used to cast gold and design rings, necklaces, earrings, you name it.” he spends much of his time now helping his wife, Cindy, with household chores and errands. “Because I have my union pension to go with the Social Security disability benefits, we’re doing OK financially,” he said. “I know I have that pension because I worked at a union job.”