Police car hits and kills GE striker

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (PAI) – Kjeston M. Rogers, a working single mother of three teenagers and activist for International Union of Electronic Workers/CWA Local 761 at General Electric’s Louisville appliance park, was hit and killed by a police car while crossing the road from an IUE/CWA picket line on Jan. 14. She was 40.

Rogers and other Local 761 members, along with 17,500 of their IUE and United Electrical Workers colleagues, were walking picket lines in a two-day strike against GE over company-imposed health care cost increases.

Union leaders saluted Rogers, continued the strike through its scheduled end at midnight Jan. 15, and pledged to continue fighting GE’s health care cost hikes. They also lowered flags to half-staff at the Local 761 union hall.

Rogers, who helped assemble GE dishwashers, was a committed unionist. One co-worker said Rogers was angry and scared about rising health care costs. “I’d like her to be remembered for doing something just and for the right cause,” said Local 761 President Randy Payton. Shaken unionists donned black armbands.

“The entire IUE/CWA family shares in the sorrow of this sad, tragic event,” union President Ed Fire said. “We are attempting to learn the facts, and IUE-CWA’s general counsel has been assigned to work with local counsel to investigate.”

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney said unionists “will remember with great pride the courage of this woman who fought to improve the future for all working families trying to afford decent health care.”

The driver, Hollow Creek, Ky., police officer Roy Truax, was uninjured. Witnesses told news media Truax was not speeding. His car hit Rogers at 5 a.m.

Rogers was the first striker to die in years. One recent serious injury on a picket line occurred in 1995: A company-hired private security guard beat Teamsters Local 22 member Vito Sciuto into a coma during the Detroit newspaper lockout.

GE stayed adamant about its health care cost shifting. It imposed huge increases on workers on Jan. 1 in co-pays and premiums despite a record $16 billion profit, and said it would seek more givebacks in bargaining this spring on a new contract.

“If they are so foolish as to come back in (talks in) May and make more demands of our employees and retirees, they know they’ll be risking another strike,” Fire responded.