My name is Rick Krueger, and I am a member in good standing with local 488. Please take the next few minutes to read my story and pass it on to as many people as you possibly can, if you feel as I do that I am being treated unfairly. As it stands right now, I will lose all my benefits at the end of August.
I have medical bills of $1,900 a month.
This is my story.
I was a member of Local 488 from 1980 to 1982. On December 22, 1982 I was working as a pipe fitter, when a 12-inch gate valve, weighing approximately 1000 pounds fell on me hitting my left knee with the handle. It severely damaged my left knee as well as injuring my lower back. Just as it fell, I was able to jump a little out of the way. If I hadn’t done that it would have landed on my chest, which could have been fatal.
I still have nightmares concerning this accident.
Over the next 5-6 years I had 4 operations on my knee, and had all my dues and benefits coverage paid by the Worker’s Compensation Board. I was in constant severe pain and became addicted to painkillers. I also had started drinking during this time to help deal with the pain. At some point after recovery from the 4th surgery, WCB stopped covering my dues and benefits, and, with my state of mind back then, I didn’t realize that this had happened until it was too late. I lost my membership in the union along with all my benefits.
In 1998, after having endured another 4 operations to my knee, I went to the Thrope Recovery Centre recovery Center in Lloydminster. For the next two years I lived there and help run the treatment facility for men. More importantly, I quit drinking.
One of the men who lived at the home for a while was a pipe fitter who was also a member of local 488. He suggested that I try to get back to working through the union — he was sure I would be able to manage the work. So, in 2001 I moved back to Edmonton and was re-initiated back into local 488 after first working at a job in Fort McMurray for a few months. At my initiation or just prior to, I was informed that I would not be credited with the 3 years from 1980-1982. And, here is the reason: I had let my membership lapse.
I worked numerous jobs, and after a few years was given my first opportunity to work as a foreman, back up in Fort Mac. I continued to work, both on the tools as well as foreman, and general foreman positions over the years, always as a member in good standing. I also suffered with severe chronic pain since my original accident which made life extremely difficult, as the pain was always there.
In 2013, while working I re-injured my knee requiring another operation, putting me back on WCB. This surgery was not very successful. In 2015 I underwent my 10th operation which was a total knee replacement, which was effective for about 1 year, but now is extremely unstable and very loose. I’m in constant pain. It’s severe.. I am unable no to stand, walk, sit, or lay down in one position for more than 5-10 minutes because of the pain.
I was a smoker for many years, but quit about 9 years ago. Because of my smoking I have COPD, and require 2 different inhalers daily. I also have complete adrenal failure, extremely low testosterone levels. These both were caused by the many years of painkillers for my chronic pain. I also have chronic pancreatitis, which has almost completely destroyed my pancreas, and requires me to take medications to digest my food.
I am on cortisol steroids, and have to carry any emergency epi-pen with a dose, as well as a letter explaining my adrenal failure as my body is unable to cope with any stress or illness and must get immediate attention in case of an emergency.
So here is my dilemma: I went to the union hall towards the end of May 2018, to give them some post-dated checks to pay for my next 6 months of benefit coverage. I was informed for the first time that I would be losing all my coverage at the end of August 2018, because I had no
more saved hours in the bank to cover this as well as the fact that I was short in my years of service in the union, for them to continue to allow me to pay my monthly benefits coverage cost. At the time of re-injuring my knee in 2013, or at the time the union stopped waiving my dues and benefits, I had 14 1/4 years of service — 9 months short of the required 15 years, which I would have easily gotten if I hadn’t been re-injured in 2013.
I was told to contact other insurance companies as well as the one that the union uses to see about getting coverage elsewhere. The problem is, is that no one will cover me because of pre-existing conditions. So basically, I have no coverage anywhere!
Then I was told that if I went back to work for 1 month, I could extend my benefits for a year. Problem with this is, is that with all my health issues, I am unable to physically do this anymore, and believe that I would be risking further injury to not only myself, but to those I would be working alongside with. Also, I am on WCB till I’m 65, and cannot risk losing that income.
I decided to go and speak to one of the business agents and plead my case. He told me, that because the 3 years from 1980-1982 were not consecutive with the later years of 2001-2013, they could not use them. He also told me that if I had only been a month short of the 15 years instead of the 9 months short, the union would probably just give me the 1 month’s credit, and thereby allowing the continuance of my benefits.
I now need to have my pancreas removed, as it isn’t working and causes me extreme pain. I have already been hospitalized on 3 long occasions because of the chronic pancreatitis, which could be fatal the next time, as well as onset of pancreatic cancer. After the surgery I will instantly become diabetic, and will require more medications to take place of the pancreas in digesting my food. My medications after the surgery will be close to $1900.00 a month, which I cannot afford.
So if I lose my benefits, I cannot afford to go ahead with the surgery, which will without a doubt end my life a lot sooner than with the operation.
The union is a fellowship of men and women who look out for, and take care of their fellow brother or sister. All I am asking of the union and its membership is to grant me the 9 months from the 3 years in the 1980’s.
Compassion. That’s all I am asking for. All I am asking is for some compassion at this time, when I am facing my biggest battle yet. I believe that by taking away my benefits, my death sentence has been signed. Please help by passing this on, and feel free to contact me if you can help me with this in any way!
MY E-MAIL firstname.lastname@example.org