Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Blasts GM Cutting Strike Employees Health Care as 'Straight Barbarism'

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called General Motors' decision to cut off the healthcare of striking workers "straight barbarism" on Wednesday.

The congresswoman, who has previously promoted Medicare for all, also used the GM strike to advocate for the policy, which has become a central issue in the Democratic primary for the 2020 presidential election.

On Tuesday, news reports said that GM would be cutting off the health care of striking workers. The union representing the workers, the United Automobile Workers, will pay for the cost of COBRA insurance in the interim.

The representative from New York was among those who responded with outrage at the decision.

"This is straight barbarism. GM workers are asking for a raise during a time of record profits. In response, GM execs cut off their health insurance. Yet another reason we insist on #MedicareforAll: so your healthcare won't be held hostage to negotiate lower wages," the representative tweeted.

The President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union that represents about 2 million workers in the U.S. and Canada, also blasted the decision.

"GM's decision to yank healthcare coverage away from their dedicated employees, in the dead of night, with no warning, is heartless and unconscionable. GM's actions could put people's lives at risk, from the factory worker who needs treatment for their asthma to the child who relies on their parents' insurance for chemotherapy," SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said in a statement released Tuesday.

About 49,000 workers from General Motors began a strike on Sunday, after the company and the United Automobile Workers failed to agree on the terms of a new contract. The strike is costing GM up to $100 million per day in lost production.

According to The New York Times, workers who have been with the company for at least 12 years are making approximately $31 per hour, while newer employees earn less. The workers have said that they should share in the company's profitability.

Members of UAW who work for GM have strong health care coverage. They only pay about 3 percent of health care costs, according to CNBC. But GM wanted to increase the proportion that workers pay for their coverage, drawing protests from the employees.

The employees are continuing to get paid during the strike, but are making less than they would otherwise. GM workers are making $250 per week while on strike, according to the Detroit Free Press.

General Motors workers hold signs along the west side of the GM Powertrain Plant on September 18, in Toledo, Ohio. J.D. Pooley/Getty Images