Teamsters power helps Buikema

Sunday, October 31, 2004

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. - Two years after Patient Advocate Home Care joined Teamsters Local 142, its business has tripled, and employee morale has skyrocketed, thanks in part to an improved benefits package, says owner Dan Buikema.

The $1.2 million HME located in union-friendly northwest Indiana has recently expanded its reach to the southern part of the state with the opening of its Greensburg location. Buikema expects to expand to Indianapolis and South Bend by the end of the year and said the company’s volume and employees will double as a result.

While he said it was just speculation, Buikema attributes the company’s strong growth to its affiliation with the Teamsters.

“Joining the Teamsters gave us the ability to contract with insurance carriers that were previously out of reach to us,” said Buikema. “As a small independent, it gave us the added leverage to secure those contracts.”

When pursuing contracts Buikema said he identifies Patient Advocate as a union member and when it is appropriate, various Teamsters Locals have put in a good word for the company.

“The benefits of joining a union include networking and getting the word out to other AFL-CIO unions to promote your business,” said Les Lis, an organizer and business agent for Teamsters Local 142. “We tell folks to advertise their membership.”

Patient Advocate’s employees are also benefiting from being Teamsters members. They have access to a pension plan and better, cheaper healthcare.

“The health care package is top of the line and they now pay nothing out of pocket. There is strength in numbers, the Teamsters can negotiate better deals,” said Buikema.

Andy Saliga, a driver for the company and one of the workers that proposed joining up with the Teamsters, is pleased with how union membership has worked out.

“The insurance package is fantastic, but I approached the Teamsters to get access to a retirement plan,” he said. “Since I am a truck driver, the Teamsters seemed like the right place to start.”