Stuckart family photo
Frank Stuckart has remained as a resolute pro-life voice in union negotiations at Norpac Foods.
Stuckart family photo
Frank Stuckart has remained as a resolute pro-life voice in union negotiations at Norpac Foods.
A Catholic worker is urging his Mid-Willamette Valley employer and union to drop abortion from medical coverage offered to employees.

"We need to encourage a pro-life atmosphere," says Frank Stuckart, who has worked for Norpac Foods and been a member of Teamsters Local 670 for 37 years. Contract talks are coming up.

Stuckart, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Salem and a former union shop steward, is asking Catholics and all Christians to help in the campaign to nix the controversial coverage, which he says is extended to a worker corps that is mostly pro-life.

Norpac employs about 800 regular and 2,000 seasonal employees. Stuckart says his employer and union are "outstanding organizations who have contributed much to the quality of life in Oregon as well as helping feed the world." At the same time, he is part of a long effort to get officials to make changes in line with what he says are the values of most workers.

A dozen years ago, a senior union shop steward, Roy Basl, read through the company's entire medical plan and noticed the abortion coverage. He notified other shop stewards, including Stuckart, who made up the union's negotiating committee.

When the health plan came up for a review periodically, Stuckart and two other stewards voted against it, citing the abortion provision. But several dozen other stewards voted in favor, so the contract passed each time.

But Stuckart and the other dissenting stewards were under furious pressure to relent, even from others who were pro-life. That's because Norpac promised to pay bonuses to all employees if the contract was approved unanimously.

"As Catholics, God expects us to respect the dignity of all human life," Stuckart says. "There was no way that we were going to agree to any contract proposal that included abortion coverage as part of the medical plan, regardless of any unanimous recommendation bonus money amount being offered."

Norpac benefits are provided by Oregon Processors Employees Trust, a private entity Stuckart believes is not subject to abortion and contraceptive mandates of the Affordable Care Act.  
"Even if Obamacare tries to mandate such provisions, I would hope that the Christian community would encourage Norpac Foods Inc. and Local 670 to resist such a mandate and challenge Obamacare in the courts together with other private companies who have done just that," says Stuckart.

Diana Franken, secretary-treasurer of Local 670, has opposed dropping the abortion coverage and also serves as co-chair of the board of the trust. For a dozen years, the trust has refused requests to hear presentations about cutting coverage. Franken did not respond to an interview request.    

One of Stuckart's allies, his brother Bernie, resigned in protest as shop steward and union president. Another, his brother Ed, also resigned from the shop steward job in protest, leaving Frank as the sole pro-life voice left on the committee.

Superiors told him he should keep his faith out of the proceedings. Pressure intensified, with some people noting the lost bonus money.  

"I guess since they thought that I was the only one remaining they could get me to capitulate," Stuckart says. "Apparently, they forgot about the Holy Spirit."

Stuckart says selling out for a bonus would make him no better than Judas, giving up Jesus for a bag of silver.

Meanwhile, many fellow workers urged Stuckart to keep up the fight. He says that, plus prayer, has allowed him to remain steadfast and calm.

But recently, Stuckart lost his bid for re-election as a shop steward and no longer is part of the negotiating committee. That is the reason he has gone public.

Stuckart argues that the coverage violates his own rights of conscience, sending monies into the trust on his behalf that could be "used for the intentional killing of the innocent unborn."

He says unabashedly that he allows his Catholic faith guide his actions.

"In fact, to be Christian is to follow Christ in all our actions," he concludes, "regardless of whether the world agrees."