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GVS: Bringing Decades Of Quality Eyecare To The Labor Market

Editor’s Note: The following is a Q&A with GVS Senior Vice-President Ken Levin special to LaborPress

Tell us a little about how GVS first got involved with labor unions.

GVS has a very interesting past. Our original foundation was a company called Union Optical that started back in the early 1950s. It was the first optical organization in New York that specifically catered to unions. When it became General Vision Services in 1982, we carried forward this tradition and now serve over 3 million members in the NY marketplace.

GVS Senior Vice-President Ken Levin

We started with 13 stores in our provider network, and today we’ve grown to over 400. We also grew our business from 20 to 300 plus accounts. We are one of the largest third-party optical companies in the New York labor market, and now have rolled out a national program that features over 47,000 retail locations across the country.

What were some of the ways GVS supported unions?

We created a business model that was union friendly. Instead of marking up our prices like most retailers, we charged close to the cost of our production. Keeping our prices low was a huge benefit to union workers and it allowed us to help many more people. We are continually dedicated to America’s unions and proud of ouroffice staff employees, Local 153 OPEIU.

So GVS really set itself apart as an advocate of unions?

Yes. In fact, at one time, the NYC Central Labor Council, Federation of Labor and the New York State AFL-CIO named us the preferred union vision provider. It was an official affirmation that GVS was their best choice for vision benefits.

GVS is well known for its Mobile Eyecare Centers. Can you provide some details on how this service works?

We know many workers have difficulty taking time from their busy workday to go to appointments. So we bring the service to them at their job locations, providing quality eyecare to our members at their convenience. The GVS Mobile Eyecare Center is fully equipped with state-of-the-art exam equipment, a licensed optician and hundreds of designer frames. Members can get a comprehensive eye exam, prescription lenses and a choice of nearly 300 frames. It’s a complete full service experience without the need to take time off from work.

That sounds great… and it certainly makes GVS’s services appealing. What other benefits do you offer?

We focus on providing the most value to our members and we do this in the form of time savings, cost savings and first rate customer service. Aside from the GVS Mobile Eyecare Center, we provide perks such as national LASIK and Hearing device discount programs, seasonal promotions, the GVS Designer Collection, andspecialized concierge services, offering dedicated phone support as part of our customer service.

Tell me more.

Our GVS Designer Collection is an exclusive selection of designer frames that combine style with value. It provides our members with a wider range of affordable frame options. We publish an annual complementary Trend report to inform customers of the latest frame styles and fashion statements.

We also offer our members a national LASIK discount program with no additionalcost to our clients. We’ve teamed up with experts in the industry to provide savingsof up to 40% on LASIK procedures. Members can get access to these services at thousands of locations across the country.

Furthermore, we offer comprehensive hearing plans through General Hearing Services (GHS), a division of GVS. Our plans include no-cost screenings, full coverage on select devices, and discounts of up to 50% on the majority of hearing services. We offer a variety of major brands such as Phonak, Starkey and Unitron and we have a national provider network of over 6,000 licensed audiologists.

In addition to our great coverage and affordable programs, we know everybody loves a good discount. So, with our programs we offer seasonal promotions throughout the year to provide additional savings. Our Back to School promotion is one of our most popular promos.

So what does the future hold for GVS?

We’re really focused on customer service and making it more efficient. So, we’reshifting to digital innovations. Members can now log-in to and search for their benefit information, look up their nearest provider, make appointments, and give us direct feedback. And for administrators, we offerelectronic administrative and billing services. We’re really making it paperless for both the client and their members and transforming the way our business is done.

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