- CNA, SEIU Protest Tenet’s Cutting Of Sick Leave For Health Care Workers
- Republican Senator Olympia Snowe Seems Supportive Of Public Option In Health Care Reform Plans
- New York Hospital Workers Defer Wages To Bolster Pension Fund Damaged By Wall Street
- Stella D’Oro Workers Fighting Plant Closing Get Support From Their Congressman
By Doug Cunningham
The 130 Stella D’Oro workers fighting a plant closing in the Bronx by private equity group Brynwood Partners are getting support from their congressman. New York Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel says when the striking workers won an NLRB decision that returned them to work, Brynwood Partners decided to close the plant.
[Engel]: “That is a disgrace. Should not be happening n 2009. And this Congress needs to take note of it and needs to stand behind these workers.”
The Service Employees Union 1199 – representing nearly 145,000 union members at hospitals throughout New York – reached a settlement on Monday the union says stabilizes the workers’ pension fund. The agreement redirects money into the pension fund that would have gone toward wage increases over the next two years. According to the union the pension fund had lost $3.5 billion due to the downturn on Wall Street. The contract can be reopened in 2013 to account for changes in economic conditions.
Could Republican Senator Olympia Snowe being coming to the Democratic side of the aisle on the public option? Jesse Russell reports:
This weekend a rally was held in Portland, Maine calling for healthcare reform. While Republican Senator Olympia Snowe couldn’t appear at the rally she sent a Cheryl Leaman to read a statement to the crowd. In the statement Snowe indicated that she sees a public option as an integral part of healthcare reform. Leaman read Snowe’s statement:
[Snowe1]: “…we can all agree that we must not leave universal access to chance. That is why I also support a public plan which must be available from day one.”
By Doug Cunningham
At nine hospitals in Florida and California on Tuesday nurses and hospital workers represented by the California Nurses Association and SEIU protested the Tenet corporation’s cutting of sick leave.
Health care workers will need their sick leave if the H1N1 flu virus strikes hard in coming months. Sherri Stoddard is an RN with the CNA in San Luis Obispo.
[Stoddard]: “You want your nurses to be able to take their sick leave and not come to work sick. We want to be able to protect our patients and we want to come to work well. And you know, healthy nurses, healthy patients.We’re trying to make the patients and the local publics aware of what’s going on. They’re usually pretty supportive of their health care workers. Throughout these different facilities we’re making the public aware and asking the public to actually call to encourage Tenet to give us back the cuts that they have made.”
Some 350 post-doctoral researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey are now union members after a majority signed cards for representation by the Rutgers Council of AAUP-AFT, the same union that represents grad employees and faculty at the university.
Post-doctoral associates and fellows are grant-based, nontenure-track research faculty who work under the direction of a principal investigator, usually a university professor. Generally, their salaries are low, job security is nonexistent, work rules are arbitrary, and visa and housing support for this largely foreign workforce is negligible, the union says.
Says Alan Wan, a post-doctoral associate in the chemistry department:
Post-docs are an absolutely essential part of Rutgers’ research effort, and we should be treated with the same level of respect as other professionals working at the university. Having a union contract will help us set working conditions that are fair and allow us to better focus on our work.
In New Jersey, union political education and member mobilization helped enact a law in 2007 that allows public employees to form unions by majority sign-up. If the Employee Free Choice Act becomes law, that choice would be extended to workers across the country.
The majority sign-up process has been an effective and successful way for workers to form unions across the country, and a recent study of public-sector workers in four states (Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Oregon) shows that thousands of workers have benefited from being able to use majority sign-up without the coercion frequently alleged by corporate opponents.
The improved pay and benefits that come with a contract will help Rutgers continue to attract top researchers, says Lisa Klein, immediate past president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT. Adds Klein:
We look forward to collaborating with our newest members as they seek to improve their work at Rutgers through a union voice.
There are two other groups of unionized post-doctoral associates and fellows—at the University of Connecticut and in the University of California system.
Gaming workers at Bally’s and Caesars casinos in Atlantic City voted overwhelmingly over the weekend to authorize a strike if they are unable to reach a contract agreement with management.
The workers have been trying to gain a first contract for two years after voting to form a union with the UAW in 2007.
Says Ed Hendricks, a Caesars slot technician for 15 years:
Nobody wants a strike, but we’re going to stand up to enforce our rights. We have negotiated for almost two years, but instead of reaching an agreement the company keeps cutting back. Harrah’s [owner of both casinos] has cut our 401(k) match, increased our benefit costs and laid off our fellow workers.
The New Jersey State AFL-CIO has called on union members to rally in support of the casino workers this Friday. State federation President Charles Wowkanech and Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan said in an e-mail to local unions:
Contract negotiations for the UAW in Atlantic City have gone beyond the point of unacceptable. This contract fight plainly shows the extent certain employers are willing to go in order to suppress a worker’s right to a fair contract.
If the Employee Free Choice Act was law, this dispute would have been settled months ago. The legislation provides the mediation and arbitration assistance to help settle a contract when a company and a newly certified union cannot agree on a contract after three months.
Workers at Trump Plaza also are working without a contract. Johanna Moon, a 25-year employee, says the two-year delay in getting a fair deal shows why Employee Free Choice is so important.
All workers need the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s not fair as it is now. Something’s got to change.
Read Moon’s story here.
Harrah’s rakes in some $10.8 billion in annual revenue, yet workers at both casinos make as little as $4.50 an hour on top of tips, according to the union.
Harrah’s has negotiated at Caesars for only 50 out of 655 available days and has refused to negotiate at Bally’s. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Bally’s broke federal labor law by refusing to bargain. An enforcement order requested by the NLRB is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Says UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, who directs the union’s Technical, Office and Professional Organizing Department:
UAW members negotiate successfully with all kinds of employers—including casinos—and we know how to get the job done. The reason we haven’t succeeded in Atlantic City is plain and simple: Management either won’t come to the table, or they engage in stalling tactics once they get there.
Workers at Bally’s and Caesars are sending a very strong message with their votes: We’ve had enough. We voted for a union two years ago, we want our votes to mean something and we’re ready to take action to make it happen.
More than 8,000 gaming industry workers are members of the UAW in Atlantic City, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan and Rhode Island.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former New York City teacher Frank McCourt, 78, who died July 19, was one of the world’s “most inspirational writers and teachers,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten.
Frank McCourt saw teaching, storytelling and writing not only as a way out of his unimaginable, poverty-stricken childhood and adolescence, but also as a way to share his life’s lessons.
McCourt, an AFT member, taught social studies and English in the city’s public schools from 1960 to 1987. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1996 memoir, Angela’s Ashes, that detailed his impoverished childhood in Limerick, Ireland. His 2005 book, Teacher Man, chronicles his teaching career in New York City. Says Weingarten:
Thousands of students benefited from his remarkable ability to help them realize the richness of their own lives, no matter how difficult.
In 1997, McCourt spoke at an AFT conference. McCourt told the educators he knew nothing about teaching when he became a teacher, except what he had picked up from his teachers in Ireland, all “trained by the Marquis de Sade.”
I didn’t know I was learning on the job that first year and later found out I had been learning on the job for 27 years….Norman Mailer said the only way you learn something is by writing about it. The only way I learned anything was by teaching about it.
The U.S. House and Senate are moving to finish comprehensive health care reform legislation before adjourning for an August recess. Meanwhile, congressional Republicans and their allies in the corporate health care world—especially the private health insurance industry—are following a well-crafted, but lie-filled, propaganda script to kill health care reform.
But an insurance industry insider offers further proof why health care reform is so desperately needed—especially a plan that includes a strong public health insurance plan option and curbs to prevent the insurance industry’s abusive practices.
In May, we told you to get ready for the “big lie” deluge fueled by a strategy memo from Republican operative Frank Luntz. The memo spells out—literally, word for word—the language health care reform opponents should use to frighten American consumers and slice away support from any health care reform plan.
In a recent post on the Sunlight Foundation blog, Paul Blumenthal notes that the words the Luntz memo urged health care reform opponents to use are dripping from lawmakers’ lips faster than drool from a Great Dane.
(Click here to tell your lawmaker to stop listening to the lies and pass real health care reform.)
Tracking the use of the words “rationing,” “government takeover,” “bureaucrats” and “doctor-patient” in reference to health care reform on the floor of Congress after the Luntz’s May memo, Blumenthal says:
It’s pretty clear that Republicans are listening to Luntz’s advice…the use of these words has skyrocketed. “Rationing” goes from 18 uses in May to 90 uses in June. This marks the highest level of use for the word “rationing” in the Capitol Words database….Takeover goes from 13 uses in May to 106 in June. This marks the highest level of use for the word “takeover” in the Capitol Words database.
All of these four terms are at their respective highest use points from 2001-2009. It can’t be a coincidence that these words rise after the release of the Luntz memo. And if you look at the partisan breakdown of word use in the Congressional Record you’ll find that these words are used almost exclusively by Republicans.
In fact, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), a health care reform scare-monger, hit all four words in one two-sentence effort.
As President Obama pointed out last month to the American Medical Association—which since has endorsed the House health care reform plan that includes a public option—that’s the same script health care reform opponents have been using for years to derail real reform and further worsen the health care crisis.
We know that there are those who will try and scuttle this opportunity no matter what, who will use the same scare tactics and fear-mongering that’s worked in the past. They’ll give dire warnings about socialized medicine and government takeovers; long lines and rationed care; decisions made by bureaucrats and not doctors. We’ve heard it all before—and because these fear tactics have worked, things have kept getting worse.
The defenders of the current health care system—more or less controlled by the private insurance industry—should give a listen to the former chief spokesperson for the insurance giant Cigna. Maybe then they wouldn’t be so quick to condemn the public plan option that would give families the choice of keeping their private insurance or choosing the public plan.
Wendell Potter tells Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman:
I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick—all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors.
The insurance industry and Wall Street investors, writes Goodman on Truthdig:
are addicted to massive profits and double-digit annual rate increases. To squeeze more profit, Potter says, if a person makes a major claim for coverage, the insurer will often scrutinize the person’s original application, looking for any error that would allow it to cancel the policy. Likewise, if a small company’s employees make too many claims, the insurer, Potter says, “very likely will jack up the rates so much that your employer has no alternative but to leave you and your co-workers without insurance.”
Potter says the insurance industry fears the possibility of a public plan and the choice it would give consumers.
They’ll pull out all the stops they can to defeat that to try to scare people into thinking that embracing a public health insurance option would lead down the slippery slope toward socialism…putting a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor. They’ve used those talking points for years, and they’ve always worked.
Republican’s may parrot the worn-out propaganda about health care reform and “government rationing” and the end “of doctor-patient” health care decisions. However, during a recent radio call-in show, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) shows they may not really believe the lies.
Think Progress reports that a caller to C-Span’s Washington Journal described personal experience in which the patient’s insurance company denied coverage and physician-requested services and tests. Said Murphy:
Yeah and that brings up the point here that with regard to one of our big frustrations with insurance companies is they control the market place, they control what’s done, a lot of times doctors are not making the decisions here.
The Episcopal Church has added its support to the growing movement for the Employee Free Choice Act.
At the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, held July 8-17, bishops and deputies approved a resolution asking Congress and the president to restore workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain.
The resolution, “Fix Our Broken Labor Laws,” explains that the church strongly supports the freedom of workers to collectively bargain for a better life.
Episcopal bishops and deputies are asking Congress to pass legislation that fulfills three key principles, the resolution says:
- Provide workers the choice of seeking union recognition either through an election or through a majority sign-up on cards, which are then verified by the National Labor Relations Board.
- Adopt more effective remedies for violations of employees’ rights, comparable to the remedies for discrimination provided by existing civil rights laws.
- Where the employers and unions are unable to reach agreement on their first collective bargaining agreement within a reasonable period of time, resolve the dispute by submitting it to mediation and if mediation is unsuccessful, then to binding arbitration.
The Episcopal Church has a long record of support for the freedom of workers to form unions and opposition to abusive tactics that prevent them from exercising their right to bargain.