AFL-CIO

'Made In America' Week Should Be More Than Just A Slogan

1 day 2 hours ago
'Made In America' Week Should Be More Than Just A Slogan AFL-CIO

The White House has declared this "Made in America" week. At the AFL-CIO, we applaud the focus on buying products made by America’s working people. We’re a bit skeptical about President Donald Trump’s record matching his rhetoric, though. Here’s why:

1. Focusing on "Made in America" would ring truer if Trump brand products were made here in the United States. The Trump family has had many opportunities to make its products here at home and instead has chosen to do business in countries where labor is cheap and worker rights are few.

2. The administration had another opportunity to promote American-made products and jobs through its principles for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, released earlier this week. Unfortunately, the White House’s plans fell woefully short. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka had this to say:

The NAFTA objectives don’t inspire confidence that the Trump administration’s actions will meet its rhetoric on trade. If the administration is serious about renegotiating NAFTA in a way that raises wages and creates good jobs, it cannot continue to promise significant trade policy changes on the one hand, and produce vague, unambitious objectives in its official communications on the other. These objectives largely replicate those of the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership and won’t satisfy the expectations the president created for a revival of America’s manufacturing heartland. It’s also ironic that these objectives, released during the administration’s “Buy American” week, leave in place federal purchasing commitments that bypass “Buy American” laws. While we applaud the trade remedies objectives in particular, working families are disappointed with the document as a whole. We will continue to fight to create trade deals working people deserve.

3. It is important that Trump’s talk about being tough on companies that outsource production to other countries be connected to real action. Early on, Trump bragged about saving jobs at Carrier. Yet the company this week laid off more than 300 workers, sending their jobs to Mexico. Trump previously threatened to place a tax as high as 35% on products made by companies that ship jobs overseas and try to sell those products back to the U.S. We’re waiting to see how much Trump is going to tax Carrier and other companies that outsource, and how much of that additional cost is passed along to American consumers.

We like the idea of the president using his platform to promote American-made products. Now it’s time to see some real commitment to America’s working people through action, not just words.

Learn more about which products actually are Made in America.

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 07/20/2017 - 11:55
Kenneth Quinnell

Trumka Delivers Education and Health Care Lessons to Congress

1 day 23 hours ago
Trumka Delivers Education and Health Care Lessons to Congress AFL-CIO

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka today joined AFT, community members and allies at a rally against policies that would decimate communities and destroy the basic supports our families need. Numerous Congress members joined AFT President Randi Weingarten and AFSCME President Lee Saunders in opposing the health care and education cuts proposed by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans.

Trumka outlined four lessons that Republicans in Congress should have learned by now but clearly haven’t::

Lesson 1: Kicking people off insurance and cutting taxes for rich people is not a health care plan. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from workers to Wall Street and we oppose it in any form!

Lesson 2: Great countries don’t cut billions of dollars from public education. Remember, a budget is more than a set of numbers. It’s a statement of our values. So what does it say when we treat our teachers and students as a line item? America deserves better!

Lesson 3: When you bring policies forward that give workers more freedom to provide for our families, we’ll help you pass them with the same strength and intensity we are using to stop this health care sham! We don’t want to be playing defense. Give us something to fight for!

And that brings me to our final lesson: If you continue down the path of trickle down—of health care for the few—of union busting and school vouchers—of corporate handouts and a race to the bottom—we will remember in November.

Either work with us or we will elect someone who will.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 07/19/2017 - 15:22
Kenneth Quinnell

The New Senate Republican 'Repeal and Delay' Plan Means Big Trouble for Your Health Care

2 days 1 hour ago
The New Senate Republican 'Repeal and Delay' Plan Means Big Trouble for Your Health Care

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has announced that he will schedule a vote the week of July 24 on so-called repeal and delay legislation that would repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and push off coming up with a replacement plan until sometime in a future Congress. While he and others are trying to sell this as a way to buy more time for developing a replacement plan—something Senate Republicans have failed to do for seven years—this plan would actually have a devastating impact on health care for millions of people right away.

McConnell says he wants to pass the same legislation Congress did in 2015, which President Barack Obama vetoed. Therefore, we have a clear idea of what will be in his bill and the impact it will have.

Despite being called "repeal and delay," his bill immediately repeals some parts of the ACA, including requirements that individuals have insurance coverage or pay a penalty and that mid-size and large employers offer affordable coverage to full-time employees. It also repeals immediately all of the tax provisions that pay for the ACA, including an investment income tax and an additional Medicare tax that only affect people with high incomes, generally more than $200,000 for singles and $250,000 for couples. The bill delays by two years repeal of the ACA’s financial assistance to help individuals pay insurance premiums and cover high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs, as well as elimination of federal funding for the expansion of Medicaid to more low-income adults.

Congress’ budget and tax experts have already looked at McConnell’s proposal. They found that it would take insurance away from huge numbers of people within a year of enactment, premiums would spike and insurance companies would start dropping out of the market. Here are some of their key findings:

Massive Cuts in Health Insurance Coverage: In 2018, it would take insurance away from 17 million people. If no replacement plan were in place by 2020, 27 million more people would be uninsured, with that number jumping to 32 million in 2026, including 19 million people cut off from Medicaid.

Huge Increases in Premiums for Individual Coverage: In 2018, premiums for health insurance would jump by 25% compared to what they would be without repeal. In 2020, premiums would be 50% higher than they would have been; in 2026, premiums would be about 100% higher.

Insurance Is No Longer Available to Buy: The individual insurance market would contract dramatically, with many insurers dropping out of the market. By 2020, 50% of the population would live in areas with no insurers selling non-group coverage. About 75% of the population would have no insurer willing to sell them coverage by 2026.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 07/19/2017 - 13:22
Kenneth Quinnell

'We Celebrate Tonight, but Tomorrow We Pick Up the Battle Again'

2 days 3 hours ago
'We Celebrate Tonight, but Tomorrow We Pick Up the Battle Again' Berry Craig

Mary Potter calls Trumpcare "the canary in the coal mine," warning that President Donald Trump and Republican leaders "may be stalled on this, but they are busy, busy, busy on other issues."

She said the GOP also aims to deep-six "senior citizens programs, youth programs."

An attorney and online newspaper publisher in Clinton, Kentucky, Potter belongs to Four Rivers Indivisible, a far western Kentucky–deep southern Illinois branch of the national organization.

Both rural regions are Republican red. That hasn’t stayed the group from protesting GOP efforts to gut or ax the Affordable Care Act.

"I think that while McConnell has to keep up the show to the base by doing everything in his power to repeal Obamacare, the nationwide opposition to Trumpcare-no-care has made it clear that what needs to happen to this bill is for it to disappear," said Leslie McColgin, who heads the group.

When McConnell disappeared indoors at recent Republican-friendly gatherings in Paducah and Mayfield, Four Rivers members and others protested outside.

McConnell dodged the protesters.

McConnell’s office didn’t publicize his visits, though western Kentucky is conservative country that went big for Trump this past November and for McConnell when he won a sixth term in 2014.

Local Democrats think the protests in Trump territory indicate that the ground may be shifting from under the Republicans. McConnell, too, might be in for a tough re-election battle in 2020, they add.

Paducah is the seat of McCracken County, where Trump pocketed 66.4% of the vote. Graves County, whose seat is Mayfield, tilted to Trump, handing him 76.4% of its ballots.

"It has to have had an effect on McConnell that even in Paducah and Mayfield people were motivated enough to find out he was in town and show up to protest," said McColgin, a breast cancer survivor who lives in Lowes, near Paducah.

McColgin was at both protests. Beau Mohon of Graves County showed up at the Mayfield protest.

"I think it made a difference," said Mohon, a member of the Young Democrats who is on the Graves County Democratic Executive Committee with McColgin. "People driving by honked in support. People saw protesters here and not just in Washington, D.C."

Committee member Emily Cornwell, also a Young Democrat, said the apparent demise of Trumpcare is bound to hurt McConnell's chances for re-election in three years. "I don't see how he thinks he has a future in politics the way it finally played out for him."

Meanwhile, Four Rivers folks also have been firing tough questions at Kentucky First District Rep. James Comer at his town halls.

Few lawmakers in Washington are more loyal to McConnell and Trump than Comer, a Tompkinsville Republican.

Comer backed both House versions of Trumpcare. He has voted for every bill the president has supported, according to FiveThirtyEight's Tracking Congress in the Age of Trump: An updating tally of how often every member of the House and the Senate votes with or against the president.

McColgin, also a member of her local county Democratic Committee, is keeping her powder dry.

"As [McConnell]…moves to the next phase of playing to his base and attempts a straight-up repeal, we must continue the fight, lest this next repeal bill sees the light of day," she said.

The House GOP version of Trumpcare—officially the American Health Care Act—seemed dead, too, but was revised and passed on a second try. The Senate bill is the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

"It will have to be the moderate Republicans that kill the straight-up repeal bill, because the Rand Pauls and Mike Lees will not be ‘no’ votes on that, and the protests cumulatively nationwide are a powerful reminder to those moderates of the stakes if they go down that path," McColgin said.

Aaron Bugg of Paducah cautioned against whooping it up over Trumpcare’s apparent demise.

"They're now pushing for a repeal with no replacement, which will boot 18 million people off of insurance next year, rather than kicking 22 million off gradually," said Bugg, a member of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a Bernie Sanders delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and an honorary delegate to the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council.

He added, "If they can't develop a bill now, can they develop one in under a year? Why the gamble? And if they do repeal, and keep kicking the can down the road, 32 million people will lose insurance over time.

"We have to keep pressure on them and keep demanding improvement, not disassembly."

Council President Jeff Wiggins said the polls clearly show that most Americans like the Affordable Care Act, not Trumpcare.

"The Republicans are trying to take care of the insurance companies, but even the insurance companies came out against this last proposal," added Wiggins, who is also president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9447 in Calvert City, Kentucky, which also is near Paducah.

"Anybody with a pre-existing condition is doomed with replace or repeal. The Republicans want to go back to the way it was before."

Kay Tillow of Louisville agrees: "One more horror of a plan went down to defeat," said the head of Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Care. "We celebrate tonight, but tomorrow we pick up the battle again."

A veteran labor and civil rights activist who was born in Paducah, Tillow declared that "the only real solution is to remove the insurance companies from our health care and move the nation forward to national single payer, improved Medicare for all. It will take a gargantuan movement to make that happen.

"H.R. 676 is now up to 114 co-sponsors, including some southern Blue Dogs. Medicare for y'all."

More than 600 union organizations nationwide—including the Kentucky State AFL-CIO and the Western Kentucky Area Council—have endorsed single payer, according to Tillow.

This guest post from Berry Craig originally appeared at the Kentucky State AFL-CIO.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 07/19/2017 - 11:30
Kenneth Quinnell

Illinois Young Workers Join Union Retirees to Flex Political Power

2 days 3 hours ago
Illinois Young Workers Join Union Retirees to Flex Political Power ARA Chicago

The Chicago Metro Chapter of the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, including corresponding secretary of the chapter Bea Lumpkin, recently launched INTERGEN, a coalition focusing on common issues and priorities. The spark for the partnership came in October 2016, when both Illinois Alliance members and young activists attended an early voting rally. Since then, the older and younger activists have teamed up for rallies and protests involving health care, the Fight for 15 ($15 per hour minimum wage) and Tuition Free Illinois.

Lumpkin will celebrate her 99th birthday in less than three weeks. Young activists include members of the labor movement, USW Next Generation (young members of the United Steelworkers), Chicago Young Workers and Chicago Student Action. The coalition members hope that their combined voice will be a stronger barrier to anti-worker and anti-retiree policies seen both locally under Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) and nationally.

"Bea has gotten me involved and made sure that I stay engaged," said Earchiel Johnson, 30, of Chicago Young Workers. "It can be hard to balance work and activism, but Bea makes sure I know when I am needed."

INTERGEN was launched with an all-day conference on June 17. Activists shared their stories about why they started working for justice and met in caucuses to work on the future of the alliance. The day focused on topics like raising the minimum wage, combating student debt, and saving health care, Social Security and pensions.

The launch was videotaped to make a short documentary available to all.

With Lumpkin’s help, INTERGEN now faces many emergencies in home health care collapse, school closings and lapsed union contracts.

"Bea is a historian and a labor treasure," added Elijah Edwards, 36, vice president of Chicago Young Workers and an AFSCME official. "She is the physical embodiment of what labor represents, always standing up for those who have had their civil rights trampled.

"We met during the campaign to revitalize the Pullman area of Chicago."

This post originally appeared at the Alliance for Retired Americans.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 07/19/2017 - 11:02

Tags: Young Workers

Kenneth Quinnell

An Alternative Religious Perspective on Religious Exemption Laws

2 days 4 hours ago
An Alternative Religious Perspective on Religious Exemption Laws Pride @ Work

While the past several years have been full of major victories for the LGBTQ movement, there are still many battles to be won. In the past several years, the work of the LGBTQ movement’s opposition has turned to so-called religious freedom exemption laws. Notable examples of these laws and their backlash had been seen in states like Indiana (Senate Bill 101), under then-Gov. Mike Pence.

This issue is especially poignant again. The Supreme Court will hear a case from a baker in Colorado who refused service to LGBTQ customers. These religious exemption laws allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people by refusing to provide goods and services based on the owners’ religious beliefs. More alarmingly, public officials, such as law enforcement and those who issue marriage licenses, also would be allowed to deny service to LGBTQ people.

These laws, which are clear violations of constitutional equal protection, claim to protect religious freedom for those of faith.

For the past six weeks, I have been interning with Pride At Work (P@W) through a program with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC). The RAC is the governmental advocacy arm of the Reform Jewish community, the largest denomination of Judaism in the United States. It fills a unique space in Washington as one of few largely progressive religious voices in Washington. My experiences with the Religious Action Center and Reform Judaism have proven to me that there is not one singular, anti-LGBTQ religious voice; religion also can be a force to include, celebrate and protect LGBTQ people.

I came to work in the labor movement on a very different path then most. My work at P@W stems from my passion for LGBTQ equality. Before working here, I knew very little about the labor movement, its history or its present. Upon arriving in the halls of the AFL-CIO, I learned that the labor movement and the civil rights movement are one and the same, exemplified in leaders for social justice like A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin. Pride At Work was founded with this same belief, that the fight for the rights of working people and fight for the rights of all other marginalized groups are inherently linked.

The work I am doing here in Washington, D.C., this summer is at the intersection of three forces working for a more just society: my religion, the LGBTQ movement and the labor movement.

Reform Judaism, as the other Abrahamic religions (Christianity and Islam), teaches of the intrinsic equality of all people. All were created, "in the image of God," according to Genesis 1:26-28. There is a religious imperative to ensure the equality of all people regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation because all people are created as a reflection of the Divine. The Religious Action Center writes that, "Each of us, created in God’s image, has a unique talent, with which we can contribute to the high moral purpose of the repair[ing] of our world."

Because of my faith’s teachings on the equality and sacredness of all people, and the creeds of equality pushed for by both the LGBTQ and labor movements, this point is where the fight to oppose religious exemption legislation has a moral imperative. Religious exemption laws are not only bad for the LGBTQ community; they are bad for working people, as well as the actual religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.

These so-called religious freedom laws are a direct affront to religious freedom in the United States. This country was founded with the principle of protecting the government and religions from each other’s dominance and infringement. These laws overstep the constitutional limitations placed on the government by the First Amendment and directly contradict the protections ensured for all people by the 14th Amendment. The Religious Action Center stated that, "Unlike needed federal religious liberty protections, the Indiana bill, like other state bills pretending to protect religious freedom, is in reality opening the door to discrimination against minorities and vulnerable populations. We can and must safeguard religious freedom without trampling on the rights of LGBT Americans and other communities in need of protection."

We must all put our differences aside and fight to oppose the proposition and passage of religious exemption laws in all states and on a federal level. The labor movement needs to unite with people of faith and the LGBTQ community because these laws are bad for all three of these groups—and indeed everyone.

So how will we do this? Ensuring that we are allies to all who fight for equality and truth is vital to furthering our own causes. Intersectionality and diversity are the keys to coalition building. We must promote these principles in all aspects of our work and lives. Labor unions and religious institutions need to stick up for the rights of LGBTQ people, and the LGBTQ movement needs to stick up for the right of working people because, "an injury to one is an injury to all."

When I return to my studies in Massachusetts this fall, I will ensure that my work and the work of the groups I partner with are being good allies. I will take the positive example of allyship working at its best, as exemplified by the work of Pride At Work and the Religious Action Center, and apply these principles to the work I do with organizations like my school’s interfaith dialogue and social justice club.

What will you and your organization do to be a good ally and oppose religious exemption laws in your own constituency?

Andrew Schloss is an intern with Pride At Work, where this post originally appeared, through a partnership with the Religious Action Center of Reformed Judaism.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 07/19/2017 - 10:30
Kenneth Quinnell

Shuler in Washington: Make Unions Home of Emerging Majority

2 days 21 hours ago
Shuler in Washington: Make Unions Home of Emerging Majority WSLC

At the Washington State Labor Council's annual convention, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler gave a speech about the future of the labor movement. Among the key things Shuler discussed is the labor movement's efforts to modernize using the best technology and techniques and a renewed focus on unity as a driving principle necessary for a successful path forward.

Shuler spoke of the importance of working people's voice on the job and the labor movement's role in protecting those voices:

Our number one seller is a great contract and a voice on the job. And we are the only watchdog out there that is sounding the alarms about how companies like Amazon and Uber are using 21st century technology as an excuse for 19th century labor practices. We won’t let them get away with it. The labor movement is all about innovation and disruption…but it must be used as a tool for broadly shared prosperity, not more corporate greed.

Building on the convention theme of "Resist. Persist," Shuler touched on some of the important battles nationally:

We are resisting the Republican health care bill that would result in 22 million more people being uninsured, including nearly 300,000 in Washington. We are resisting President Trump’s budget, which cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to give more tax cuts to the rich. With the help of leaders like Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Judge James Robart, we are resisting the Trump administration’s unconstitutional and immoral travel ban. And we are resisting attacks on collective bargaining, workplace safety and public education. So while President Trump may have won the election, he hasn’t yet won a single major policy fight.

She expanded upon the unity theme as well:

And while we’re talking about building for the future, we should also make unions the home of the people we used to call “minorities,” but who are now the emerging majority. We know the stats, that by 2055, whites will account for less than half of the U.S. population. We also know that a union contract is the best tool for achieving justice for ALL working people—but with 90% of America not in unions, and more young people unaware of what it means to be in a union, we have a big job to do to show the emerging majority that unions fight for them.

For example, women are half the workforce and will be half the union movement in 10 years. We need equal pay—let’s show that a union is the best way to achieve that. And while we’re at it, let’s move more women into the leadership of our unions to show that we are a movement for women. Young people need better jobs and less debt—we can be on the front lines of the college affordability debate and pushing for more resources for apprenticeship and training to show we’re relevant and a path forward for them. People of color want access to good jobs and a justice system that doesn't discriminate—let’s be their best advocate. Immigrants need a path to citizenship and protection from deportation. LGBTQ people need to stop being fired and bullied because of who they are. Let’s help the emerging majority connect the dots and show them that unions are the answer!

Read the full speech for more on the AFL-CIO's efforts to guarantee the freedom of working people to come together and negotiate for a fair return on our work.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 07/18/2017 - 17:20
Kenneth Quinnell

Why Machinists Union Members Are to Thank for the Closest-Ever Images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

3 days 5 hours ago
Why Machinists Union Members Are to Thank for the Closest-Ever Images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot IAM

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a swirling gas storm more than double the size of Earth, is getting a close-up. The mesmerizing photos being taken from just above the planet’s surface are due in large part to the skill of Machinists (IAM) union members.

IAM members built and launched Juno, a spacecraft now orbiting our solar system’s largest gas giant. Juno passed over the giant storm this week as it continued a series of close passes around the gaseous world more than 365 million miles away.

The photos are breathtaking—and we have fellow Machinists members to thank.

IAM members built & launched #Juno, the spacecraft taking stunning images of Jupiter's #GreatRedSpot. #1u pic.twitter.com/U2dWomd5P1

— Machinists Union (@MachinistsUnion) July 13, 2017

Juno was built by IAM Local 44 members at Lockheed Martin in Decatur, Alabama, and launched, in 2011, by IAM Local 610 members at United Launch Alliance in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

NASA scientists hope the Juno mission will answer long unanswered questions about the mysterious gas giant, including why its Great Red Spot appears to be shrinking.

See more images and follow Juno’s historic journey.

This post originally appeared at IAM.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 07/18/2017 - 09:25
Kenneth Quinnell

Farm Workers Demand North Carolina Governor Veto Racist Bill

4 days 2 hours ago
Farm Workers Demand North Carolina Governor Veto Racist Bill Eli Porras

This is a guest post written by Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) member Eli Porras and translated FLOC organizer Catherine Crowe.

It is of utmost importance that the governor of North Carolina veto Farm Bill S. 615. I consider it to be a racist bill that tries to give power back to growers so they can take advantage of workers. I am a witness that organizations and unions like the Farm Labor Organizing Committee are of incredible value. For seven years, I have come from Mexico to work in the fields of North Carolina through the H2A Visa program. In 2013, my wife had to have an emergency surgery, and I returned to Mexico. Before leaving, my boss told me that I wouldn’t have any issues returning the next year. However, when I went to visit the labor recruiter in Mexico the following year, they told me that I was permanently ineligible to return. With the help of FLOC, I filed a grievance and won my job back!

Now they are attacking our union. The North Carolina General Assembly just passed Farm Bill S. 615 with an anti-union amendment snuck in at the last minute by a farmer elected to the North Carolina legislature. This added amendment aims to stop the progress that farm workers are achieving by making it illegal for farmers to deduct dues from union members. If my grower wasn’t allowed to deduct dues, it would add yet another barrier to organizing, and we would have to depend more on donations to sustain our union. This bill also would make it more difficult for farm workers to win new union contracts. Farm Bill S. 615 is a shameful abuse of power that aims at stopping our union from being able to help those who need it. Thanks to the union, I have a job in this great country, and that is why I am calling on the governor to veto this bill. Please join me in solidarity by adding your name to the petition!

Sign the petition supporting farm workers in North Carolina.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 07/17/2017 - 11:38
Kenneth Quinnell

STRIKE AVERTED: Management Threatens the Future of NPR by Not Providing Employees with a Fair Return on Their Work

1 week ago
STRIKE AVERTED: Management Threatens the Future of NPR by Not Providing Employees with a Fair Return on Their Work SAG-AFTRA

Update: SAG-AFTRA and NPR have reached a tentative deal on a 3-year successor contract.

Even at a time of great political division, there is broad consensus that National Public Radio provides a tremendous service. The journalism produced by NPR includes investigations that expose corruption, podcasts that make audiences think, Tiny Desk Concerts that wow and amaze, and coverage of an incredibly broad range of important and interesting issues. Unfortunately, NPR is using contract negotiations with SAG-AFTRA to propose a second class of minimum pay and benefits for new employees. This would undermine the quality work that NPR journalists have provided us, as a country, for many decades.

The SAG-AFTRA members say it best themselves:

We stand unified and strong because we have a common cause: a fair workplace with equal pay for equal work, fair benefits for all, and a codified structure for resolving disputes. We thank our colleagues both inside and outside of our union who have supported our fight for fairness. They, too, make NPR what it is today, and what it can be in the future with a respected workforce.

Here are some Tweets from SAG-AFTRA members:

Stand in solidarity for #sagaftramembers. Tell @NPR that their employees deserve respect #WeMakeNPR pic.twitter.com/YAKqsAklID

— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) July 14, 2017

NPR management is in the midst of contract negotiations with NPR journalists and morale is in the dumps. #wemakenpr https://t.co/l25lmUPfaS

— Tamara Keith (@tamarakeithNPR) July 13, 2017

 

The @NPR hq is full of worker bees at all hours. Please support us if you love us. #WeMakeNPR #SAGAFTRA pic.twitter.com/EA4xEE4XMA

— Andrea Hsu (@andrea_c_hsu) July 13, 2017

 

Me & this mic traverse the country bringing you stories & voices you don't hear anywhere else RT #WeMakeNPR 4 support pic.twitter.com/26PoRILYc9

— Kirk Siegler (@KirkSiegler) July 12, 2017

 

Nearly 20% of @NPR's employees work full-time with zero job security because as temps, #WeMakeNPR and you deserve quality journalism.

— Tori Whitley (@_toriwhitley) July 12, 2017

 

.@NPR wants less pay for new hires. #sagaftramembers want equal pay for equal work so we maintain a multi-generational staff #WeMakeNPR pic.twitter.com/myNHUXwnLW

— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) July 14, 2017

Sign the Change.org petition in support of the NPR employees, and learn more about the negotiations and the future of NPR.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 07/14/2017 - 13:10
Kenneth Quinnell

Hard Work Pays Off: Worker Wins

1 week ago
Hard Work Pays Off: Worker Wins Familias Unidas por la Justicia

Our latest roundup of worker wins begins with several stories of workers joining together and persevering over years to achieve victory. Other successes range from firefighters working together to improve safety to New York Times staffers walking out in support of copy editors.

Hotel Workers Win 16-Year Fight to Join Together in Union: Workers at the DoubleTree in Santa Monica, Calif., have been fighting for their freedom to negotiate together since 2001. The workers announced their victory last month, saying they “sought dignity, good salaries, benefits and job security.”

Farmworkers in Washington’s Skagit Valley Win First Contract: After five years of hard work, farmworkers at Sakuma in Washington state’s Skagit Valley have won their first contract. The workers, members of Familias Unidas por la Justicia, overwhelmingly approved the contract, which increases wages, bars discrimination, establishes seniority, creates a grievance procedure and improves disciplinary procedures.

IAFF Testifies in Support of National Cancer Registry for Firefighters: IAFF testified before the House Health Subcommittee in support of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act. The legislation would create a registry to collect detailed information about firefighters with cancer across the U.S. The research would help us understand the link between firefighting and cancer, and could lead to improvements in safety and prevention.

National Grid Agrees to Hire IBEW Members for Granite State Power Link Project: IBEW Local 104 negotiated a memorandum of understanding with National Grid and Citizens Energy that will create as many as 2,000 jobs in the construction of the Granite State Power Link electric transmission project. The project will bring electricity to the U.S. from Canada.

Texas Fire Fighters Successfully Lobby to Improve Workers’ Compensation for Members with PTSD: The Texas State Association of Fire Fighters successfully lobbied for legislation that will improve workers’ compensation coverage for first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Connecticut State Employees Reach Deal to Avoid Layoffs: State workers in Connecticut reached a deal that will save as many as 4,200 jobs. The agreement freezes wages for three years and cuts pension and health care benefits, but the contract’s length was extended to 10 years.

Employees at New York Times Walk Out to Protest Cuts: After proposed cuts, staffers at The New York Times walked out in support of copy editors. The proposals could lead to half of the Times’ copy editing staff losing their jobs.

SAG-AFTRA Reaches Agreement with Film and TV Studios: SAG-AFTRA has reached a tentative deal with the major film and television studios on a three-year contract. Details were not released, and the deal must still be ratified.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 07/14/2017 - 11:01
Kenneth Quinnell

Nurses Speak Out Against Trumpcare

1 week 2 days ago
Nurses Speak Out Against Trumpcare Washington DC Metro Labor Council

The list of people and organizations opposing the Republican health care scam continues to grow. Sandy Falwell, a registered nurse in Washington, D.C., and vice president of National Nurses United (NNU), recently spoke to reporters about her objections. Here are excerpts from her comments:

As registered nurses, we recognize that this is an extremely mean-spirited and callous bill that would substantially harm our patients. We can tell you, from years of experience serving our patients at the bedside in hospitals and health care facilities, that this bill poses a mortal threat to the health and well-being of our country—all to give massive tax breaks to the richest people in this country and to the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries.

Nurses have a professional and ethical obligation to advocate for our patients, and we take that obligation very seriously. We also believe that we all have a responsibility to act as a community, together—to take care of one another. Because of this, we will continue to speak out against any plan to cut funding to Medicaid and Medicare, or to exclude any person from accessing health care due to policy or inability to pay.

Instead of kicking tens of millions of people off of health insurance, we need to move forward to the only system that will guarantee that everyone has access to safe, therapeutic health care—a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system.

It is not good enough for Democrats to simply defend the Affordable Care Act—it has left 28 million people uninsured, and allowed out-of-pocket costs for premiums, copays and deductibles to skyrocket. This is also unacceptable. Registered nurses not only oppose the deadly Republican health bill, but we are strongly urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a single-payer health care system so that every single person living in the United States has access to health care as a basic human right.

And this is what Americans want to see. A poll by Pew Research, published just last week, showed that 60% of Americans believe the federal government should be responsible for ensuring health coverage for all Americans.

On behalf of the 150,000 registered nurses represented by National Nurses United, who work at the bedside caring for everyone who lives in this nation when they are sick, I urge the Senate to continue to reject the atrocious Better Care Reconciliation Act and to instead move forward with a single-payer system to ensure guaranteed health care for all.

NNU has been outspoken in their opposition to Republican health care proposals. Read more about their specific objections.

Kenneth Quinnell Wed, 07/12/2017 - 11:26
Kenneth Quinnell

Working People Need to Know If We Can Trust Donald Trump’s NLRB Nominees to Protect Our Freedoms

1 week 3 days ago
Working People Need to Know If We Can Trust Donald Trump’s NLRB Nominees to Protect Our Freedoms Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump chose two nominees for the National Labor Relations Board whose commitment to the freedom of working people to come together and negotiate is seriously in doubt. These two men, Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel, have records of actively trying to strip working people of their freedoms. 

Republicans are rushing to get these nominations through, but it is imperative that the Senate uses upcoming hearings and meetings to find out whether these nominees will side with working people or the richest 1% of Americans. NLRB decisions and actions have a real impact on the lives of working people, particularly the ability to join together with co-workers to advocate for positive change.

Of the nominations, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

Marvin Kaplan has never practiced labor law, and his experience comes from crafting legislation for politicians that rigs the rules against working people. William Emanuel has a long record of practicing labor law on behalf of employers, most recently at one of the most infamous union-busting law firms in the country. On their face, the resumes of both nominees appear to be in direct conflict with the mission of the NLRB.

Emanuel, a member of the staunchly anti-working people legal organization,  the Federalist Society, has extensive experience representing employers in collective bargaining, union elections and unfair labor practice proceedings under the National Labor Relations Act. Recently, he filed a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that employers should be allowed to require employees to waive their right to file class-action lawsuits or any other method of joining with others in seeking relief for rights violations. Emanuel has directly worked on numerous issues currently before the NLRB, raising serious questions about his ability to be impartial on those cases.

Kaplan hasn’t ever practiced labor law. His only related experience is in staffing a couple of Republican, anti-worker committees in Congress and helping run a series of oversight hearings criticizing the NLRB under President Barack Obama. He drafted legislation to overturn several NLRB actions that strengthened the freedom of working people join together. Like Emanuel, Kaplan has actively worked on numerous issues he would have to rule on if confirmed to the NLRB, calling into question his own impartiality on those cases.

Kenneth Quinnell Tue, 07/11/2017 - 12:25

Tags: President Donald Trump

Kenneth Quinnell

The Economy Adds 222,000 Jobs in June, and Unemployment Little Changed at 4.4%

2 weeks ago
The Economy Adds 222,000 Jobs in June, and Unemployment Little Changed at 4.4% BLS

The U.S. economy added 222,000 jobs in June, and unemployment was little changed at 4.4%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This continues the recovery of the labor market at a tempered rate, which means the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee should continue to let the economy grow and not raise interest rates.

In response to the June jobs numbers, AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs tweeted:

Republican efforts to repeal ACA causes uncertainty in health care, job gains slow. pic.twitter.com/jVO0tEMEza

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 7, 2017

Broader measures of labor market slack show an up tic in June, including the marginally attached and those seeking full-time work @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/8JQZKQCc4J

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 7, 2017

Trump Effect: ACA repeal fight and uncertainty of Medicaid cuts leads to losses in nursing care facilities down 10,700 over last June pic.twitter.com/qS5Zi915F7

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 7, 2017

Over the year, average hourly earnings up 2.5%, good but still modest. Still no reason for the Fed to raise rates again this year. @AFLCIO

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 7, 2017

Unemployment rates for Blacks and whites with Associate Degrees and Bachelor Degrees go in opposite directions over last June--up for Blacks pic.twitter.com/jWl4N3g1MG

— William E. Spriggs (@WSpriggs) July 7, 2017

Last month’s biggest job gains were in health care (37,000), professional and business services (35,000), food services and drinking places (29,000), social assistance (23,000), financial activities (17,000), and mining (8,000). Employment in other major industries, including construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, and government, showed little change over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for teenagers (13.3%), blacks (7.1%), Hispanics (4.8%), adult men (4.0%), adult women (4.0%), whites (3.8%) and Asians (3.6%) showed little or no change in June.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed in June and accounted for 24.3% of the unemployed.

Kenneth Quinnell Fri, 07/07/2017 - 12:27
Kenneth Quinnell

During Congressional Recess, Mitch McConnell Ducks Working People Protesting Trumpcare

2 weeks 1 day ago
During Congressional Recess, Mitch McConnell Ducks Working People Protesting Trumpcare Berry Craig

Senator Mitch McConnell sure does seem to be avoiding his constituents in the wake of his ongoing efforts to strip 22 million Americans (and over 230,000 Kentuckians) of health care in order to give yet another tax cut to the wealthiest 1%. But working people are joining together to fight back against this cynical ploy. Here are two stories of workers standing up to McConnell in Kentucky.

From Paducah:

"The fact that Sen. McConnell chose to slip quietly into Paducah and Mayfield speaks volumes," said a local Democratic activist who didn't join the protest. "He obviously thinks Trumpcare is not popular."

"So he chose to meet with his base voters, not hold a town hall for the general public."

"Will protesting make any difference in what he thinks? I don’t know," confessed 89-year-old Mary Jane Littleton of nearby Murray, the seat of Calloway County, which Trump won with 64.6%, a tad over 2% more than his statewide edge.

"But it’s like a lot of things," mused Littleton, a veteran Democratic activist whose first choice for president in 1976 was liberal populist Oklahoma Sen. Fred Harris. "You don’t know ‘till you try. Some things work and some don’t, but you don’t stop trying."

...

"He won’t hear us," said Jennifer Morrison, a Murray State University professor. "He is in this nice air-conditioned building with these nicely-dressed people who showed up in these fancy cars.

"He is ignoring his constituents again."

From Elizabethtown:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell probably figured he was on friendly turf Friday in Elizabethtown, the county seat, where he showed up for a local GOP fund-raiser.

"But some folks decided to let the senator know they aren’t happy with him or his healthcare plan," Hardin countian Jim Pence posted on his feisty Hillbilly Report blog. "Deep Red Elizabethtown, Kentucky used to be a very welcoming place for Senator Mitch McConnell, but it ain’t now."

...

Audrey Morrison, 68, came from Louisville to join her daughter, a Planned Parenthood intern. 

"I hope that we persist," she told Morgan Watkins of the Louisville Courier-Journal, because the GOP has yet to close the deal on repealing and replacing the ACA. 

Nonetheless, she didn't think the rally would change McConnell's mind. "I think he’s been bought and sold. I don’t think anything’s going to make a difference to him," Watkins quoted her. 

Kenneth Quinnell Thu, 07/06/2017 - 10:14
Kenneth Quinnell

Preventing Another Rana Plaza: A Model for Holding Corporations Accountable

3 weeks ago
Preventing Another Rana Plaza: A Model for Holding Corporations Accountable IndustriALL

The roof collapsed, trapping thousands of workers for days. The world watched, in horror, as rescue crews scrambled to pull working people out of the debris. When the search was over, 1,134 had died and approximately 2,500 were injured.

This tragic incident occurred on April 24, 2013, in Dhaka District, Bangladesh. The collapse of Rana Plaza brought worldwide scrutiny to the poor and unsafe conditions of sweatshops in this Asian nation. The victims were garment workers who were sewing brand-name clothing for multinational corporations. Most of them earned just enough money to feed their families.

The tragedy in Rana Plaza shed light on the practices of multinational corporations that utilize the global supply chain to lower costs, even if this means risking the lives of hardworking and vulnerable people. At the same time, this unfortunate incident pushed many of these corporations to work with the global labor movement to reach agreements aimed at improving working conditions in Bangladesh.

As a result, today IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union joined leading fashion brands in signing a new Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

The new agreement, which is an extension to one signed in May 2013, will extend independent, expert building safety inspections for three more years for all covered factories, ensuring that safety improvements achieved under the first accord will be maintained, and that new problems in any factory will be addressed. The hope is that this agreement can become a model for holding corporations accountable in global supply chains throughout various sectors.

The agreement, announced at the OECD Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct being held Paris, so far has been signed by Kmart Australia, Target Australia, Primark, H&M, Inditex (Zara), C&A, Otto, KiK, Aldi South, Aldi North, Lidl, Tchibo, LC Waikiki, Loblaw and PVH. A further seven brands—Esprit, Hüren, Bestseller, Wibra, Schmidt Group, N Brown Group and Specialty Fashion Group Australia—have committed to signing.

IndustriALL General Secretary Valter Sanches and UNI Global Union Deputy General Secretary Christy Hoffman issued a press release expressing support for the agreement.

According to this release, the new agreement “puts greater emphasis on the right of workers to organize and join a union, recognizing worker empowerment is fundamental to assuring workplace safety.”

Dennis Loney Fri, 06/30/2017 - 12:37

Tags: Bangladesh, Global Labor Movement, Global Supply Chains

Dennis Loney

Davis-Bacon Is Not Racist, and We Need to Protect It

3 weeks 1 day ago
Davis-Bacon Is Not Racist, and We Need to Protect It Wikimedia Commons

In 1931, a Republican senator, James Davis of Pennsylvania, and a Republican congressman, Robert Bacon of New York, came together to author legislation requiring local prevailing wages on public works projects. The bill, known as Davis-Bacon, which was signed into law by President Herbert Hoover, also a Republican, aimed to fight back against the worst practices of the construction industry and ensure fair wages for those who build our nation.

Davis-Bacon has been an undeniable success—lifting millions of working people into the middle class, strengthening public-private partnerships and guaranteeing that America’s infrastructure is built by the best-trained, highest-skilled workers in the world.

Yet today, corporate CEOs, Republicans in Congress and right-wing think tanks are attacking Davis-Bacon and the very idea of a prevailing wage. These attacks reached an absurd low in a recent piece by conservative columnist George Will who perpetuated the myth that Davis-Bacon is racist.

“As a matter of historical record, Sen. James J. Davis (R-PA), Rep. Robert L. Bacon (R-NY) and countless others supported the enactment of the Davis-Bacon Act precisely because it would give protection to all workers, regardless of race or ethnicity,” rebutted Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, on the Huffington Post.

“The overwhelming legislative intent of the Act was clear: all construction workers, including minorities, are to be protected from abusive industry practices,” he continued. “Mandating the payment of local, ‘prevailing’ wages on federally-funded construction projects not only stabilized local wage rates and labor standards for local wage earners and local contractors, but also prevented migratory contracting practices which treated African-American workers as exploitable indentured servants.”

The discussion surrounding Davis-Bacon and race is a red herring. The real opposition to this law is being perpetrated by corporate-backed politicians—including bona fide racists like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)—who oppose anything that gives more money and power to working people. For decades, these same bad actors have written the economic rules to benefit the wealthiest few at our expense. King and nine Republican co-sponsors have introduced legislation to repeal Davis-Bacon, a number far smaller than the roughly 50 House Republicans who are on record supporting the law. King and his followers simply cannot fathom compensating America‘s working people fairly for the fruits of their labor. Meanwhile, after promising an announcement on Davis-Bacon in mid-April, President Donald Trump has remained silent on the issue.

So the question facing our elected officials is this: Will you continue to come together—Republicans and Democrats—to protect Davis-Bacon and expand prevailing wage laws nationwide? Or will you join those chipping away at the freedom of working men and women to earn a living wage?

We are watching.

Jackie Tortora Wed, 06/28/2017 - 14:36

Tags: Davis-Bacon Act

Jackie Tortora

Working Families All Over the U.S. Mobilize Against the Senate Republican Health Care Bill

3 weeks 2 days ago
Working Families All Over the U.S. Mobilize Against the Senate Republican Health Care Bill AFL-CIO

While the Senate Republican leaders announced they were going to postpone their vote on their version of a health care bill that actually takes away care from 22 million people, working people from across the country took to the streets to express their opposition to this cruel piece of legislation.

We still need to hold strong and beat back this bill. Call your senators today: 888-865-8089. 

Check out some tweets and clips that show just a snapshot of this activity, which is expected to go into the congressional recess, where lawmakers on Capitol Hill will need to answer to their constituents:

In Bangor, Maine, working people and labor unions gathered to discuss the impacts the law would have on Mainers, including 117,900 people losing coverage, and urged Sen. Susan Collins to oppose the bill. 

In Toledo, Ohio, more than 100 people gathered to raise opposition to the Senate bill. 

From the Toledo Blade:

Organizers of the demonstration included the AFL-CIO, Our Revolution in Northwest Ohio, and the Ohio Alliance for Retired Americans.

Originally, the protest’s goal was to persuade Mr. Portman to oppose the bill, said George Tucker, executive secretary of the Greater Northwest Ohio AFL-CIO.

But the event turned more festive in light of the afternoon’s developments in Washington.

“This should be a celebration because just a few hours ago Mitch McConnell pulled that bill for after the Fourth of July,” said Dennis Slotnick, chair of Our Revolution in Northwest Ohio. “He didn’t want to spoil people’s holiday.”

Kicking off “Stop playing games with our health care" w/ activists, @ohioaflcio @PPAOhio & more at the Statehouse pic.twitter.com/lWkqO18do1

— For Our Future Ohio (@ForOurFutureOH) June 27, 2017

Derek Dodds of @metrohealthCLE speaks of the harm GOP health bill will do. #ProtectOurCare @AFLCIO @AFSCME pic.twitter.com/Hq5vqnDJ2X

— Ohio AFL-CIO (@ohioaflcio) June 27, 2017

In Nevada, working families and people and their unions gathered on a pedestrian bridge on the Las Vegas strip and called on Sen. Dean Heller to oppose the health care bill, which is nothing more than a massive transfer of wealth to the richest 1%. 

From the U.S. News and World Report:

Nevada State AFL-CIO executive secretary-treasurer Rusty McAllister in a statement says the Senate bill gives wealthy individuals "a tax break at the expense of access to affordable, quality care for Nevada working families."

NV labor, community, seniors: Healthcare is a human right! @SenDeanHeller must #ProtectOurCare, vote no on Senate #healthcarebill pic.twitter.com/lxPQxGhDx8

— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) June 27, 2017  

Geoconda Arguello Kline: Its shameful what GOP senators are doing to working ppl, children, seniors in the Senate #Healthcarebill pic.twitter.com/0taOBrCgfe

— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) June 27, 2017

Headline on Portman opposing health bill after it was yanked surrounded by @AFLCIO ad facts that show why he shoulda opposed it all along pic.twitter.com/MB0Ef2QNGk

— Ohio AFL-CIO (@ohioaflcio) June 28, 2017

#Vegas crowd out in the heat to say no to Senate #Healthcarebill #HealthcareNotWealthcare for Nevadans! pic.twitter.com/myrf0jYVgb

— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) June 27, 2017

Some signage to greet @senrobportman at Ohio airports today.  #ProtectOurCare @AFLCIO pic.twitter.com/BHMLSCdsgc

— Ohio AFL-CIO (@ohioaflcio) June 23, 2017 Jackie Tortora Wed, 06/28/2017 - 10:03

Tags: Affordable Care Act

Jackie Tortora

Trying to Put It in Words

3 weeks 4 days ago
Trying to Put It in Words

The Republican Senate members have laid another egg in their attempt to "repeal and end Obamacare." As with the House Republican bill, polling data shows the majority of Americans reject the Senate version. The elephant in the room is what makes the whole exercise stink. That elephant is the unwavering faith in the private marketplace to decide who gets what in our society. Americans sense something is fundamentally wrong but search for words to express this problem.

The Tea Party Republicans objected to the Affordable Care Act as an unwarranted expansion of government. Honestly, they were not concerned with addressing the problem of the large and growing stress on American households to access health care without going bankrupt. In their tiny-minded world, lack of anything, from housing to education to health care, is a matter of personal priorities and market choices. Therefore, if people do not have health insurance, it is because they do not want to buy it.

Trying to negotiate with that extreme view, then-President Barack Obama struck a compromise position on health care, invoking a public interest in health and declaring health insurance a personal responsibility. The ACA strikes the middle ground in softening the Tea Party's approach to caring about the high cost of health insurance and, therefore, has the government either buying insurance for those with very low incomes (by extending eligibility for Medicaid) or subsidizing those of modest incomes in meeting their "personal responsibility."

The initial revolt against the ACA was against the government creation of a new personal mandate, which to the Tea Party was an intrusion to force people to buy something they did not view as a high enough priority to forgo other wants like housing or education. Moreover, while the exchanges were a private marketplace, the Tea Party objected to taxes subsidizing people buying health insurance.

What stinks in all this is that access to health care really does not belong in the marketplace. Too much of health fits into the normal space of a public good. In fact, the portion of health care that belonged in the public good space made the ACA such an ugly compromise, angering both the right and the left, by making it an individual mandate to buy health insurance.

A public good has several characteristics. One common problem is the free rider problem, resulting from providing a good where it is difficult to exclude usage. Examples include clean air and proper functioning roads. If you live in a nation with people who are healthy because of proper infrastructure investments like proper sanitation, then certain diseases are not going to be very common, like cholera. But how would you exclude someone from the sanitation system? Second, when the externalities of a good are positive, then people will tend to under consume them because people other than the purchaser will benefit. Living in a society of well-educated people helps democracies function and makes it easier to start a business needing highly trained or trainable workers for instance. But because education can be personally expensive, left as a private good, many people would not get enough education to help economic growth or support democratic institutions. Health is similar. If people get their children inoculated against childhood diseases like measles and whooping cough, the diseases become less prevalent and your children will be less likely to get them. Third, some goods are rights. You have the right to life, which means personal safety, so we accept police as a public good. Many people think that the right to life also means access to health care, the ultimate in the necessity of a right to life. All modern advanced industrialized economies, except the United States, assume health care is a publicly provided human right.

When something is a private good, and we leave it to the market to allocate, then price is the signaling device and the rationing mechanism. The price of a good, as a popular automobile, sends a signal to automakers which type of cars to build. In addition, the price rations who will get the automobile and who will not. If your income is too low, or if you do not care that much about the specifics of any particular automobile, you will not buy a high-priced popular car. In health, this can have the two drawbacks mentioned. Some people will not contribute, because they will get some of the benefits of living in a healthier advanced economy, even if they do not themselves spend their own money to get healthy. Further, some people will not buy enough health insurance, leaving it to others to support our health infrastructure. Imagine how we could have adequate emergency room space if no one had health insurance and, instead, assumed that hospitals would exist and be properly staffed when people needed an emergency room if they had an appendicitis. Worse, some people will be priced out of the market. Health insurance will be too expensive, and their health will likely suffer from it. The results are death by poverty. These results are not equivalent to Janis Joplin’s prayer for the Lord to buy her a Mercedes-Benz.

The United States relies, more than other advanced economies, on private, market-based provisions of major human capital investments like education and health and personal investments like housing. The result is that a higher share of U.S. GDP (gross domestic product, the value of all the new goods and services in a country) is consumption (items bought by private households). In a middle-income nation, such as the United States through 1986, where the majority of income is earned by the middle 60% of the population, this has a lot of virtues. One of which is that providers aim to please this income group because they are the majority of the economy (in a market-based system where price is the rationing tool, it is "one dollar one vote," hence the majority of the economy is where the majority of the income lies). And, it means that the rise in prices will follow the income growth of the economic majority, assuring they can continue to be customers. However, today, the majority of income is with the top 20% of income earners, and in a few short years will be the top 10% of earners. That means prices and goods and services today tilt to the top 20% and will soon follow the incomes of the top 10%. Think about why it is never difficult for middle-aged men to buy their little blue pill, but sometimes your doctor may run out of flu shots.

From 2000-2009, the share of Americans getting private health insurance through their employer declined from 63.9% to 55.8%. Employer-based private health insurance had provided the bedrock of the American health care system. Medicaid was introduced in 1965 to fill the void for low-wage workers whose employers tended not to provide health insurance. This is the typical U.S. policy response when price rations portions of people out of the market. From 1965-1986, while America was a middle-income nation, the average wage of production and non-supervisory workers increased by a factor of 3.6, while health care costs increased by factor of 4.3. But, from 1986-2008, health care costs increased by a factor of 3.3 while the average wage went up by only a factor of 2.2. Health care costs were rising much faster than wages for the middle class. The increase in health care more resembled the increase in income for the top 20%, the economic majority. As a result, not just the poor, but middle-class workers were being priced out of health care, too.

The ACA solution was an extension of subsidies to those who cannot afford a necessity. The flaw was that insurance is cheapest when it is universal, including both high- and low-risk individuals in the pool to share broadly in the risks. This is why Social Security is so effective in covering workers’ families against premature death, an onset of a disability or living into old age. It is why Medicare works as health insurance for the elderly, some of whom are very healthy and some who are critically ill. Creating an adequate market for something that is a public good proved too difficult, especially in those states with Republican governors who refused to extend public health coverage by expanding Medicaid and balked at promoting the private health insurance marketplace.

While Republicans claimed it was the private market exchanges that failed, nothing in their proposed legislation addressed fixing those market places. Clearly, this was a cynical manipulation. In the first place, Republicans objected to the rules that standardized health insurance policies, providing the information to make market-based comparisons in buying health insurance. A market cannot function efficiently if consumers do not have the information to compare products. Consequently, Republicans insistence on destroying that market information will make the problems of the exchanges worse. Second, shrinking the public health coverage that Medicaid expansion provided will make the insurance markets less efficient because fewer healthy people will be able to afford health insurance, leaving more people with poor health or pre-existing health issues seeking private health insurance. This will make pricing in the exchanges uncertain, but certainly higher for people who do not have employer-provided health insurance—a group that is growing.

Republicans proved there is no market-based solution to fixing the ACA. It already was a damaged proposition precisely because it sought a market-based solution to something that was inherently a public good.

Since the Republicans did not address the shortcomings of the ACA, one can only conclude the intention was a giant tax cut for wealthy Americans. Further, in a nation where income inequality is at a crisis level, exacerbating income inequality by piling even more money on the entitled rich will hurt economic growth, a point well documented by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Monetary Fund.

The only solution to fix the shortcomings of the ACA is a public good approach. The most efficient way to do health insurance is not through an analogy to state-based automobile insurance mandates because, ultimately, automobiles are a private good and people can opt out of owning a car. Instead, health insurance is like Social Security. Because becoming unhealthy is a universal risk, and because people having health insurance provides so many public benefits, it is best provided as a public good like Social Security and Medicare. The only issue for debate is what form the public good should be funded and care allocated.

The ACA slowed health care cost escalation; in no small part by redefining the market for health care away from the top 20% of income toward the middle. By expanding the demand, the price point in delivery shifted. Making health care a true public good would help the United States achieve the lower per capita health expenditures of other advanced economies who treat health as a public good.

The stinking elephant in the room is an undying faith in the private marketplace. This will continue to be an ever-growing problem. When 10% of the people hold half the income in the nation, those 10% will be consuming more than half of everything produced in the United States. That does not matter that much if they are buying half the Cadillacs, but it does matter when it is half the health care, half the housing and half the education. A nation so lopsided is one that will not, and cannot, develop. Just look at the problems to be solved in Mexico and Turkey, the nations we are approaching.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 06/26/2017 - 11:41
Kenneth Quinnell

Join Culinary Workers in Nevada in Asking Sen. Heller to Oppose Medicaid Attacks

3 weeks 4 days ago
Join Culinary Workers in Nevada in Asking Sen. Heller to Oppose Medicaid Attacks

Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and community partner PLAN (the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada) released a new video asking Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to protect Medicaid. The video tells the stories of 10 Nevadans who are on Medicaid and what the program means in their lives. They are urging Heller to oppose attempts to strip Nevadans of the health care they not only have a right to, but which enables them to experience the freedom that other Americans enjoy.

Local 226 members in Las Vegas have been dedicating their lunch breaks to make hundreds of calls to Heller's office to urge him to do the right thing.

Local 226 Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello Kline said: "Sen. Heller must stand up for the working families who toil every day to make ends meet and do everything they can to provide for their families. We will hold Sen. Heller to his word—everyone should have access to health care—and that means voting against any bill that will result in anyone losing coverage."

If you are one of Heller's constituents in Nevada, call 702-388-6605 and ask him to do the right thing.

Kenneth Quinnell Mon, 06/26/2017 - 09:56
Kenneth Quinnell
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