The Senate Health Care Bill Must Be Defeated

DSAStatement of the DSA National Political Committee, June 28, 2017

The Senate version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that the Republican leadership hopes to ram through without any hearings or substantive debate poses a grave threat to the well-being of all but the wealthy few. The bill is nothing less than an effort to take coverage away from tens of millions of low-to-moderate income families in order to provide a massive tax cut of $400 billion over the next ten years to the top five percent of income tax payers and to medical instrument and prescription drug companies. DSA urges its members to mobilize and press their Senators (of both parties) to vote against the Senate bill. The fight to defeat a Senate bill will continue through the summer, as the Republicans failed to pass the bill before the July 4th recess. (Longer term, DSA is committed to working on state and federal “Medicare for all” legislation; see below.)

This resistance can best be done through militant constituent visits to Senators’ home or DC offices alone or with other coalition partners, particularly when Senators return to their home districts during the July 4th recess.  At a minimum, constituent phone calls to Senators, especially those who have said the bill is too harsh and/or have hundreds of thousands of people in their states added to Medicaid are important. The key Republican swing votes are Ron Portman (R-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Dean Heller (R-NV). The list of Senate phone numbers and email addresses can be found here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

The Senate bill should be militantly opposed because it will gut Medicaid, a single-payer system that covers 74 million low-income, disabled and elderly Americans. The bill would cut $880 billion over 10 years from Medicaid, over one-quarter of the previous allocation. The 13 million working adults and children added by the 31 states that accepted the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) federal funding of Medicaid coverage for working families earning $22 to $34,000 dollars will lose their coverage by 2023 (with major rollbacks in extent of coverage from 2020 on). In addition, given the large cuts to federal funding of the basic Medicaid program, an estimated additional 14 million more recipients will likely lose Medicaid coverage as states trim their rolls to deal with the lost federal revenue. States unwilling to radically increase their own contributions to Medicaid will be denying nursing home coverage and disability rehabilitation services to millions.

The bill also cuts $300 billion over ten years for premium subsidies for people who do not get insurance through employers and who must buy their own policies. And it eliminates federal subsidies for low-income families out-of-pocket expenses. Doing so would radically increase the already excessive premiums, co-pays and deductibles faced by many ACA beneficiaries. And by eliminating the individual mandate (which incentivizes younger and healthier individuals to buy insurance), insurance pools would increasingly be dominated by the elderly and sick.

But the above are not even the most inhumane parts of the legislation. States will now be free to deny mental health, reproductive services and other crucial medical services from minimal plan requirements. They also will be able to shift individuals with prior health problems into unaffordable “high risk” insurance pools. High risk pools were tried by 35 states before the ACA and almost all failed because of state underfunding.

DSA consistently argued that the ACA inefficiently expanded health insurance coverage by providing a huge federal subsidy to the private health care industry. We did support expanding Medicaid coverage to nearly 13 million working people and their children (another ten million would be added if the remaining 19 Republican states took the federal funds for Medicaid expansion). The Republican bill will begin to cut that program immediately after the 2020 presidential election (the date is not accidental) and eliminate it entirely by 2023.

DSA has always recognized that the Affordable Care Act would prove an inefficient, flawed and politically vulnerable means for expanding health care coverage, because it did so only by providing huge subsidies to an inefficient and profit-seeking private insurance system. Despite the federal subsidies, many moderate-to-low income families have insufficient coverage characterized by outrageously high deductibles and limited access to providers. Thus given the inefficiency and vulnerability of the ACA, DSA will also redouble our efforts to create state single-payer systems (that is, state-level  versions of “Medicare for All”) wherever possible, particularly in blue states such as California, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, etc. We will also continue to join with other coalition partners to build a mass national movement for “Medicare for All,” a movement capable of electing to state legislatures and Congress those truly committed to “healthcare for all.”

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NAFTA: Don’t Make A Bad Deal Worse

Don’t Make a Bad Deal Worse: UE Statement on Renegotiating NAFTA

UE General Executive Board

 

Three years ago, on the 20th anniversary of NAFTA’s passage, North American labor, environmental groups, human rights organizations, and other citizen watchdogs—united to call out the terrible impact of this trade agreement on working people and our communities. As attention returns to NAFTA, now that President Trump has notified Congress officially of his intention to renegotiate, we caution against any belief that his administration will seek a deal benefitting people and the planet. NAFTA benefits corporations and those who have an interest in the free flow of capital, rather than improving the lives of workers, our communities, or the environment. Past attempts to appease concerns from labor and environmentalists have not been meaningful. .

We see the consequences of this failed treaty vividly: Across the continent, workers and families have been hit hard, as evidenced by persistent unemployment, wage stagnation, and record wealth and income inequality. There continues to be a decline in good-paying, union manufacturing jobs, as well as a loss of high-paying jobs in smaller businesses.  In those pockets where manufacturing has expanded, the jobs created have been mostly low wage with little attention to worker health and safety. In Mexico, the jobs that have emerged have been at such low rates of pay that poverty rates have risen—not fallen—since 1994. Mexico has experienced a loss of jobs in agriculture, where heavily-subsidized US corn, sugar, and other commodities led to the collapse of the Mexican farm economy.  Since the implementation of NAFTA, workers in the three countries have suffered, while wealthy investors and big corporations have seen their profits balloon.

 

Communities of North America continue to suffer under NAFTA as corporations continue to exploit our shared environment for profit and pollute our land, air, and water as governments are unable or unwilling to force corporations to clean up hazardous mistakes created by negligence. This is evident from the St. Lawrence River in Québec, which is threatened by fracking from Lone Pine Resources, to the Midwestern plains, where oil leaks from the TransCanada-owned Keystone Pipeline, to the hills of Guadalcázar, where residents pray they have seen the last child born with birth defects from the toxic waste MetalClad has refused to clean up. Corporate profits continue to grow while the health of our communities and environment suffers.

NAFTA enables the unrestricted flow of capital causing misery for working people, including: the forced migration of people looking for jobs; increased rates of homelessness; mental health problems associated with dislocation; higher rates of diabetes and other ailments linked to cheap high fructose corn syrup; and rising violence, particularly against women. NAFTA devastated the Mexican economy, particularly agriculture and family farms by allowing US corporations to dump cheap corn and other staples into Mexico. It is a key reason why millions upon millions of Mexican workers have been forced to migrate north to the US looking for better work.

President Trump says he wants to renegotiate this “bad deal,” but his vague plans are anchored in building a wall for workers and tearing down walls for capital. He makes a xenophobic argument for renegotiation, and we reject its racist and nationalistic orientation. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue have stated that the rejected and discredited Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would be the starting point for a renegotiated NAFTA. Unionists and environmentalists rejected TPP for good reasons and to have that as the administration’s starting point is very troubling.

The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism in NAFTA infringes on sovereignty and citizens’ rights to self-governance by allowing corporations to sue governments who restrain profit-making opportunities. This would have been made more powerful under TPP. TPP would have weakened US health and safety standards, including those that ensure safe pharmaceuticals and food. TPP attacked net neutrality and a free and open Internet. NAFTA was negotiated in the early 1990’s and the internet was not included in the original NAFTA. We expect this to be a major target of the administration’s renegotiation.

We reject the corporate-led vision for a renegotiation of NAFTA and call for a new set of trade policies that prioritize workers common interests and relies on international solidarity as its cornerstone. Any renegotiation of NAFTA must be oriented around the improvement of workers’ lives and protection of the environment focused on those regions of the continent where conditions are the most desperate.

We call for the end of the ISDS protections NAFTA offers to  corporations to exploit working people and the environment.  As we said three years ago, 20 years after the passage of NAFTA, any new treaty must “strengthen governments’ ability to protect social, environmental and labor rights, particularly for migrants.”

We demand, as required by the UN International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions 87 and 98, an end to laws that allow employers to prevent workers from choosing their own unions or from exercising their rights to assemble, organize, and represent workers without any employer interference. This includes an end to attacks in the U.S against unions seeking to negotiate union security clauses with employers.

We demand government investment to create good-paying jobs in our communities, to build affordable housing, accessible public transportation, and green energy production, with quality food, education, and healthcare for all, and with improved access to clean air and water, public parks, and green recreation spaces. All trade negotiations must be opened to civil society participation, which includes prior publication of the texts and the construction of mechanisms for information sharing, social participation and deliberation, while avoiding the imposition of any “fast track”. A renegotiated NAFTA treaty must include effective mechanisms to protect human, labor, and environmental rights with meaningful sanctions and enforcement provisions to assure the supremacy of human rights over corporate privilege.

We support the “Political Declaration of the Encounter of the Social Organizations of Canada, United States, and Mexico” which came out of meetings held in Mexico City on May 26 and 27, 2017. We unite in international solidarity with these goals in mind and are prepared to fight back against any and all attempts to divide or devalue our work, our communities, and our environment.

Reposted from our friends at Portside.

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New England Carpenters Demand Workers Comp for Undocumented Worker Detained by ICE

Diego Low, Metrowest Workers Center

This is an update to the case of José Flores (Injured Worker Detained by ICE in Retaliation).  At 11:30am on May 22, José Flores was released to his family for deferred action due to pressure from Metrowest Worker Center, MassCOSH, and other members of the Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative and legal allies. While this is a victory, the need for financial support has increased, in order to be able to assist the entire family with legal counsel. We are so grateful for the more than $7,500 already raised. Our current goal is to raise another $12,500 for a total of $20,000.  Please consider making a donation here.

Last week, the New England Regional Council of Carpenters released a statement against this kind of retaliation, saying “The New England Regional Council of Carpenters represents all carpenters regardless of their status.  If someone works they deserve to be paid. If they are injured on the job they are entitled to workers compensation coverage. End of story. A worker’s immigration status should not play any role in whether these right apply. Immigration officials going after any worker involved in a workplace dispute has a chilling effect on others exerting their rights under the law.”

We are organizing with a broad-based coalition of allies to speak up against this situation. We know that, beyond the workplace, the threat of ICE tends to drastically reduce the community’s willingness to report any kind of serious situation to authorities, from domestic violence to medical emergencies. This makes our communities far less safe, and provides protection for those who prey on the vulnerabilities of others. We urge you to join us in standing up for the safety of our communities.

The Right to Strike

Will-Strike

For half a century, the loss of the right to strike has moved in lock step with the increase in income inequality. According to an International Monetary Fund study of twenty advanced economies, union decline accounted for about half of the increase in net income inequality from 1980 to 2012. The following is the start of a Boston Review discussion on US workers’ right to strike.

James Gray Pope, Ed Bruno, Peter Kellman

Boston Review

May 22, 2017

In December 2005 more than 30,000 New York City transit workers walked out over economic issues despite the state of New York’s Taylor Law, which prohibits all public sector strikes. Not only did the workers face the loss of two days’ pay for each day on strike, but a court ordered that the union be fined $1 million per day. Union president Roger Toussaint held firm, likening the strikers to Rosa Parks. “There is a higher calling than the law,” he declared. “That is justice and equality.”

The transit strike exemplified labor civil disobedience at its most effective. The workers were not staging a symbolic event; they brought the city’s transit system to a halt. They claimed their fundamental right to collective action despite a statute that outlawed it. For a precious moment, public attention was riveted on the drama of workers defying a draconian strike ban.

How did national labor leaders react?

AFL-CIO president John Sweeney issued a routine statement of support, while most others did nothing at all. To anybody watching the drama unfold, the message was clear: there is no right to strike, even in the House of Labor.

About a decade earlier in 1996, Stephen Lerner, fresh from a successful campaign to organize Los Angeles janitors, had warned in Boston Review that private sector unions faced an existential crisis: density could soon drop from 10.3 percent to 5 percent if unions did not expand their activity beyond the limits imposed by American law. He called for unions to develop broad organizing strategies—industry-wide and regional—and to engage in civil disobedience. Few embraced these radical strategies. Today private sector union density is about 6.5 percent, not quite as low as Lerner predicted, but down from a high of over 30 percent in the mid-1950s. Continue reading

ICE Helps Unscrupulous Employer Shaft Injured Worker

by Paul Garver

0517_workers-comp-ice01-1000x666

Rosa Benitez with her 2 year old son missing her partner and his father Jose Flores

/After working three decades as a union organizer in the USA and assisting unions to organize in other countries, I thought that nothing ruthless and callous employers in collusion with corrupt governments could shock me anymore.

I was wrong.   This story makes my stomach churn and my blood boil.   It appeared on WBUR, the PBS news outlet in Boston, and shared with me by the Metrowest Worker Center in Framingham, MA.   Thanks to WBUR for its extensive and ongoing news coverage on issues relating to immigration, I quote its report in full here:

“Thirty-seven-year-old Jose Flores and his longtime partner, Rosa Benitez, have been living in Massachusetts for almost seven years. The Honduran nationals both entered the United States by illegally crossing the Southern border.

Benitez, 40 and with tired eyes, says she and Flores had to leave Honduras because of the violence.

‘I Came Here To Fight For My Family’

“Like all of the immigrants arriving from other countries,” she said in Spanish, “I came here to fight for my family. That’s why I’m here. Honduras is terrorized by gangs. I can’t live there. My dad was killed by the gangs. They threatened him and told him to pay a fee, but he didn’t pay it.”

The couple has five children together, three of whom are U.S.-born citizens. The oldest is 17 and the youngest is 2 years old. Benitez says since Flores was arrested by federal immigration agents last week, all of the children are scared and asking when their dad is coming home.

The family has had no income for two months. Flores, the sole provider, hasn’t been able to work since the end of March when he fell off a ladder at a job site, breaking his femur bone in his leg and undergoing several subsequent surgeries. After consulting with attorneys, and even though he’s living here illegally, Flores sought compensation from the Boston-based construction company he was working for.

Stacie Sobosik is a workers’ compensation attorney who’s advising Flores, and she says he’s within his rights. “Under case law in Massachusetts, undocumented workers are eligible for the same benefits as any other worker injured in the state,” she said.

Sobosik says she works with plenty of clients who are in the country without documentation and often they’re hesitant to report workplace accidents. The fear is that doing so will result in retaliation from employers in the form of a call to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“And we’ve always been able to tell clients,” Sobosik said, “ICE has better things to do, bigger fish to fry, than to come after an injured worker because their boss has reported them.”

But that’s exactly what Sobosik believes happened to Flores.

Fears Bosses Could Retaliate Against Some Immigrant Workers

Sobosik says she could not have expected what would take place when Flores’ boss offered some cash to help the family and arranged a meeting.

“The employer told this worker where to be, at exactly what time, and immigration was waiting,” Sobosik explained.

Lawyers for Flores say it’s still unclear whether the employer — who, it turns out, had no workers’ comp coverage on the day of Flores’ accident — arranged the arrest that day.

The company, Tara Construction, has declined to comment.

“… Now we have this added fear that, could an employer … use someone’s immigration situation against them?”

Christina Corbaci, an immigration lawyer

Because Flores has orders to be deported back to Honduras, ICE agents had the authority to take him into custody. But the concern for Flores’ immigration attorney, Christina Corbaci, is that this could signal another new enforcement approach by ICE under President Trump.

“Before, I wouldn’t have really had a concern telling someone, ‘Yes, you should go ahead to report something like this and assert your rights,’ ” Corbaci said. “But now we have this added fear that, could an employer in this kind of case just, you know, use someone’s immigration situation against them?”

In an emailed statement, an ICE spokesman said he wouldn’t comment on specific work methods for security reasons. He did say, however, that ICE receives investigative leads and tips from a variety of sources, and through many means and methods.

Flores remains in custody at the Suffolk County House of Corrections. As for the workers’ comp claim, Sobosik, the attorney, says the case is active.

“He’s clearly going to be disabled for quite awhile into the future, his doctors have said at least six months,” she said. “If he stays in the States that long, he should still be eligible, but what happens if he’s deported? That’s a big question mark. We don’t know.”

And his partner doesn’t know what to expect either.

Sitting at the kitchen table with her 2-year-old son playing in the background, Benitez says despite the hardships, she has no regrets about coming to the U.S.

That’s because, she said in Spanish, “This is a country of opportunity … where the voice of one person can be heard.”

The Metrowest Worker Center is an advocate for Jose Fores and for many hundreds of undocumented workers in the Boston area who are routinely cheated of their wages, subjected to dangerous working conditions, and threatened by the criminally negligent employers and sub-contractors who hire them.  With limited resources, this Worker Center, like unions and worker centers around the globe, do what they humanly can. It is raising funds to support Jose Flores, Rosa Benitez and their children at

http://www.mwc-casa.org/home-and-news/injured-worker-detained-by-ice-in-retaliation

UPDATE   5/23 from Diego Low of the Metrowest Worker Center:

The injured worker detained by ICE at the instigation of his employer, Tara Construction, is back with his family.    He was released around noon today under a temporary stay of deportation while investigations proceed regarding his employers retaliation for reporting the injury and pursuing workers comp.  We will continue to pursue sanctions against the employer and to stabilize the status of the worker and his family.  The worker is likely to need at least six months to heal from the workplace injury.   We hope to get the crowd funding site updated so as to raise funds for the substantial legal fees the family is facing.

38,000 ATT Workers Strike

ATT_Strike_Smaller_DSA-StandsWithWorkersUpdate: The Strike is over for now.

CWA union members have been working closely with DSA on organizing efforts across the country. 38,000 CWA folks at AT&T have been working without a contract. This has gone on far too long. Now AT&T workers in 36 states and Washington, DC are on strike.

 

DSA’s national Steering Committee endorses this strike. DSA local groups and individual members are joining striking workers at picket lines across the country. Click here to RSVP for Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Downloadable DSA solidarity signs are available here and here.

Members who can’t join a picket line are encouraged to email AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and tell him to settle now.

UPDATE: DirecTV employees are joining the potential strike as well. Now 40,000 workers are ready to stand up for their livelihoods — and their dignity. Continue reading

North American IUF Affiliates rally at Mondelez shareholder meeting

IUF Global Mondelez Union Network

mondelez

On May 17, members from North American IUF affiliates BCTGM and UFCW rallied in advance of the Mondelez shareholder meeting in Lincolnshire, Illinois to show their commitment to defending quality employment at the company they have helped to build. Over 18 labour organizations were present to express their support; Letters of solidarity from IUF affiliates were also read out to rally participants.

A smaller group of IUF affiliates who attended the shareholder meeting spoke out against the destructive direction in which management has taken the company, urging a more long-term and sustainable strategy for the future. This group supported the shareholder resolution submitted by the national trade union center AFL-CIO calling for measures to mitigate the impact of any future plant closures, an experience all too familiar to Mondelez workers in the US and around the world.

Mondelez recently moved over 500 production jobs from the Nabisco factory in Chicago to Salinas,Mexico.
See more photos of the event here.