District 11 Council
Tackles Health Care
Discussions centered on skyrocketing health insurance premiums
as District Council 11 delegates met at the Thunderbird Hotel here Oct. 14-15.
UE leaders from around the North Central States looked at the impact premium
costs have on contract negotiations around the District, and the political
changes union members must demand to make universal health care a reality.
"It is outrageous the way the system is failing people
right now," said District Pres. Carl Rosen.
He pointed out that the U.S. health care system leaves 45
million people with no insurance. The big insurers are slowly forcing less
healthy people out of the system to HMOs who end up with sicker patients.
Meanwhile, smaller employers are getting hit with higher premium increases
than larger employers. An increase of 10 to 20 percent in health insurance can
easily equal 1 percent in wage gains at the bargaining table. Part of the
problem is out-of-control prescription drug costs. Drug companies are by far
the most profitable industry in the U.S. today.
'JUST HEALTH CARE'
Genl. Sec.-Treas. Robert Clark presented delegates with
the Labor Partys "Just Health Care" program, and urged them to
demand answers from their legislators on the issue. "Health care is a
basic human right," said Clark. "Politicians must stop treating it
as a commodity."
With corporate control of our health care, Clark said,
"even those of us with good union coverage have had to fight cost
shifting to workers, denied treatments, decreased prescription coverage, and
limits on our choice of doctors and lifetime spending." The
pharmaceutical, insurance and HMO industries are some of the biggest
contributors of soft money to both major political parties.
Under the Labor Party plan, the U.S. could provide
comprehensive single-payer health insurance for everyone without increasing
the amount we pay as a nation for health care by eliminating insurance
industry profit-taking and bureaucracy.
Employers around the District are trying to pass the health
care squeeze onto their workers. Robert Rudek of Local 1111 in
Milwaukee reported on a difficult arbitration that resulted in the company
taking a $40 per month surcharge from workers who maintain insurance for
spouses who are employed elsewhere. George Brown of Local 1114
in Chicago said that after three final offers from the company and a long
search for decent coverage at a decent cost, workers settled a contract with a
new health insurance provider. Others reported on difficulties settling claims
with their providers.
Delegates were also treated to a "captive audience
meeting," UE-style, with the presentation of a video produced by the
union on the organizing struggles at GATX in Chicago. GATX workers were able
to watch the video in the company break room on their lunch hour due to a new
ruling by the labor relations board. Co-workers testimony on video helped
to solidify UEs second election victory at GATX.
Beth Austin, Local 893 reported on her trip to Mexico with
a UE delegation hosted by the FAT. Union members from around the District
added $225 to contributions made by Local 893 for the children of striking
workers at Morales Brothers Printing. The UE delegation met with the strikers
whose children were unable to attend school because they could not afford the
fees and supplies.
District Council 11 held elections resulting in the following
slate of officers: Pres. Carl Rosen, Vice Pres. Shirley Harrison,
Sec.-Treas. Bob Rudek, Southwest Area Coordinator Bill Austin,
Executive Board members Glenn Bush, Paul Skornia, George McCullum, Karel
Hoogenraad, John Fakler, Robert Morris, Laverne Ollison, John Ross, Dan
Kelley, Rob Russell, and Trustees Shawn Keefe, Vinny Walker, John
Hammes; Alternate Trustee, Mary McElroy.
UE News - 11/00