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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.


Genl. Sec.-Treas. Robert Clark presented delegates with the Labor Party’s "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 UE’s 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

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