Friday, June 26, 2009

Arlene Holt Baker on Health Care Reform

Remarks As Delivered by AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker
National Health Care Reform Rally Washington, DC
June 25, 2009

My name is Arlene Holt Baker. I’m Executive Vice President of the
AFL-CIO and I’m speaking today on behalf of 11 million workers who are
members of AFL-CIO unions.

When Congress finishes its work on national health care reform, voters
will be asking one question of their elected officials: “Does this
mean I will be able to get high quality health care for myself and my
family at a price we can afford?” The answer, my sisters and
brothers, had better be “yes.”

Health care just for the wealthy will not do. Health care without
strong cost controls will not work. And health care without a quality
public plan option to lower costs is totally unacceptable.

As trade unionists, we know what out-of-control health care prices are
doing to our contracts and our family budgets — we’ve been fighting
the fight for affordability for many, many years.

In our brand new 2009 Health Care for America Survey of more than
23,000 people, more than half said they cannot get the health care they
need at prices they can afford. A third of them have to forego basic
medical care because it costs too much. Forty-three percent of those
who have health insurance still can’t get the care they need at prices
they can pay.

Accessibility for all, high quality care and affordability are the
building blocks of a new health care system for America. Nothing works
without all three and affordability is the key. We demand no less, we
will tolerate no less, we will accept no less.

Thank you for being here and for all that you will do in the days

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tell Senator Lincoln to Support REAL Health Care Reform

Senator Blanche Lincoln says she "is evaluating various options to provide affordable, high-quality choices in health care coverage, including the “public plan” option and a non-profit co-op health plan to compete alongside private health insurers." Whatever. It is time to decide whether you want to side with the private insurance companies or with the people.

If any proposal meets these principles, no matter what you call it, it is worthy of support.

  1. National and available everywhere: A strong public health insurance option will be a national public health insurance program, available in all areas of the country. The insurance industry is made of of conglomerates that have national reach. In order to have the clout to compete with the insurance industry and keep them honest, the public health insurance option must be national as well.
  2. Government appointed and accountable: The entire problem with private health insurance is that they aren’t accountable to you or me. A public health insurance option must have a different incentive. A public health insurance option doesn’t have to be a government entity necessarily, but its decision makers must be appointed by government and must be accountable to government.
  3. Bargaining clout: The whole point of health reform is to lower health care costs. Clearly, the insurance industry has failed to lower costs when left to their own devices. As the President says, we need a strong public health insurance option to lower rates, change the incentives in our health care system, and keep the industry honest.
  4. Ready on day one: The private health insurance industry has utterly failed to control health care costs or provide their customers the quality they’ve paid through the nose for. With one person going bankrupt every 30 seconds due to health care costs, we cannot afford to wait any longer for a real fix. We need the public health insurance option to start lowering prices now. That means no trigger.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

IAFF Local 2866 Helping Fight Muscular Dystrophy

Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan dropped money in a firefighter's boot Wednesday to kick off our brothers and sisters from the Fayetteville Fire Department with their Fill the Boot campaign to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Jordan encouraged local residents to support MDA by contributing Friday and Saturday as local firefighters stand at intersections seeking contributions.

"When you fill these boots up, you are doing more than filling them with money," Jordan said. "You are filling them full of hope, help and healing. That's what it's really all about."

Firefighter Bailey Kelley, coordinator for this year's Fill the Boot campaign, said that the Fire Fighters Association has been raising money for MDA for many years. The amount of money raised increased significantly beginning a few years ago after firefighters obtained permits from the city to collect money from motorists at busy intersections.

She said firefighters will be wearing bright yellow vests and holding out boots seeking donations on Friday and Saturday at two different intersections — Shiloh Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and also Joyce Boulevard and Mall Avenue.

Read the full news article here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Arkansas Academics for Employee Free Choice

University of Arkansas faculty from the J William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences held a news conference on campus today. They joined university and college teachers, scholars, and research scientists from both public and private higher education institutions across Arkansas, who are calling for public policy decisions to be informed by facts. Unfortunately, the current national debate on enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act has been distorted by unsupported assertions that ignore the available empirical evidence.

Arkansas Academics for Employee Free Choice today released copies of two recent studies that directly touch on arguments being made in the national debate. The first refutes the claim that the current process is working and documents increasing employer hostility to organizing efforts (No Holds Barred). The second is a survey of four states where majority sign-up is working, and it found no instances of intimidation by either employers or unions (Majority Authorization and Union Organizing in the Public Sector). "In brief, from 2003-2009 in the states studied, a total of 34,148 public sector workers employed in state, county, municipal and educational institutions voluntarily joined a union. Most importantly, contrary to business claims, in 1,073 cases of union certification and in at least 1,359 majority-authorization campaigns, there was not a single confirmed incident of union misconduct". They expressed their hope that Senator Pryor and Senator Lincoln will take the time to review these studies and become better informed by the facts.

In addition, a recent article from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that points out another failure of the current process that can be remedied by the Employee Free Choice Act. Even when employees vote for union representation under current NLRB rules, there is no requirement that employers negotiate in good faith or in a timely manner. Following the article is a timeline documenting the history of one corporate employer that refused to meet with employees for over nine years, and only did so after being ordered to do so by the courts and a long, unnecessary, and expensive legal battle. EFCA would encourage more timely good faith negotiation to avoid arbitration.

Academics for Employee Free Choice sent a letter to Senators Pryor and Lincoln. It is signed by more than 40 academics from across Arkansas, including 18 at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. The letter clearly explains the reasons why they support enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act to make sure that the economic recovery includes everyone and allows working families to share in the American Dream of a better life for themselves and their children.

A Message from NWA Workers Justice Center

Monday, June 1, 2009

MidSouth Union Leadership Institute Postposed

The state federation sponsors of the MidSouth Union Leadership Institute have decided to postpone the Institute until late summer or fall. The labor movement has been extremely busy, focusing on Labor's legislative agendas on health care and the Employee Free Choice Act at the state and national levels.

New dates for the Institute will be announced soon.

If you have registered for the Institute, your registration fees will be returned to you. The sleeping room reservations will be released, but please call to double check that they have been canceled.

In Solidarity,
Alan Hughes, AR
Jimmie Curry, OK
Becky Moeller, TX
Jimmie Lee, TN
Robert Shaffer, MS