Saturday, November 18, 2017

Standing together is the cure

Earlier this week in Japan, the corporation that runs the trains apologize because one of the trains left the station 20 seconds to early. They were afraid they may have inconvenienced their customers.
The same day in Connecticut, Hartford Healthcare Corporation refused to agree to arbitration in a dispute with anthem insurance, a dispute that affected patients cross the state.
(Late yesterday, HHC and Anthem FINALLY came to an agreement with had left patients in limbo for 7 weeks)

“I had heart surgery. My electrophysiologist cardiologist is part of Hartford Health Care. When I contacted BC/BS I was told the doctor was still in network. When I arrived for my appointment, having taken a sick day to do so, I was informed by the nurse that the doctor was not accepting BC/BS patients and that BC/BS had mistakenly told several patients the same information.
I am now overdue for a check up of my heart and am very distressed. This situation must be resolved.”

This was just one of the many stories we received at AFT Connecticut from our members in response to an email we sent them detailing our involvement in the ongoing dispute between Anthem Insurance and Hartford Healthcare Corporation.
Jan, our president, personally answered the emails.
When I pushed back that that was too much for her to do, she would have none of it.
“John,” she said, “I understand, this is my story too.”
Jan recently ended up in the ER and received a bill from Hartford Healthcare stating she owed them nearly $4,000 and that because of the ongoing dispute with Anthem, she was responsible for all of it.
I made a few phone calls.
Turns out, it was a scare tactic designed to get patients to call Anthem in a panic and beg them to settle with Hartford.
In reality, even if the dispute had not been settled, she was responsible for the "out of network" copayment, not the entire bill.
She, and many other patients affected, are but pawns in a cruel chess game between Anthem and Hartford.
It makes me sick.

As Insurance companies and healthcare corporations get larger and larger, and there becomes fewer and fewer of them, we can expect more of these disputes that use patients as the pawns, because there is insufficient regulation in the industry to protect patients.

But hey, we want our state and our country to be “pro business” right?
If we cut regulations and cut corporate tax rates, businesses will be able to expand, become more efficient, and create great jobs and we will all be better, right?
The truth of the matter is that “business ethics” is too often a class taught in university, not a thing in real life.

We allow healthcare corporations and insurance companies to merge unchecked because it is creating a  “pro business” state. Meanwhile, the executives of Anthem and Hartford Healthcare are making millions of dollars a year, while patients suffer as the pawns in their high stake chess game.
It’s sickening!

We push a tax bill through congress that cuts corporate taxes because we are creating a pro business country.
Meanwhile, top campaign donors get “payback”, while the rest of us face higher taxes (and higher insurance premiums if they repeal the individual mandate.)
It’s sickening!

Until workers wake up and realize that we are all in this together and need to stand together in order to have the power to push back, this will continue.

Don’t talk to me about being “pro business."
Tell me you’re “pro patient.”
Tell me you’re “pro student.”
Tell me you’re “pro worker.”

Chemo makes a cancer patient nauseous because its a poison. 
This "pro business" ethics makes me sick for the same reason...
Its a poison.
Workers standing together is the cure.

Connecticut Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney has promised to reintroduce legislation creating a binding arbitration process to settle contract disputes between insurers and hospitals that the parties cannot solve on their own.
I support this.
If healthcare executives and Congress won’t act ethically on behalf of their patients and the electorate, then we need to act for them.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Elections matter

Sometimes things have to get bad, before they can get better.

One year a go, Donald Trump was elected president and the Congress came under Republican control.
This year, in Connecticut, with a very small Democratic majority in the state house and a tie in the senate, we saw unprecedented attacks on working families, unions, and an austerity budget.

In Connecticut, the legislature refused to close tax loopholes that favor the rich.
In Washington, the administration and congress has tried repeatedly to take away healthcare from millions of Americans, and now they are trying to give the rich a tax break!

But...
Last winter, in a special election, AFT Connecticut member and Hartford teacher Josh Hall was elected as a Working Families Party candidate to the state legislature.
We have defeated Obamacare repeal over, and over, and over.
And this past Tuesday, progressives won elections across this country and the state of Maine voted in a referendum to expand Medicaid.
AFT Connecticut endorsed over 100 candidates for municipal office, including over 30 of our own members. Over 70% of our endowed candidates won.
Our members teamed with their communities and door knocked for pro-worker candidates. We passed our literature and had one on one conversations about our endorsed candidates. 
We became active.
We became engaged.

There is much work left for us to do.
But for those of us who believe that America can still be a country of equal opportunity, regardless of race, skin color, religion, etc.....
I see hope.

Those of us who are not of the top 1% must stand together.  
We must believe that a society “of the people, for the people, and by the people,” is possible if we are engaged and active.


Tuesday showed that.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Why bother?

Tuesday is election day.
I know, why bother, for most of us it's just a municipal election.
Nothing important.

Most of us must feel this way.
I read that only about 15% of eligible voters turn out for a municipal election.

Let me remind you.

Many have fought, been injured or even died, for you to have the right to vote.
You owe them to exercise that right.
If only those who criticized others for "not being patriotic, or honoring the flag, or honoring the troops" would vote.....we'd be above 15%
So do it for our troops.

"All politics are local,"
Decisions on how to spend much of your tax money, when to repair the roads and street lights, how to run your school, are made on the local level.
So do it for yourself.

If you work for the town or city, you can elect your boss.
So if you are a teacher, you can vote for the board of education.
If your otherwise work for the city, you can elect the mayor and the board.
So do it for your work.

"Up and coming" political newcomers have to come from somewhere.
Often, they come from having held local office.
Political parties call this "building the bench."
If we don't elect those who hold our values at the local level, they will not be "on the bench" for higher office.
So do it for the future.

Only 15% of eligible voters vote in municipal elections.
This apathy can work to your advantage.
Entire political tides can be turned with only a small number of votes because of apathy if one side or the other mobilizes those who believe in their values.
So do it because of apathy.

It can send a message.
If you are tired of how things are in Hartford (or your state capital) or in Washington, you don't have to wait till 2018 to change things.
You can send a message this week.
You can affect the direction of our country.
So do it for your values.

Elections matter.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Protecting the rich

Let me ask you a question.
How many rich people do you know that are struggling?

OK, you don’t know many or even any rich people.
But how many rich people do you believe are struggling?
How many do you here or read stories of them struggling?

Exactly.

So, why is our president and our congress intent on giving them a tax break?
Why are they intent on cutting healthcare for the working class?
Why, in my state of Connecticut, after getting contract concessions from working class state employees (for the third time in 8 years), after raising taxes on working class teachers, and after eliminating tax deductions for the poor, was the legislature unwilling to ask the rich of Connecticut to pay a little more?

There was a time in this country not so long ago when both political parties believed that just as a CEO has an employment contract, every worker had the right to join together and collectively bargain.
Now only the democrats believe this, and not all of them.
There was a time when “shared sacrifice” meant all shared, not just the poor and working class.

The wealth divide is wider than it has every been.
The difference between CEOs and top management compensation and the working class is at an all time high and it is worse in this country than in any other country in the world.

It’s easy to get frustrated and think there is no way to reverse this trend.
Please don’t do that.

Municipal elections come in just over a week in Connecticut and other states and in some states there are elections for other offices.

Take a look at the candidates.
Look at what they stand for, what they vote for.
And support those that support us, the poor and working class.

In Connecticut, 35 members of AFT Connecticut and others from other unions are running for municipal positions, some as democrats, some under Working Families Party, some cross endorsed. These people deserve our support.
Consider this a step in the right direction.

It’s not about party affiliation, but parties have platforms that state what they stand for, and when every single Connecticut republican (and a handful of Democrats) passed a republican budget that hurt the working class and the poor, they stated clearly what they stood for.
Yes, it was vetoed, but now we have been forced to accept a compromise budget that continues to ask nothing of the rich.

Then again, maybe you know some rich people that are hurting.

Elections have consequences.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Let's make it great!

There have been 2 good things that have come out of the assault on healthcare that began January 20th.
First and foremost, the activism of millions of activists who pushed back against several plans that would have stripped healthcare access from up to 30 million Americans.
Second, the same people pushing repeal and replace, also want to “reform” the tax code, and they were too busy with one horrible piece of legislation to begin work on the second.

Now that they know that even their own supporters think taking healthcare from 30 million Americans is a bad thing, they have decided to leave the dismantling of healthcare up to the president by bankrupting the system through the very process he so, so often criticized President Obama for, executive action.
This gives them time to turn to “tax reform.”
They passed a bill in the senate this week that paves the way for their plan to decrease taxes for the top 1%, increase taxes for working families, and raise the deficits a trillion dollars to do it.
Remember when deficient were considered a problem?
Welcome to the Republican Party of 2017.

Back home in the state of Connecticut, so called moderate democrats voted for and passed a republican budget (also not balanced) that would have taxed teachers, bankrupted Hartford, cut vital services,  and raised taxes on working families,
It was vetoed.
Thank you governor.

Now they must come up with a compromise or our towns will be in a fiscal crisis.
The compromise will not be good.

Such a mess.
What are we to do.
First, as Jimmy says, remember this:
Elections have consequences.

Then remember that against incredible odds, we pushed back on repeal and replace.
We did that because we organized.

We must all be registered to vote.
We must all educate ourselves to vote wisely.
We must step up and run for office.
We must change the makeup of town councils, state legislatures, Congress, and the White House.
Or, we must live with the consequences.

It’s really up to us.

It is possible.
Angie, who became involved in East Hartford because of Bernie Sanders, is now on town boards.
Cindy, who was involved in Plainfield politics is becoming involved in AFT Connecticut’s Legislative Committee.
And across the state, 17 AFT CT members and many others from other unions and progressive organizations, are running for municipal office this year.

T Reed says this will be the last generation of the movement, or the greatest.

Let’s make it great!