Saturday, February 4, 2017

Plan the work, Work the plan

Three times a year, leadership from around the country of the Nurses and other Professional division of AFT meet in policy and planning meetings.
This week, Jean Morningstar, Jo Ann Chapin and I attended from Connecticut.
For two days we met in a windowless room to discuss and strategize, guided by what we have heard from our members.
While the battles and concerns in each state differ, there are many that are the same.

As we sat there last Sunday, we were but 9 days into the Trump administration, yet the world had changed.
Let me be clear.
The right of workers to stand together in unity is under attack.
Our public education system is under attack.
Our access to quality, affordable healthcare is under attack.
The defense of our environment is under attack.
Our rights to due process are under attack.
Our economic stability is under attack.

In what has been now 15 days, the new president, through executive orders and selections for cabinet positions, has reshaped our country.
Far from making America great again, in which the common citizen's voice is heard and respected, he is making America great for the wealthy, at the expense of the rest of us.

This is the new reality we are faced with and the atmosphere in which our discussions took place.
But the AFT is a union of 1.6 million members in 5 divisions.  Our task was not to tackle all our challenges, our task was to look at healthcare.

So we got to work.
Large group discussions, followed by breakouts into small groups.
Flip charts and magic markers.
The flow of ideas.
White sheets lining the walls by the time we were done.

Back in the large group we shared the ideas each individual group had developed.
Some were common to most groups, some unique.
Then discussion on these ideas.

All of this will be summarized by staff and shared with the entire group for comments.
From that will come a strategy direction for the executive board to combine with similar planning from the other divisions.

The challenges to healthcare start with the selection of Tom Price as Secretary of HHS.
As a U S Representative, he was a leading voice on repealing the ACA.
He also supports cuts and block grants to Medicaid and privatization of Medicare.
His stance on all of these issues is problematic.
Additionally, we face problems with decreased choice due to consolidation and corporatization of hospitals, price gouging on pharmaceuticals, surprise billing, and medical debt.
These issues will effect the healthcare and pocketbook of all Americans.
State, local and personal budgets will be effected.

Repeal of the ACA without a replacement will result in 28 million Americans losing health insurance, will mean parent's insurance for children up to age 26 will end, will mean those with pre-existing conditions like cancer will be unable to get coverage, will mean those with a serious illness will hit their lifetime maximum coverage and lose insurance, and will eliminate preventative care coverage which in the long run saves money.

We have a lot of work to do.
But we have 1.6 million intelligent and dedicated members and we are part of a larger movement of concerned citizens from labor and community.
But more than that....
As healthcare professionals, we have an ethical responsibility to act to protect our patients, just as educators have to protect their students and public servants to protect those they serve.
The AFT is a union of professionals who carry with them, as a result of their career choices, extra ethical responsibilities and commitment.

We will defend our values, and we will do so with a plan.

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