The extraordinary campaign to defeat much-needed health insurance reform in the U.S. is heating up again, with misinformation and fear-mongering reaching near-hysterical levels. Among the latest attempts is a totally false claim by GOP National Chairman Michael Steele that the proposed legislation would encourage disabled veterans to commit suicide rather than be a financial burden to their families and communities.
Steele has also become a leading shill for another false claim that seniors would face rationing and reduced care. “…under the Democrats’ plan, senior citizens will pay a steeper price and will have their treatment options reduced or rationed,” declared Steele, who also said the GOP now wants to protect Medicare after years of trying to gut the government-run health care program.
“It should be no surprise that the Republican Party — which whipped many Americans into a frenzy at town-hall meetings on health care this month by spreading one lie about reform after another — has now taken to scaring seniors who have nothing to fear and much to gain from reform,” said Democratic National Committee spokesperson Brad Woodhouse in a response to the claims by Steele.
Among the other myths and lies being promoted by opponents to health insurance reform is that there is no health care crisis in this country and that the current system is a free market “success” that should not be tampered with. This view ignores the fact that nearly 40 million Americans have no coverage at all and that insurers regularly deny, ration and terminate coverage they unilaterally deem to be too expensive or unnecessary.
After voting to join the IAM in April 2009, more than 800 Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) Specialists employed by Lockheed Martin recently won their first contract. Eligible voters at thirteen sites across the U.S. approved the accord by a 68 percent margin.
The new contract establishes guaranteed annual pay raises, defined seniority rights, an effective grievance and arbitration procedure and much more.
Ratification of the new contract caps a two-year effort by AFSS Specialists to win IAM representation. After a one-vote loss in an election in 2008, the Specialists came back to win a new election in 2009. They immediately elected a negotiating committee, had the committee go though and an intensive Negotiations Preparations course at the IAM’s William W. Winpisinger Education Center in June, and negotiated a first contract by August.
“The AFSS Negotiating Committee did an outstanding job dealing with Lockheed Martin and balancing the interests of thirteen AFSS locations across the country,” said IAM Aerospace Coordinator John Crowdis, who led the negotiating team along with Aerospace Coordinator Ray Moffatt. “Congratulations to this group of professionals who held together during a two-year organizing drive and a complex negotiation to win this first agreement.”
Members of Local 1947 in Fond du Lac, WI, this week overwhelmingly rejected a proposal from Mercury Marine that would eliminate pensions, jobs and health care for thousands of Wisconsin workers and their families.
“Despite progress on every major issue and a commitment by the IAM to continue bargaining, the company balked in the final hours and added terms and conditions that assured members would reject the offer,” said IAM Midwest Territory GVP Philip Gruber.
Mercury Marine repeatedly claimed a “yes” vote would preserve jobs and keep the company headquartered in Fond du Lac, however, the company refused to make that commitment in writing, leaving many employees convinced the company fully intended to move production out of Fond du Lac, regardless of the vote outcome.
“Mercury Marine has been threatening these workers and this community for weeks,” said Gruber. “Some companies may hint at dire consequences as a bargaining tactic, but rarely do we see such extortion in plain view. It’s unethical, it’s un-American and I respect any worker who stands up and refuses to be bullied.
“Despite the outcome of the vote, we will always work with Mercury Marine to improve quality, reduce unit cost and protect the brand,” said Gruber. “We are open to meet with the company to discuss these matters in good faith.”
If right wing radio demagogues and insurance industry lobbyists succeed in killing health care legislation, the average employer-sponsored premium for family coverage could rise from $12,298 in 2008 to $23,842 by 2020, according to a new study by the longtime charity organization, The Commonwealth Fund.
However, if leaders were able to slow premium growth by one percentage point in each state, the report shows employers and families would save an average $2,571 per premium for family coverage by 2020. And, if growth could be slowed even more by 1.5 percentage points, yearly savings would equal $3,759.
Commonwealth Senior Vice President Cathy Shoen says the projected increase will be inevitably passed on to workers and continue to eat away at middle-class incomes. “With health spending projected to double if we stay on our current path, middle- and lower-income families are at high risk of losing their coverage or facing long-term stagnant incomes,” says Shoen. “Employers and employees share premium costs, but we know that take-home pay and retirement savings are being sacrificed to maintain health benefits. Reforms that slow the growth of health-care costs could go a long way toward health and financial stability for working families.”
Union flags in Seattle were lowered to half mast this week, in tribute to Jimmy Darrah, 53, who passed away while being treated for a recently diagnosed illness. Darrah served the District 751 membership as the grievance coordinator in addition to a variety of leadership positions for his local and the district.
“His spirit and constant positive attitude was an inspiration to anyone who got to be around him. We have truly lost a champion and a journeyman trade unionist,” said Western Territory GVP Gary Allen, who called Darrah a true gentleman who never met a stranger. “Our hearts and prayers go out to his wife, Holly, and to all of his family and friends.”
District 751 P/DBR Tom Wroblewski added, “Jimmy was always willing to jump in and help. His spirit and energy were an example for all of us. This membership has been very lucky to have had him in positions of leadership and service and he will be sorely missed. Our hearts go out to his family. We have lost a good friend, far too early.”
If you haven’t already, you need to make your hotel reservations for the upcoming IAM Communications Conference no later than tomorrow, August 26, to get the special group rate of $229.00 (CDN) for a single or double room. After tomorrow, we can’t guarantee the special rate, or the availability of a room.
The 2009 Communications Conference will be held Sept. 27-30 at The Westin Bayshore in Vancouver, British Columbia. Reservations can be made by calling toll-free 1-800-WESTIN-1 (1-800-937-8461), or by calling The Westin Bayshore directly at 604-682-3377. Be sure to indicate you are attending the IAM Communications Conference.
Also, there’s still time for U.S. members to obtain their passport. Contact the U.S. State Department by clicking here to get an application and further instructions for expedited service.
This promises to be an excellent Conference, with prominent speakers, communications’ skills workshops and the ever-popular Awards Banquet honoring the winners of the 2009 IAM Newsletter and Website Contest. To see a complete list of those winners, click here.
For the Conference call and enrollment application, click here, or call the Communications Department at 301-967-4520.