End Notes 2007

Financial Justice Health Care Ideas and Issues Labor Organizing Personal Writings

Lisbon        We are pushing this year to a close in fine fashion and full fury.  The vote count in Kenya is proceeding somewhat calmly in a tight contest, we are watching closely for its impact on organizing.  We are shocked by the situation in Pakistan and the assassination of former Prime Minister Bhutto in the middle of her comeback campaign.  But there are also some things that catch the mind’s eye and stick fingers in there that are hard to move.
    Here’s one in the Times that speculates that the unintended (intended!) consequence of Harvard’s 10% of income tuition cap at $18,000 per year may squeeze out lower income student aid:

    Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions and financial aid at the             University of Rochester, where costs are nearly $45,000, said: “Harvard has made it harder for everybody. They’ve given fuel to the argument that colleges are charging more than they should.”

    No, duh!

    From another article in the Times about the burdens being taken on by states to try and deal with health insurance gaps, the statistics jump off the page:

    The essential problem, meanwhile, continues to worsen. The Census Bureau reported that the number of uninsured grew to 47 million in 2006, a one-year increase of 2.2 million. The share of United States residents who had employer-based coverage dropped to 60 percent from 64 percent in 2000, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. And though the rate of growth has slowed, the cost of employer-sponsored premiums still rose by 6.1 percent in 2007, more than double the inflation rate, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    The math means that 1 of every 6 Americans is uninsured.  The increases mean something in dollars and sense as well.  Our own plan is looking at a 7-8% hike in costs.  There’s no containment and no real plan in place that impacts any of this yet.  

    A piece in the New Orleans Times-Picayune on the eve of the public housing destruction debacle noted in passing recently that the tent city in the park in front of City Hall since Katrina has finally been struck:

    Advocates announced Friday that they relocated 249 of New Orleans’ homeless encamped in Duncan Plaza, steps from City Hall, into apartments and temporary hotel rooms over the past month…

    For those at home keeping score that would be 28 months after Katrina that it took public resources and private agencies to find housing for those leftover and left out.

    But of course while the private agencies were celebrating this effort and the announcement of a big grant from Louisiana’s Road Home monies and more expected from the federales, one week later a tragic story runs about the first murder in the French Quarter in 2007:

    “…30 years old, was arrested in the 1200 block of Kerlerec Street on Friday night and booked in the beating death of a 25-year-old Vacherie woman. Police say they were able to quickly connect Davis to the crime in part because of the large homeless population in Woldenberg Park.

    Frequent visitors to New Orleans will recognize the fact that Woldenberg Park runs along the Mississippi River for half of the length of the French Quarter from its head at Canal Street to its foot near Jackson Square and Jax Brewery.  These homeless were only in the French Quarter rather than in front of City Hall, so les bon tempes roulez.

    In a setback for not only unions but free speech period the Bush anti-labor board issued a pretzel ruling that Steve Greenhouse reported on in the Times in a tongue twisted couple of sentences:

    In many past cases, the labor board had ruled that employers engaged in illegal anti-union discriminations if they barred workers from engaging in union-related speech on bulletin boards or telephones when they allowed workers to communicate on bulletin boards or telephones about other matters.

    In its new ruling, the board’s majority wrote that employers can allow workers to use e-mail for personal communications while barring them from organizational-related communications. The board majority redefined the meaning of discrimination and wrote that the seventh circuit’s approach “better reflects the principle that discrimination means the unequal treatment of equals.”

    Let me see…your job and your treatment on that job might be personal, but not getting together with other workers to do something about any problem on the job, right?  And, if “discrimination means the unequal treatment of equals,” if the majority of the board of the NLRB just flat out hate unions, that is not discriminatory or restricting free speech because there is no unequal treatment because there is nothing lower than unions.  Do I have this right now?

    I could go on like this forever….

NY Times caption: William G. Durden, president of Dickinson College, said it did not have the money to match aid from Harvard, which has announced it will discount costs for all but the wealthiest students.