Tegucigalpa Before dawn in Honduras with the birds still loud and the sun still just a rumor, I was writing a petition for Local 100 members (www.unitedlaborunions.org) to be able to get out through our leaders and stewards throughout Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas to demand that President Obama, DHS, Congressional Representatives, Senators and just about anyone who might listen would say no to the industry’s efforts to try and get a waiver from finally providing their workers healthcare under the coming law. Reading the morning papers on-line, I was amazed at the gall and the bitter irony of healthcare industries trying to deny healthcare workers basic health insurance.
We represent a number of nursing home workers employed by different companies throughout Louisiana and Texas and community home workers providing similar health care support for the developmentally disabled in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas. These are hard working, caring workers doing the jobs that families cannot do and that companies often pay little for them to do, despite the essential nature of the service. It has long been an embarrassing blemish in our state and federal reimbursement systems that so much of these industries have been privatized under companies for whom profits are foremost and care is somewhere down the line, and the workforce often amounting to more than half of the care cost is always last on the list.
Reading the article in the Times of the nursing home association and the former governor of Kansas (is it a coincidence that the current head of DHS in DC is also a former governor of Kansas?) and its attempt to get a waiver from the President allowing them to not have to provide the now legally required healthcare for the millions of industry workers who currently provide healthcare but do not enjoy any healthcare themselves, was to put it mildly disgusting and enraging. The gall!
Workers even in unionized homes such as hours are above minimum wage but still in sight of minimum wages with starting levels only a dollar or two above $7.25 and sometimes as little as $0.50 cents above. When we first organized facilities in Louisiana almost 30 years ago they were all minimum wage, no vacations, no sick days, no holidays, no nothing, and certainly no health are or pensions. Now with a union they are above minimum wage by a good number of steps, have regular raises and protections, do have vacations, do have sick days, do have holidays, but still don’t have any health insurance (or where they do have something it is so far out of their reach financially that it is almost an insult to claim it in the contract), and of course pensions courtesy of the Social Security Act.
It is unimaginable that the President or anyone recognizing the plight and paradox of healthcare workers without healthcare would even countenance for a minute giving a waiver, but in these days and times, nothing is certain. As I write this, we are still writing the petition so we can post and circulate, but don’t hesitate to give a call and/or send a message to the White House and your elected representatives that doggone, don’t approve a waiver: healthcare workers have to have healthcare, too!