Friday, February 21, 2014

Eh! Unions, They're Useless

(Cartoon by Jim Morin/The Miami Herald/4/23/10) and found here.  Click on image to enlarge.)

For too long the general public has tended to see unions as outdated and unnecessary.  Employees could deal with their employers directly, thereby saving dues money, and get the same benefits.  Unfortunately, with the demise of labor unions came the loss of any power whatsoever for the 99% of the working public.  Wages have declined, even for the most skilled worker, while CEOs and the ret of the 1% have become wealthier, obscenely so.

Some unions, however, have persisted and new unions have arisen.  They have broadened their interests far beyond wages, benefits, and safe working conditions.  And, just as in the past, their efforts will benefit us all.

From the Los Angeles Times:

A healthcare workers union will launch its signature-gathering effort for a hospital pricing ballot measure Thursday, marking the latest front in a looming initiative fight that will pit labor against hospitals.

Thursday's event in Sacramento is the latest in a series of kickoff events SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West has held throughout to state to start its signature drive. This time, they're gathering right at their adversary's front door: outside the headquarters of the California Hospital Assn.

The union has been highlighting inflated prices for products and services at California's hospitals, such as a charge of nearly $40 for lip balm at Memorial Hospital in Sacramento. The ballot measure would prohibit private hospitals from charging more than 25% above the true cost of patient care.  [Emphasis added.]

Health care costs have been the two-ton gorilla in the room for decades.  Lab tests, ER visits, in-patient services, durable medical equipment, prescription medication:  all are so hugely expensive that even with insurance the costs are out of reach for most people.

The SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West members involved in this action know the difference between what care actually costs and what is being charged.  They also have been schooled in ways to change the situation (unions still remember how to do that). The members are working hard to give all of us, not just themselves, a better shot at health care.

It appears that unions haven't outlived their usefulness after all.  We all should be grateful for that.

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