Friday, September 11, 2009

What Happens When Workers Organize

Yesterday, we attended the Employee Free Choice Day of Action in DC. There, we met Cheri Seise, a student at the College of William & Mary, who told us about the cafeteria workers' fight to form a union.

As she said, they had simple, logical complaints, complaints that have yet to be rectified. So they started what is a grueling process to form a union. Management immediately held meetings to discuss the issue. They threatened to hold paychecks. They scared and intimidated the workers. And the fight to form a union quickly halted.

What is worse, is that under our current laws, there is no retribution for this type of management. Even when a manager is caught firing an employee for union organizing, the only retribution is that the employee is rehired and given back pay, minus what that person could have made at another job. What kind of punishment is that. This is one of the most important aspects of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). If EFCA passes as is, employers could be fined $20,000 for unfair labor practices, such as threatening to hold paychecks.

What is probably more important than all the other parts of the bill put together is this ability to actually find retribution for unfair labor practices. Without that, management will deem it less costly to threaten workers, or fire them, for union organizing.

Anthem Arrests Customer For Daring to Question Them

On July 24th, Joe Szakos, the Executive Director of the Virginia Organizing Project (VOP), was arrested at Anthem's headquarters.
Szakos was charged with trespassing on Anthem’s property in Richmond, VA on July 24, 2009 when he and three VOP board members attempted to meet with Anthem officials. Szakos went to Anthem as a customer to discuss VOP’s concerns about a recent insurance premium increase and the company's lobbying against health care reform. Szakos’s trial is set for September 22, 2009, 11 a.m. at Henrico General District Court in Richmond, Virginia.
And this story only gets better...
The nonprofit VOP has 36 employees that receive benefits through Anthem. In a news release, the group said that its premium has increased 14.1 percent this year and that it pays more than $25,000 dollars a month.

“We received an e-mail from Anthem recently imploring its customers to call their members of Congress and ask them to oppose the public health insurance option. Not only was this letter ironic given our organization’s support of the public health insurance option, but it was really disturbing because our premiums are going towards paying corporate lobbyists,” said Szakos in a statement.
So let's recap real quick. The VOP, as an employer, purchased health care from Anthem. Anthem raises premiums for customers, including the VOP. Anthem, contacts its customers, including the VOP, asking them to contact congress and lobby against health care reform. Rather than contact congress, the VOP wants to contact Anthem, which is apparently offensive and/or threatening enough for Anthem to call the police on the VOP.

In other words, when Anthem needed to increase profits, they raised premiums on their customers while continuing to pay for political lobbying efforts to kill any reform. Those are the priorities of the health care industry. Do not let anyone ever tell you that insurance agencies care about their customers. These are the priorities of the bureaucrats that are coming between us and our doctors.

If you feel inclined to contact Anthem, here is their information. Please remember to show them more respect then they will show us.
Individual and Family
Health Plan Inquiries:

Customer Care Center
11919 Foundation Pl
Gold River, CA 95670
800/ 977-8860
Mon - Fri, 5AM - 9PM PST.
Sat - Sun, 7AM - 4PM PST.

Small Business and
Small Group Insurance Inquiries:

Customer Care Center
11919 Foundation Pl
Gold River, CA 95670
877/ 456-6670
Mon - Fri, 6AM - 5PM PST.

Company Business Inquiries:

Mountain View, Calif. Headquarters
440 E. Middlefield Road
Mountain View, CA 94043
877/ 456-7180

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Employee Free Choice Day of Action

Hundreds of people, representing states all across the country, gathered on Capitol Hill in DC on Thursday morning to lobby their members of Congress in support of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). What made this group unique, is that it was a specifically non-labor coalition. Activists, students, faith leaders, members of all walks of life, united in their vision of a more just, fair America.

Without further ado, we present our coverage:

As you can see, we tagged along with the Virginia delegation as they lobbied Senator Warner, Senator Webb and several Representatives. There was a common theme for sure: plenty of support, but a lack of leadership and a lacking sense of priority. Frankly, this issue seems to be getting brushed aside, in the midst of a vigorous health care fight, and a dramatic struggle to shore up our economy. Yet with those challenges, there is still a strong and growing coalition that is fighting, tooth and nail, to pass this critical piece of legislation and give workers a stronger voice.

We also have Senator Harkin's entire speech, which gets more and more moving as it goes on:

The day of action is over, but, as I find myself saying more and more, this next session has to be our session of action. On many fronts, EFCA included, we have no time to let up, to take a break. We face many challenges. To find out more about what you can do to take part in the fight for workers rights, please visit the American Rights at Work.

If you still need a little inspiration, we present Stewart Acuff:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Coming Soon: Employee Free Choice Day of Action

On September 10th, a "non-labor coalition" is descending upon Washignton, DC to urge their members of congress to support the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). To get a quick explanation of what EFCA is, please watch this video of Stewart Acuff explaining the legislation:

In coordination with the lobbying in Washington, DC, supporters across the nation will be sending in letters and emails, and making calls. You can participate too, and you can start by signing this petition.

Next, you can check out this email that's been making the rounds(if you haven't already seen it in your mailbox):

Soaring health care costs. Foreclosures on the rise. An uncertain future. And now, a so-called "jobless recovery."

How did this happen? For years, we tried trickle-down economics. And it was a miserable failure.

That's why hundreds of state leaders are in Washington DC TODAY, fighting for the Employee Free Choice Act – so workers can fix our economy from the bottom up.

When more folks can negotiate for better wages, health care, and working conditions by joining a union, things get better for all of us. That’s what this bill is all about.

Over 300 state leaders who support the Employee Free Choice Act are on-the-ground today, meeting with their members of Congress in support of the Employee Free Choice Act. Will you back up their on-the-ground efforts by making quick calls to your senators, right now? It takes about 1 minute per call and makes a huge difference!

Please, make a toll-free call to 1-888-650-9715 and ask to be connected to your senator's office. Tell the staff member who answers the city and state you're calling from, and that you strongly urge your senator to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act.

We need your help to win. Many of the same lobbyists and front groups who are spending $1.5 million a day to defeat health care reform are also spending millions to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act, engaging in the same kind of smear campaigns that are being used to try to kill health care reform.

We're fighting back by sending people to lobby in DC. We need to back them up by OVERWHELMING the Senate switchboard today.

Will you do your part and make a quick call to your senator, right now? Calling takes 1 minute!

1. Dial 1-888-650-9715 to be connected to the Senate switchboard. Once you're connected to your senator's office, the staff member who answers the city and state you're calling from, and that you strongly urge your senator to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act.

2. Most calls end right there, but if you like you might mention:
• The Employee Free Choice Act is a critical piece of our economic recovery.
• If we really want to restore our middle class, workers must be able to bargain, not borrow their way to a better life.
• By making it easier for workers to form unions, the Employee Free Choice Act will level the playing field and help ensure that the economy works for everyone again.

Right now, workers who want a union often face intimidation, delays, stalling tactics, and even are even fired illegally.

Without workers’ freedom to bargain, the economy can’t be rebuilt in a way that guarantees the middle class will be rebuilt with it. The Employee Free Choice Act would put real money into the hands of working families without costing the government a dime.

Thank you for making our Day of Action an undeniable force to pass the Employee Free Choice Act!

We are close on this fight, but if we are going to win, we need to mobilize every last person that we can! This fight is too important.

If you need some inspiration, try this video, another clip of Stewart Acuff: