Interview: No Ifs, No Butts
Unions: National Focus
Industrial: Fools Gold
Bad Boss: Bones of Contention
History: The Gong Show
Politics: The Hawke Legacy
International: Sick Nation
Economics: Closed Minds
Review: Mixing Pop and Politics
Poetry: One Size Fits All
The Locker Room
The Monk Off Our Back
The trade union movements in Australia and the USA are both marshalling their troops to make health care a major electoral issue in 2004.
Unions across Australia are joining with other groups to build effective community campaigns in key marginal electorates.
While in the USA the AFL-CIO is leading the charge to organise working America to come out and vote for a Democrat President who will finally do something about the US health care system.
In Australia we're out to defend and extend Medicare, in America the AFL-CIO would just love to have our medical system.
The union movement in America is fighting from a position far far worse.
It is a position where most Americans have no health care coverage. Working families dread being unemployed because their health coverage is tied to their jobs.
Many workers are actually locked into their jobs because they fear if they leave they won't be able to pay for a sick family member.
Workers fear changing jobs either because they don't want to lose their seniority, which sometimes gives them extra health rights, or worried that the next workplace won't have a health scheme as good as the one they now have
Democrats will make health care the issue to defeat Bush
The US health care crisis is now so bad that most Democrat Presidential hopefuls plan to make health care an electoral issue to differentiate themselves from President Bush in 2004.
Nearly all the Democratic presidential candidates have proposed measures to increase the scope of health coverage. Only one, Dennis Kucinich, has come close to suggesting a national government health care system much like our Medicare.
Kucinich's voting record shows that 98% of the time he has backed the AFL-CIO's political plank. But as a progressive Democrat who is anti-WTO, anti-NAFTA and anti-war he is seen as far too radical for the American body politic.
As far as I can find out only one union the small, left, progressive United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America - which refuses to affiliate to the AFL-CIO - has endorsed Kucinich for President.
The AFL-CIO has not yet endorsed any Democrat candidate because its affiliates, at the moment, seem to be almost evenly divided between backing Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean. Though many union leaders are also closely watching the progress of the latest Democrat nominee Wesley Clark.
The unions are holding back, watching and assessing which Democrat nominee is both most electable and advocates the best pro-labor policies, including support for massive health care reform.
Bosses want to roll back health care rights
Most Americans of working age receive their health coverage through their work - but employers are increasingly reluctant to pay up the increasing costs of medical technology.
In the last few months several major unions negotiating new union contracts put their major effort into simply maintaining health care coverage - rather than trying to improve wages or any other benefits.
That was the case for the Autoworkers Union in negotiations with the Big Three automakers and that was the case for the Communications Workers Union in negotiations with America's biggest telecom company Verizon.
Meanwhile America's biggest union - the 1.6 million member SEIU - who represent low-wage immigrant workers in service sector jobs are struggling uphill to just win health care coverage for their members.
Across the USA, janitors work late into the night cleaning commercial office buildings, but most do not receive any health insurance. They must patch together medical care for their children--many relying on over-the-counter medicines, clinics, and prayer.
In the last year more than 100,000 janitors in 20 cities were involved in industrial disputes to either preserve their existing contract-based health care or win coverage for the first time.
44 million Americans do not have health care coverage
The latest US Census Bureau figures issued this week showed that nearly 44 million Americans--80 percent of whom live in working families--did not have health coverage in 2003--2.4 million more than in 2002, according to a new report issued this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Because health care is job-based in the USA, as America has lost a net 3.3 million private-sector jobs, since President George W. Bush took office, many of America's workers also have lost health insurance.
At the same time, some workers who still have jobs are losing coverage because they can't afford the premium contributions and other health care costs employers increasingly shift to them.
The proportion of workers covered by health insurance dropped from 63.6% in 2000 to 61.3% according to the Census Bureau figures.
And many employers, faced with health care costs rising by 14%, have also cut back on the range of coverage or increased the amount workers have to pay as part of their health care plan.
The cutbacks are biggest for small companies.
Less than one-third of workers employed in firms with less than 25 workers have health care coverage, and only a half get coverage in firms employing less than 100 workers.
Nearly one-third of all nonelderly Americans, roughly 75 million people, were uninsured at some time in 2001 and 2002, two-thirds of them uninsured six months or longer, the bureau reported.
In addition, some 10.5 million people living in poverty and ineligible for government-financed health care have no health coverage, the bureau said.
Some U.S. states did better than others in covering their citizens. Averaging rates for 2000, 2001 and 2002, the bureau found Iowa, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Wisconsin had the highest proportion of residents with health coverage, at about 8 percent.
Texas, where Bush was governor before he took office as president, had the highest proportion of residents who lacked health coverage: 24.1 percent.
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