Legislative

King v. Burwell: Nurses Stand for Affordable Healthcare

Washington, D.C. – A group of healthcare professionals and SEIU members submitted an amicus brief in King v. Burwell on Wednesday to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of working families throughout America. The case under consideration challenges the power of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to issue tax credits to millions of working Americans who enroll in private health insurance through the federal healthcare exchange. The tax credits have meant that millions of working women and men in approximately 36 states have gained affordable, quality healthcare under the law and can now see a doctor, afford lifesaving prescription drugs, and be free of the fear of medical bankruptcy.

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The healthcare professionals are members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), America’s largest healthcare union, which joined them in filing the brief.

The “friend of the court” brief takes apart the so-called “carrot and stick” premise presented by the petitioners of the court by making it clear that Congress never intended to present a “carrot” to incentivize states, nor a “stick” to penalize Americans in states that did not create and run their own state exchanges. Furthermore, the brief shows this theory is simply a politically motivated fabrication, not supported by the text of the law, by its purpose, by its legislative history, or by the understanding of any state when making the choice whether to create and operate its own state exchange.

SEIU member Marcus Sandling, M.D, signed on to the amicus brief to tell the court the risks are too high for the patients he sees in his internal medicine residency in a New Jersey hospital. “When patients can actually afford health insurance, it makes it much easier for them to develop a real relationship with their doctor,” Sandling said. “Patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes or hypertension become much more proactive about getting preventive care because they know they can afford to do it. In short, the law is working and as a physician, I’d hate to see these gains jeopardized by a court case.”

According to healthcare experts, healthcare coverage for more than 8 million working people hangs in the balance in this case, as well as the risk that healthcare premiums would increase dramatically–by as much as 35 percent–for many more Americans.

The court will hear oral arguments in the case March 4 and SEIU nurses, doctors and healthcare workers will be there to share their stories of how the law is improving the health of their patients.

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said, “We are confident the law was written to improve the lives of all Americans, no matter where they live or where they work, and the court will not allow a political agenda to endanger the health of so many working people who are counting on the affordable healthcare the law delivers.”

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Passing the Torch: The New LA County Board of Supervisors

December 1st, 2014 marked the day of transition for the LA County Board of Supervisors, the largest governing body of any county in the Nation, and as such a leader in policy.  While the previous members Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina will leave their legacy, the new elects, Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, bring great hope for the new opportunities and challenges facing the county.

The new members were sworn in with a series of ceremonies Monday at the County Hall of Administration, with many speakers such as Mayor Garcetti, Labor Leader Dolores Huerta, fellow supervisors, among others.

Newly Sworn-In Hilda Solis and Mayor Eric Garcetti Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

Newly Sworn-In Hilda Solis hugs Mayor Eric Garcetti (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Hilda Solis, who won with 70% of the vote, is representing the first district, covering the eastern part of the county from downtown to Claremont. She served in congress and as Secretary of Labor for the Obama Administration, the first Latina to ever serve the Cabinet. She is a proponent for the rights of women and children and shared a touching story during the ceremony of saving the lives of sweat shop workers from the Phillipines trapped in a factory in the Valley.

Hilda Solis for America!

Hilda Solis for America!

Sheila Kuehl, with an even closer run against Bobby Shriver, won with 53% of the vote. She will represent the second district, or western part of the county. Kuehl has an excellent track record as a state senator and assemblywoman, authoring the highest number of passing bills out of any other member. She has been a champion for environmental protections, women’s issues, and labor issues. For us nurses, she was instrumental in signing into law nurse-to-patient ratios, which continues to save lives today, and is pushing for enactment for affordable, universal health care.

SEIU-backed Sheila Kuehl for the Win!

SEIU-backed Sheila Kuehl for the Win!

They will tackle a whole range of issues presented by a county with more than 10 million residents and a 2014-15 budget of $27.1 billion. Among their priorities are scaling back incarceration, reviewing a recent decision by the previous board to spend $2 billion building jail, overhauling the child welfare system, boosting minimum pay for workers, and tackling union contracts.

From LA Times:

“I feel a strong sense of optimism and promise,” Solis, President Obama’s former Labor secretary, told an overflowing crowd of her supporters. The “challenges are great, but this is a team ready to take them on and to win.”

“This new class of county supervisors starts with a new sense of hope,” Garcetti said. “These are highly experienced officials who bring networks, intelligence and resumes that few arriving at this job have ever had.”

See a video of Hilda Solis’ ceremony here.

Watch their first board meeting today at 10:00 p.m. on KLCS. Or see their website for more information.

 

 

 

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Harris vs. Quinn: Attacks Will Only Prove to Strengthen Resolve in California

Home-Care-Workers

The slim approval for Harris vs. Quinn (5-4), divided along partisan lines, is no match for the strengthened resolve of California care workers.  The decision comes after many attacks on unions, funded by billionaire Koch brothers and the Walton family through the anti-worker National Right to Work Foundation. The organization funded and recruited the individuals who testified in the their refusal to pay for union services they did not agree with, even though, time and again, unions have been shown to benefit all workers. [1] See this briefing from the Economic Policy Institute.

In the case of home care workers, a profession with notably high turnover, low wages, and nonexistent benefits, unionization in the last 10 years has contributed to a doubling of wages (from $7 to $13 an hour), training and supervision, standardization of qualifications, and health insurance for workers.  Retention has greatly increased, with a savings of $632 million for the state of Illinois. [2]

In California, the In-Home Supportive Services program serves more than 450,000 people, saving the state billions, and many workers have spoken out on the numerous benefits they receive.

“This is an area of healthcare where the union has changed everything,” said Editha Adams, a home care worker in San Diego County. “The union has helped unite caregivers and consumers, which has enabled us to raise the quality of care, dramatically lower turnover, and help many more people stay in their homes.”

“We stand with caregivers in Illinois. But here in California, today’s decision only strengthens our resolve to stand together and keep improving and protecting home care,” said Brenda Jackson, a caregiver from Alameda County.

[3]

With the loosely veiled Right to Work agenda attempting to attack the power of worker’s voices and right to fair living wages and a secure job, it is clear they are looking for sympathy from the courts. The video below highlights how attacks on unions have contributed to a record high disparity in income.

Mary Kay Henry, President of SEIU, does not see this marginal blow as a threat and instead calls us all to stand together in defending our right to fight for improving our lives through our collective voice.

No court case is going to stand in the way of home care workers coming together to have a strong voice for good jobs and quality home care […] At a time when wages remain stagnant and income inequality is out of control, joining together in a union is the only proven way home care workers have of improving their lives and the lives of the people they care for.” [4]

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