Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘public opinion’

What Today's Vote on the Public Option in the Senate Finance Committee Means

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Today, the Senate Finance Committee voted on two amendments from Senators Schumer and Rockefeller to add a public health insurance option to the Baucus Bill. Both of those amendments were defeated, 8-15 and 10-13 respectively.

In a long debate on the amendments, Senators spoke out vigorously in favor of the idea. Rockefeller exhorted his colleagues to consider the people of this country as they vote. Schumer asked why the insurance industry was afraid of a little competition. Cantwell, Menendez, Bingaman, Kerry, Bill Nelson, and Stabenow all made their cases and pushed back hard on the misinformation coming from the opposition. The intellectual and moral case for the public health insurance option was clear. And there were some pleasant surprises as Senator Wyden voted for both amendments, and Senators Bill Nelson and Carper voted for the Schumer amendment.

On the Rockefeller amendment, which would have created a public health insurance option based on Medicare, the roll call was:

Democrats

Max Baucus, MT – No
John D. Rockefeller IV, WV – Aye
Kent Conrad, ND – No
Jeff Bingaman, NM – Aye
John Kerry, MA – Aye
Blanche Lincoln, AR – No
Ron Wyden, OR – Aye
Charles Schumer, NY – Aye
Debbie Stabenow, MI – Aye
Maria Cantwell, WA – Aye
Bill Nelson, FL – No
Robert Menendez, NJ – Aye
Thomas Carper, DE – No

Republicans

Chuck Grassley, IA – No
Orrin Hatch, UT – No
Olympia Snowe, ME – No
Jon Kyl, AZ – No
Jim Bunning, KY – No
Mike Crapo, ID – No
Pat Roberts, KS – No
John Ensign, NV – No
Mike Enzi, WY – No
John Cornyn, TX – No

On the Schumer amendment, which would have created a “level playing field” public health insurance option, the roll call has:

Democrats

Max Baucus, MT – No
John D. Rockefeller IV, WV – Aye
Kent Conrad, ND – No
Jeff Bingaman, NM – Aye
John Kerry, MA – Aye
Blanche Lincoln, AR – No
Ron Wyden, OR – Aye
Charles Schumer, NY – Aye
Debbie Stabenow, MI – Aye
Maria Cantwell, WA – Aye
Bill Nelson, FL – Aye
Robert Menendez, NJ – Aye
Thomas Carper, DE – Aye

Republicans

Chuck Grassley, IA – No
Orrin Hatch, UT – No
Olympia Snowe, ME – No
Jon Kyl, AZ – No
Jim Bunning, KY – No
Mike Crapo, ID – No
Pat Roberts, KS – No
John Ensign, NV – No
Mike Enzi, WY – No
John Cornyn, TX – No

In the most conservative committee in the Senate, which is itself the most conservative house of Congress, a public health insurance option got the support of an overwhelming majority of the governing party. And as such, it sets the stage for the next step.

As has been reiterated over and over on this blog, the public health insurance option saves money and lowers costs, it’s the only way to hold insurance companies accountable, and it is overwhelmingly popular – both in Congress, where four out of five committees have already passed a public health insurance option, and with the American people, 77% of whom support the idea. The next time the public health insurance option will come up for consideration is when Harry Reid merges the Finance bill with the HELP bill. The above facts should be kept in mind during that process.

Today was the first step in building momentum for a public health insurance option in the Senate. Clearly, the idea has weight – even self-described moderates such as Bill Nelson and Tom Carper voted for it. As we move to the floor and into conference, with Schumer, Rockefeller, and other champions pledging support and whipping their colleagues, those numbers can and will continue to grow. As Schumer says, a public health insurance option will be in the bill President Obama signs into law. It’ll take work, but it can and will happen.

Chris Bowers has an update to our Senate whip count proving we have 51 votes in the Senate for a public health insurance option. Senator Harkin concurs. As today made clear, there will be surprises as this debate commences. Senators Wyden, Carper, and Nelson (FL) made clear that they support a public health insurance option, something that we didn’t know beforehand. Who knows what other surprises await us as the push continues.

Today was the first step. Today, Senators voted for the first time on the sole question of the public health insurance option, and a huge majority of Democrats supported it. There is no question that this was a big day for health reform, and it will shape the ground going forward.

About the Author: Jason Rosenbaum is a writer and musician currently residing in Washington D.C. He is interested in the intersection of politics and culture, media consolidation issues, and making sense out of our foreign policy disasters. He currently works for Health Care for America Now and he is also the webmaster for The Seminal.

This article originally appeared in Health Care for America Now on September 29, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Teabaggers Are To Congresspeople What Union-Busters Are To Workers

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

After reading an article by Chris Townsend the other day, I noticed the the strong similarities between union busting and the tactics of teabaggers — namely, how they suppress, intimidate, and delay action at all costs. They both rely on intimidating people to the point where there is no longer any space left to make any logical argument.

From Chris Townsend, who started off his career as union activist thirty years ago as a garbageman in Upstate New York and thirty years later is continuing to take out the trash in Washington, D.C. as Political Action Director for United Electrical Workers (UE):

House and Senate Democrats should know that what they are now witnessing in their meetings is nothing more than what hundreds of thousands of working people are subjected to every year when they try to join a union. The only difference is that working people are forced to endure months of intimidation, lies, disruption, and chaos – and frequently termination from their jobs — when they try to exercise their right to join a union. The Democrats should be glad that they are only forced to tolerate a few hours of this corporate attack.

Think about the hell that these Congressman are going through at these meetings and then think about what workers must experience when they try to join unions. You’d be folding the way Democrats are folding on the public option if you feared losing your job in the same way.

Bosses and union busting consultants rely on threats to intimidate and coerce people. In 57% of all union drives they threaten to close factories, but only close them 2% of the time. Indeed, they do fire workers in about 34% of all union drives just to intimidate the rest of the works.

From Townsend:

When workers try to join a union today in the private sector, in almost every case the boss goes into action; he hires a lawyer to delay, and then he hires a union busting consultant to launch the legal and illegal counterattack. The boss never admits to this, however, and claims throughout that he just wants everyone to have a “secret ballot” election someday to settle things fair and square.

Hmm sound familiar? We just need some more time to make sure we do this right? Isn’t this what Republican and their corporate allies Blue Dogs in Congress did last month hoping to buy some time so they could get to the rough intimidation sessions of August. Townsend goes on to explain:

The boss and [union busting] consultant then turn the workplace upside down — just like they are doing in the town hall format — with their contrived chaos and terror. They lie, misrepresent, instill fear, generate chaos, and completely muddy the waters with their sophisticated and unsophisticated tactics at the same time. And not satisfied to browbeat workers in a group setting.

The boss and his [union busting] consultant then subject workers to one-on-one interrogation and humiliation sessions all intended to make it clear to the worker that voting “no” is their only option. By the time the “secret ballot” election rolls around the damage is done. Confused and terrorized workers then vote “no” and against joining the union. Their desire or need for a union does not matter any more. The laws protecting the worker don’t matter because they are rarely enforced. By election day workers just hope to just have some sense of normalcy returned to their workplaces after the bosses contrived turbulence has run its course.

Sounds exactly what members of Congress are experiencing right now. They are being threatened in completely safe districts by opponents using lies and violent outbursts to scare them into voting against the public option. Townsend goes on to wonder what would happen if they held an election:

We suggest that they go so far as to conduct a “secret ballot” election after their meeting has been destroyed by the current crop of disruptors, and then we’ll ask them how legitimate they think the results are. Democrats must learn this lesson; the operators storming the town hall meetings are interested in killing-off all reform efforts, and they will do or say or raise a stink any way they have to in order to win. Because just like in the world of the anti-union consultants, they know full well that when the confusion and terror has run its course, large numbers of people who were formerly in favor of health care reform might not be in favor of it anymore.

Free and fair elections don’t exist in the workplace in America because of the intimidation and lies that employers use against their workers. Studies have shown that 60 percent of workers want to join a union if they were able to but only 8 percent of private sector employees are members of unions. I don”t know how conservative can claim an election could be considered democratic if you have to choice between your job and voting your conscience.

These teabag protests have showed to the nation what conservatives and their corporate bedfellows consider “democracy”. Democracy for the corporate right wing is “You Shut Up or I’ll Destroy You”. The Corporate Right Wing and their allies engage in lies because if they told the truth that they were putting people before profits, nobody would support them.Teabag protests have demonstrated their form of democracy. Democracy to the corporate right wing is the so called secret ballot union elections in which 1 in 5 workers lose their job.

What they are really creating is climate of fear in which no logical argument can be made. My experience as a union organizer has taught me that the only way to counter these types of arguments is to fight fire with fire. If 10 protesters show up at a town hall to shout lies about “killing grandma”, we need to show up with 100 protesters to stop the smears and shout about how lack of health care is killing us all.

It’s time to stand up and be counted that’s the only way to win. Please go to Campaign for America’s Future website to see how you can attend your town hall meeting.

Mike Elk: is a third-generation union organizer and worked previously for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE). He works currently as an editor at AlterNet.

This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post on August 19, 2009 and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

The REAL Bipartisan Consensus on Health Care

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

As noted by glacierpeaks in Quick Hits, there’s solid GOP support for a public option–among the Republican public, not the Republican elite. From the NYT poll:

It could not be clearer. In America, as in Iran, the deepest cleavage is between the public and the political elites. The difference between Iran and America is the nature of the dynamic. In Iran, the unelected elite selected a group of “safe” opposition candidates it allowed to run for President, and the people themselves turned one of those candidates into the vehicle of their desire for real reform. In America, propelled through the primary system, people voted for someone who really appeared to be apart from the establishment–someone who spoke out against the Iraq War, for gosh sakes! Authentic progressives (TM) could not accept anything less! And what we got was a relentless centrist, not in the “center of America” sense as the above poll result so clearly shows, but in the “center of Versailles” sense.

Other “counter-intuitive” trends are afoot as well–counter to the Versailles intuition, that is…. Paul Rosenberg :: The REAL Bipartisan Consensus On Health Care Skepticism toward government is decreasing:

Concern over coverage (vs. costs) is increasing:

And all this despite the fact that people realize there could be downsides (heavens! will they never stop growing up?):

In a follow-up interview, Matt Flurkey, 56, a public plan supporter from Plymouth, Minn., said he could accept that the quality of his care might diminish if coverage was universal. “Even though it might not be quite as good as what we get now,” he said, “I think the government should run health care. Far too many people are being denied now, and costs would be lower.”

Just imagine what it would be like if we had political leadership in our country that worked in harmony with the people, instead of working against them! Legitimate concerns would be met by can-do efforts to mitigate the downsides, while staying true to the main thrust of what the people themselves wanted to be done.

This, after all, is what the Iranian people are shedding their blood for this very day. And we’re the example that’s inspired the world since our own Revolution 200+ years ago. But we still seem as far away from realizing that goal as ever before.

Yes, we’ve gotten a lot better buy-off gifts over the years. And I wouldn’t poo-poo any of them. We’ve ended slavery. Women can vote. They’re even a small minority in the Senate. But a government that actually works with the people to achieve what they want?

You can’t be serious!

About the Author: Paul Rosenberg is progressive activist and journalist who is a frontpage blogger for OpenLeft.org and Senior Editor for Random Lengths News, an alternative bi-weekly in the Los Angeles Harbor Area, where he specializes in labor, community and environmental justice issues. From his anti-war and civil rights activism as a teenager in the 1960s, through his involvement in food co-ops in the 1970s, to his Central American solidarity work, media and renters’ rights activism in the 1980s, and beyond, he has focused his energy primarily on issue activism, with increasing attention to media from the mid-1980s on. He began working as a freelance journalist with a primary focus on op-eds and book reviews in 1994, and joined Random Lengths News in 2002. He’s been published in the Progressive magazine, Publishers Weekly, the LA Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Dallas Morning News.

This article originally appeared in Open Left on June 21, 2009. Re-printed with permission by the author.

Your Rights Job Survival The Issues Features Resources About This Blog