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The News Line: Feature Republican leaders working on plans to cut healthcare for millions of US workers! REPUBLICAN leaders in Congress are working on plans to cut health benefits for tens of millions of people. The harms from these cuts are likely to have the biggest impact on women, both for their own health benefits and as they try to manage health care for their families.

Every major source of health coverage is now at risk under the Republican health plans. This includes individual coverage bought through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), workplace health plans, Medicaid benefits for people struggling to make ends meet, and Medicare for seniors and people with disabilities.

The ACA included important changes in the law requiring women to be treated fairly. Repealing the ACA outright, as Republican leaders say they want to do, could mean going back to the days when insurance companies could legally discriminate against women by charging them higher monthly premiums for individual coverage than men.

Repeal also could mean getting rid of protections requiring individual policies to cover pregnancy and pay for preventive services, like women’s well visits and birth control. Republican leaders also are intent on slashing Medicaid by more than a half trillion dollars over 10 years, which will take health coverage away from millions of people and cut benefits for many others.

This government health programme for people struggling to make ends meet pays for one-half of all childbirths in the United States. It also covers the bill for more than three-in-five nursing home residents – a group made up disproportionately of older women who otherwise might have nowhere to go. The fallout for women does not stop there.

Women already are much more likely than men to be the ones navigating our complicated health care system for their families and dealing directly with its high costs. Women make about 80% of their family health care decisions, like deciding on the right care and how to pay for it. They also are far more likely than men to be caregivers, including for older adults, such as parents or spouses.

When the Republican health care cuts come, women are likely to have to deal with the consequences in their daily lives. When they can no longer afford a private insurance policy or they get dropped from Medicaid, women more likely will be the ones struggling to figure out how to get and pay for the care needed by a small child with an ear infection.

When Medicaid support is cut for seniors who need help so they can stay in their homes or who need to go to a nursing home, women are likely to be the family members who are figuring out how to care for an elderly parent with dementia.

When family paychecks are smaller or health benefits are cut back because Republicans have taxed workplace health plans, women are likely to be the ones at the doctor’s office figuring out how to pay the family health care bill. Yes, women will be hit harder by the Republican health care cuts.

• Registered nurses at 28 Dignity Health hospitals and additional clinics in California and Nevada have ratified a new four-year collective bargaining agreement that protects their health coverage and economic and retirement security.

The RNs, members of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organising Committee-Nevada, both affiliates of National Nurses United, approved the new agreement by a large majority last week following voting meetings over five days across the two states. CNA and NNOC-Nevada represent 13,000 Dignity RNs, among 150,000 NNU members overall.

‘This is a significant achievement, protecting the standards for patients and nurses that Dignity RNs have long fought to win,’ said CNA/NNOC Co-President Deborah Burger, RN. ‘We congratulate the Dignity RNs for their consistent and unified advocacy for their patients and their colleagues.’

Under the agreement, all represented Dignity RNs will earn pay increases of at least 12 per cent over the life of the pact, plus additional increases based on years of service. In an era of growing employer and government attacks on health coverage and retirement security, the agreement assures maintenance of health coverage and employer-funded pensions for Dignity RNs through the life of the contract.

All other existing contract provisions, including extensive patient care protections and a supplemental insurance plan for RNs injured in workplace assaults or injuries, are maintained. ‘At a time when unions are being targeted throughout the country, coupled with an aggressive administration of billionaires in charge of the economy and industrial relations, I applaud the Dignity nurses for ratifying this new agreement. We have protected our patients and our contract terms,’ said Kathy Dennis, RN at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento.

‘Las Vegas nurses are delighted with this agreement,’ said St. Rose Dominican, Las Vegas RN Melanie Sisson. ‘Our nurses turned out in large numbers to overwhelmingly ratify the agreement. We protected our contract that includes nurse-to-patient ratios that are crucial for our patients and nurses.’

Bakersfield RN Sandy Reding offered thanks to ‘our nurses who turned up at the meetings and ratification votes to endorse our tentative agreement with Dignity Health. In the current adversarial political climate, we have achieved a strong four-year settlement. The agreement will help recruit and retain nurses.’

‘We are pleased that we were able to lock in substantial wage increases, over the life of this four-year contract,’ said Joe Geiger, RN at Marian Regional Medical Centre in Santa Maria. Geiger noted that from his facility’s first contract ‘to the end of this contract we just ratified, new grad rates will have risen 225 per cent, and wage rates for RNs with 30 or more years experience will have risen 233 per cent.

‘At the same time, we have seen tremendous improvements to patient care and staffing, as we were able to achieve state mandated RN to patient ratio legislation through our union as well.”
Facilities covered by the agreement include:

Arroyo Grande – Arroyo Grande Community Hospital
Bakersfield – Bakersfield Memorial Hospital, Bakersfield Mercy Hospital campuses
Folsom – Mercy Hospital; Glendale – Glendale Memorial Hospital
Grass Valley – Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital
Las Vegas – St. Rose Dominican Hospital campuses
Long Beach – St. Mary Medical Centre; Los Angeles – California Hospital Medical Centre
Merced – Mercy Medical Centre
Mt. Shasta – Mercy Medical Centre
Redding – Mercy Medical Centre
Redwood City – Sequoia Hospital
Sacramento – Bruceville Terrace, Mercy General, Mercy San Juan Medical Centre, Methodist Hospital
San Bernardino – Community Hospital of San Bernardino, St. Bernardine Medical Centre
San Francisco – Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, St. Mary Medical Centre
San Luis Obispo – French Hospital Medical Centre; Santa Cruz – Dominican Hospital
Santa Maria – Marian Regional Medical Centre; Stockton – St. Joseph’s Medical Centre and Woodland – Woodland Healthcare

The contract runs through June 30, 2021.

• Meanwhile, workers at Wendy’s vote to join UFCW Local 175. Workers at the Wendy’s fast food restaurant located on Memorial Avenue in Thunder Bay Ontario voted overwhelmingly to join Local 175 of the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW).

The issues that brought the employees, who are mostly young workers, to seek Union representation with UFCW Local 175 ranged from poor workplace conditions to unfair scheduling practices, as well as workplace harassment and intimidation, and threats that their jobs would be replaced with temporary foreign workers.

‘Workers in the fast food industry are often treated by their employers as disposable,’ said UFCW Local 175 President Shawn Haggerty. Our union welcomes these new members and is proud of the bravery they’ve shown by choosing to unionise. It is a victory for them and sends a message across Ontario and Canada that fast food employees work hard and demand respect.’

Now the local union will begin the process of negotiating a first collective agreement with the employer. We expect this employer to come to the table and bargain a fair agreement,’ said President Haggerty. Any threat to the members will not be tolerated by the union and we will use all available resources at our disposal to support the members at Wendy’s to achieve their first collective agreement.’

UFCW Locals 175 & 633 represents more than 70,000 union members working across Ontario and is the leading union for retail and commercial workers.


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