The Renegade Rip

CAMPUS VOICESStudent defends union position in supermarket strike

Isaiah Perez

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My chin is still bruised from when my jaw hit the ground after reading Jennifer Mills’ article (“Clerks should pay fair share of health care costs,” Oct. 31) in The Renegade Rip. The article was quite disturbing.

It claims, “This is a free country, and employers have the right to run their businesses the way they want.” Really? If this is true, perhaps she believes in allowing companies to work 5-year-old children, run sweatshops, or allow corporate criminals, like Kenneth Lay of Enron, to raid employee pensions.

She also called this strike “childish.” But the truth of the matter is, unions would not be necessary if capital-driven, corrupt corporations would do the responsible thing. I am sure that Ms. Mills would not argue that 40-hour weeks, eight-hour days, Social Security, weekends, safe working conditions, overtime and workers’ compensation are childish. Unions and the labor movement deserve all due respect, and being called “childish” is not appropriate or honest.

And the last farce: “If employees don’t like it, they can quit.” This is completely irresponsible; it fails to address the issues at hand. Furthermore, if they do quit, there is still the next employee who will be taken advantage of. This “like it or leave it” mentality might have actually driven Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez out of this country, or Gandhi out of India. There are some things worth fighting over, and this is certainly one of them.

There was, however, one ray of half-truth shining through this article. Mills says, “Instead of striking with the union, why don’t these clerks take action against the rising cost of health care?” The clerks should be striking with the unions, but we all should be striking against rising health care costs. We should be getting to the source of this entire problem. Over the last year, health care premiums have risen 14 percent. This, and a recent streak of layoffs, has led to 2.4 million Americans losing their health care over the last three years. Toss that in with the 41 million Americans who don’t have any health care, the 20 million who don’t have health care at sometime during the year, and the tens of millions of Americans who have inadequate coverage and you get a very messy equation. This results in more than 13,000 deaths each year from lack of medical insurance. Now that may not seem like a lot, but that’s 13,000 individuals, 13,000 families.

The best solution is a universal, single-payer health care system. The United States is the only industrialized democracy to not yet have this. We have yet to join the lead of Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, France and Italy. And what’s worse is that we spend over 40 percent more than the next country. Currently, the costs of administration in the private sector are more than 10 times higher than government-run agencies, such as Medicare or Medicaid, and in some places like Canada (chalk that up to overpaid insurance agents and the price to advertise). Not only that, but a universal health care system is projected to save more than $200 million a year (we currently spend $1.4 trillion a year on health care). So this is not only the responsible thing to do, it is the moral thing to do.

We should not be getting angry with the workers or those protecting the workers. What we should get angry about is the companies who care more about profit than providing health care or a living wage.

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CAMPUS VOICESStudent defends union position in supermarket strike