The cause of universal healthcare is alive and well. Not only is the state of Vermont moving toward a single-payer system, but Vermont's U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill and is holding a hearing this week on the benefits other countries enjoy from a single-payer system that would benefit everyone except the profiteering middlemen who've rigged the current system.
ALL OF MARYLAND'S CANDIDATES FOR GOVERNOR WILL CONTINUE THIS AFFORDABLE CARE ACT PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC HEALTH-----CINDY WALSH SUPPORTS EXPANDED AND IMPROVED MEDICARE FOR ALL!
As citizens of Maryland listen to the failures of implementing its private health insurance system WE THE PEOPLE have decided to move forward with Expanded and Improved Medicare for All. Neo-liberals think they can simply run as progressives in elections and then implement republican policies that end all public programs and services but citizens have figured out this game.
Privatizing public health with Affordable Care Act is more than losing access to basic health procedures and care. It is about losing our public health agencies structured to oversee the data collected on the health of the nation, the agencies that hold the health industry accountable for quality and malpractice, and the agencies tasked with public justice in regards to health outcomes. In other words, it creates the same conditions of deregulation that gave us Wall Street banks and their unaccountability. In addition to preying on people for profits, the public will not know that the data provided in approving medical products and techniques are true and if what is being given as treatment is dangerous. The public now faces a litany of drugs hitting the market that have not gone through clinical trial and the practice of using the general public as the source of knowledge of medical efficacy for products is becoming more common. If you have universities as corporations that patent research you have lost pure academic study that provides facts in public interest. If you lose your public health agencies that provide data collection that is honest, you lose your ability to hold health industries accountable.
THIS IS HUGE FOLKS! DISMANTLING PUBLIC HEALTH WILL HAVE ALL CITIZENS DISTRUSTING HEALTH PROFESSIONALS AS WE DISTRUST OUR BANKS!
Below you see where this is going. Payers are health insurance agencies and providers are the doctors and hospitals. This article shows the intent to end public health data collection and analysis in overseeing the health care industry from research, to hospital care, to outcomes.
Remember, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have decades of public health data stored in its database that show all of the information needed to assess the cost benefit of procedures, the outcomes from procedures, the average prices paid for every procedure. WE ALREADY HAVE ALL OF THE DATA NEEDED TO DEVELOP A MEANINGFUL APPROACH FOR COST EFFECTIVE HEALTH CARE. What neo-liberals are doing is handing all of the development of cost models to the very people creating the inflated costs by health fraud and profiteering. This article says------we do not need public funding of data exchanges because with public funding comes public oversight and transparency. Can you imagine corporations paying for the data collection for medical procedures and products they develop?
The Affordable Care Act is about ending public health and deregulating the health industry just as Clinton did the banking industry. It ends all public ability to oversee, to hold accountable, and to collect data that can be reliably used to protect public interest. Maximizing profits means corporations will write the policies that end public health.
Payers, Providers Question Value of Public Health Data Exchanges
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 TOPIC ALERT: according to a Black Book survey, Health Data Management reports.
Survey Details, Findings For the survey, Black Book polled 1,550 providers and 794 payers.
According to the survey, 95% of payers, 83% of hospitals and 70% of physicians said HIEs funded by federal grants have flawed business models and do not assist with meaningful connectivity (Goedert, Health Data Management, 1/27).
In addition, 94% of surveyed payers said they did not see "value proposition" in public HIEs (Sullivan, Government Health IT, 1/27).
Less than 33% of surveyed providers said they participate in public HIEs, while 86% said they have rejected paying the annual fees for public HIEs (Health Data Management, 1/27).
More than 80% of the 220 operating public HIEs in the U.S. are stalling as federal grants supporting many of those HIEs ends, according to Government Health IT (Government Health IT, 1/27).
Seventy-two percent of survey respondents predict that there may be only 10 public HIEs left after federal grant money for them expires in 2017.
More than 80% of respondents concluded that a national operational public HIE is more than a decade away (Walsh, Clinical Innovation & Technology, 1/28).
Meanwhile, the report also found that many payers have been investing more heavily in private HIEs, rather than public exchanges.
Doug Brown, managing partner of Black Book, said, "Payers are looking for [return on investment] that the majority of public HIEs aren't even close to delivering, [s]o it was inevitable the private HIE market got so hot" (Government Health IT, 1/27).
Here in Baltimore, all of public health has and is being privatized to private corporate non-profits that write health policy, that implement all that policy in communities, and that are the source of all data that comes to the public. All is done under the restrictions of the public to transparency protections given private non-profits. We have little access as the public to any of the policy-writing, any of the use of Federal and State funding on behalf of health services, any sense of oversight of the data being presented to the public on the state of public health.
We know that Medicare and Medicaid fraud is rampant and as much as 1/2 of spending on entitlements are lost to fraud. This in turn affects the health programs implemented and it affects the result data we receive.
RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU UNDERSTAND THAT CORPORATIONS PROVIDING A SERVICE WILL HAVE THE INCENTIVE TO SKEW DATA TOWARDS THEIR BENEFIT AND NOT THE PUBLIC INTEREST? THAT IS WHY THE US HAS A PUBLIC SECTOR-----TO SERVE THE PUBLIC INTEREST.
Neo-liberals work in the corporate interest and push these policies of privatization so that corporations have all the control.
What Is the Public Health System?
The public health system once was thought of as comprising only official government public health agencies, but now is understood to include both other public-sector agencies (such as schools, Medicaid and environmental protection agencies, and land-use agencies) and private-sector organizations whose actions have significant consequences for the health of the public. The public health system includes the following four main components:
- Mission – The mission of the public health system includes its goals at any point in time and how, at the conceptual level, these goals are operationalized. At the beginning of the 21st century, the mission of public health is to ensure conditions in which people can be healthy.2
- Structure – The structural capacity of the public health system is the cumulative resources and relationships necessary to carry out the important processes of public health. Structural capacity includes the following elements: information resources, organizational resources, physical resources, human resources, and fiscal resources. 2
- Process – The practice of public health can be thought of in terms of the key processes through which practitioners seek to identify, address, and prioritize community or population-wide health problems and resources and the outputs of these more fundamental processes, public health’s interventions, policies, regulations, programs, and services.The processes of public health are those that identify and address health problems as well as the programs and services consistent with mandates and community priorities. 2
- Outcome – The immediate and long-term changes experienced by individuals, families, communities, providers, and populations are the system’s outcomes, the cumulative result of the interaction of the public health system’s structural capacity and processes, given the macro context and the system’s mission and purpose. Outcomes can be used to provide information about the system’s overall performance, including its efficiency, effectiveness, and ability to achieve equity between populations.
If you look at the leaked documents for the Trans Pacific Trade Pact you will see it involves ending public subsidy of health and indeed, Obama Administration is actively lobbying nations around the world to end generous public health subsidy as part of these trade deals. NEO-LIBERALS ARE TRYING TO FORCE NATIONS AROUND THE WORLD TO END PUBLIC HEALTH AND THEY ARE DOING THAT IN THE US WITH THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT.
Building state health systems is a republican policy to end Federal public health programs. They have tried for decades to do this and it is Obama and neo-liberals passing the laws to do it. They want as much as republicans to downsize the public sector and health care is the largest sector left to privatize. Private health systems are designed to give the health industry control of writing all of the policies in this reform and they are writing them to the industry's benefit and to the public detriment.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2013
CONTACT: US PIRG
Phone: (202) 546-9707
Congress Mulls Dismantling America’s Public Health and Consumer Protections WASHINGTON - July 24 - “The Regulatory Accountability Act (H.R. XX) and the Regulatory Flexibility and Improvement Act (H.R. 2542) would threaten the health and safety of the American people, by disarming standards like the ones that keep children safe from faulty cribs and toxic toys. These bills would block enforcement of critical laws by creating new bureaucratic hurdles and impossibly short timelines for approval of public health rules.
“The Regulatory Accountability Act would add layers of new bureaucratic processes before even simple public health rules could be enforced, and empower special interests to use the courts to delay protections that have been years in the making. For example, in 2011 after a 10 year fight, Congress authorized and the Consumer Product Safety Commission developed new safe crib standards. Parents finally received protection against collapsing cribs that injured and killed far too many infants. The RAA Act would make it easier for special interests to contest the new crib standards in court, delaying these critical protections.
“The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, by adding new layers of red tape and bureaucracy,will potentially jeopardize straightforward proposals. This could hurt the ability to create important new tools such as the www.SaferProducts.gov website, which provides parents with information on dangerous and toxic toys and children’s products.
“As a nation, we have made significant progress toward ensuring a safe and healthy marketplace for consumers. Congress should continue in that proud tradition and oppose these bills, to protect the health and safety of the American people.”
Below you see a democratic state struggling with simple public health issues that ACA force into the reform category. It is not only republican states that will use this move to state control of health policy-----neo-liberal states are dismantling services under the guise of lack of state budget for public health.
Below you see policy that looks a lot like the policies working to implode the US Post Office. Regulations that hit public health hardest will force the public sector out of business and private sector simply absorbs the cost until it takes control of once public sector services. Look at what conservative states are doing to Planned Parenthood to end abortions. The use of targeted regulations makes the cost to public health too expensive just to put them out of business.
If you talk with doctors in the public health field they will tell you that decades of massive entitlement fraud pushed the need to commit fraud to stay in business onto public health agencies.
WE WATCHED AS THESE SAME PRACTICES BLEW UP OUR PUBLIC HOUSING AGENCY AND OUR PUBLIC EDUCATION AGENCY. THEY ARE NOW COMING FOR PUBLIC HEALTH.
- REMEMBER, THE US HAS THE HIGHEST COST IN HEALTH CARE BECAUSE OF MASSIVE FRAUD AND CORRUPTION IN THE INDUSTRY-----NOT BECAUSE PATIENT COSTS ARE HIGH. GOVERNMENT COFFERS ARE EMPTY BECAUSE CORPORATIONS ARE PAYING NO TAXES. THESE ARE THE PROBLEMS. NEO-LIBERALS ARE MAKING THE PUBLIC PAY THE SHORTFALLS.
New CDC Regulations Threaten to Dismantle Vaccines for Children Program
The policy changes would affect how providers store and replenish vaccines and have a severe impact on rural clinicians. Jeff McDonaldSignificant federal policy changes could force many providers to opt out of Oregon’s well-established immunization program, potentially leaving kids around the state unvaccinated and with a higher risk of disease, state health care leaders and providers say.
New policies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), set to take effect as early as Feb. 1, could dismantle the state’s successful Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, which includes about 600 clinics and serves about 52 percent of the state’s children in the state.
Among the new requirements is the separation of public and private inventory with public stock including VFC and state purchased vaccines. Public stock includes VFC and state-funded Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) doses, while the state’s Billable Project provides immunizations to children with private insurance.
“The purpose of this requirement is to assure VFC vaccine is not administered to non-VFC eligible children,” wrote Melinda Wharton, CDC’s deputy director, in a Sept. 5 memo. “This has been identified through various program integrity reviews as a critical risk. For this reason, we must require that VFC vaccine be stored separately in providers’ offices.”
CDC has introduced the policy changes in response to an audit of the federal VFC program by the Office of Inspector General, which found unacceptable accounting and vaccine storage and handling practices in several states around the country.
Oregon was not among those states cited in the audit and has already found a way to work around a portion of the CDC’s policy changes for the Advance Credit Model, which took effect Oct. 1.
Last week, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced it would pay up to $7.5 million in advance for the cost of vaccines for both CHIP and Billable programs. Those costs have been in arrears quarterly by the state under the old model after the CDC had provided the vaccines in advance.
But other parts of the new regulations could prove more onerous and lead to private clinics dropping out of the VFC program, said Mimi Luther, VFC manager with the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division.
“The risk is that we will have kids who don’t have access to vaccines,” she said.
Oregon’s VFC program, which started as part of a federal program in 1995, relies upon a system of provider accountability for waste and a vaccine tracking method that is one of the most established in the country, Luther said.
The new policies, which have been in flux since they were announced in August, would change how providers store and replenish vaccines and ultimately lead to lower vaccination rates and greater vulnerability in an outbreak, Luther said.
Under the current regulations, when providers run out of doses marked for VFC kids, they can borrow from their supply of Billable doses and replenish the supply through reordering. Roughly 43 percent of providers borrow vaccines that are intended for different eligibility groups or from other providers, she said.
That practice would no longer be allowed under the new regulations.
One exception to this rule would occur in times of outbreak, but would require providers to get written permission from the state’s Public Health Officer, who would need written permission from the CDC, Luther said.
“That is just absurd,” she said. “Can you imagine being a pediatrician during an outbreak and saying, ‘sorry, I can’t immunize your kid today? It is crazy.”
Storage guidelines also would change, potentially costing up to thousands of dollars for larger clinics.
Another new requirement is that providers organize and stock their vaccines in separate refrigeration bins for different eligibility classes, including VFC, CHIP, Billables, and Section 317 clients, according to OHA. Many providers would need to purchase new refrigerators and increase their staffing and electricity costs to meet those requirements.
Additionally, the new regulations would dismantle the state’s successful buying program, which requires providers to pay for any doses that are wasted or expired.
“Oregon always has required providers to pay for waste because we think it’s a good stewardship of public dollars,” Luther said.
The system has proven successful with only a 2 percent rate of waste, she said.
But under new CDC regulations, providers would be required to buy replacement doses on the private market.
The costs would increase dramatically in most cases.
Using the state’s bulk buying power, the cost of a single dose of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine would cost $19.75 through the state and $56.14 through the private market.
“The state has huge purchasing power and contracts in place,” she said. “What I pay for a vaccine is much less than anybody would pay for on the private market.”
Exemplifying this point, Luther priced Hepatitis A vaccine at $15.25 for a single dose from the state and $30.40 on the private market. Polio vaccine would cost $12.42 and $27.44, respectively.
That is ordering a single dose. Most private insurers sell vaccines in packs of 10, so while an HPV vaccine would cost $107.16 from the state, a provider would end up paying about $1,350 from private insurers for a 10-pack, according to Luther.
“I am hopeful that Oregon is going to find a way to not require the separate inventories,” Luther said. “I am sure in my heart that if we fail at that we are going to lose many providers.”
The new policy guidelines could have the most impact on rural clinicians, who would need to follow a new set of storage and handling guidelines that would increase costs and potentially leave some clinics short of vaccines at critical times.
“They’re trying to fix something that isn’t broken in our state,” said Michael Sheets, a family nurse practitioner and owner of The Merrill Clinic and The Bonanza Clinic in rural Southern Oregon. “Potentially what could happen is that some of the centers may opt not to do immunizations instead of meeting these requirements.”
The value of the VFC program in rural areas cannot be overstated, said Sheets, who drives 23 miles between his two private clinics and spends a half-day at each.
The private clinics fill in a 96-mile stretch between the Public Health Department in Klamath Falls and the next closest public facility in Lakeview.
“Basically, we’re not making any money on this,” Sheets said. “Providers are trying to help the kids because otherwise the working poor couldn’t afford to get their shots.”
At his two clinics, Sheets administers a variety of shots for kids in the VFC and CHIP programs, including influenza, chicken pox, diphtheria and polio.
Since the program began in the mid-1990s, ear, sinus and respiratory infections have dropped dramatically because of the shots, he said.
“The kids that have these shots, don’t end up having those problems,” he said. “The value cannot be overstated in terms of reduced illness. It is a marriage of the public and private sector that works. We should have more of that, not less.”
Vaccines are currently stored and marked according to eligibility classes in a single refrigerator unit close to exam rooms, Sheets said. Under the proposed CDC rules, providers could end up needing additional storage space and temperature monitoring equipment to meet the CDC regulations, he said.
Additional refrigeration unit in each of his clinics would cost $400 to $500. The units would need to be moved further away from the patients due to lack of space, he said.
Clinicians could opt out of the system altogether, forcing rural families to travel further distances to get to the closest clinic, Sheets said. Or patients could potentially be turned away, he said.
“The new regulations are not in the best interests of anyone,” he said. “Somebody who is sitting in Atlanta or D.C. has written the regulations and doesn’t know how clinics work.”
The next steps for Oregon’s medical community include asking CDC for an exemption to the new requirements or a delay in their implementation until December, 2014, OHA’s Luther said.
The state would like the opportunity to problem solve the new regulations with the CDC, she said.
Otherwise, the changes would shift the burden onto already cash-strapped county health departments, said Karen Vian, immunization program manager for Douglas County Public Health.
Vian is one of many members of the health community who have shared their story with the state, and her experiences could help shape national policy, Luther said.
“These policy changes don’t work for the private sector and they don’t work for the public sector,” Vian said. “Public health departments are going to be unable to meet these policy changes.”
The Affordable Care Act seeks savings for Medicare and Medicaid by requiring the use of generic drugs. Yet, as we see below, the US is pushing policies that make it harder to create generics and limit generic sales. So, how do you think that will ultimately effect seniors and the poor in the US?
That's right. People already have cases where the generic form of a drug is not as effective so if TPP passes this will grow in frequency.
- The TPP’s Threats to Public Health
- The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an international trade and investment pact currently under negotiation between the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. It is also specifically intended as a “docking agreement”that other countries would join over time, with Japan, Korea, China and others already expressing some interest. U.S. negotiators are pushing to complete the TPP as soon as possible.NEGOTIATIONS ARE HEADED IN THE WRONG DIRECTION ON PUBLIC HEALTH A roll back from the Bush administration.Leaked U.S. proposals for several chapters in the Trans-Pacific Partnership reveal that U.S. trade negotiators have reversed hard-won reforms designed to enhance access to affordable medicines that were made during the George W. Bush administration. In addition to pushing for increased monopoly rights for drug companies, the U.S. is also demanding new rights for pharmaceutical firms to challenge pricing and other drug formulary policies used by many countries to keep down health care costs.PACT WOULD REDUCE ACCESS TO GENERIC MEDICATION BY EXTENDING DRUG PATENTS
Access to generic medicine is critical to saving lives. The first generation of HIV drugs has come down in price from roughly $10,000 per patient per year to just $120 thanks to increased access to generic medications. This reduction in price has helped to dramatically scale up the number of people throughout the world who are now receiving treatment. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, UNITAID and UNICEF all rely heavily on access to quality generic medications. For millions of people throughout the globe, delaying access to generic medications means delaying access to treatment. The U.S. proposal would grant new monopoly patent rights, reducing access to generic medicine. If finalized and implemented, the leaked U.S. intellectual property proposal would roll back access to generic medicine for people in developing countries and throughout the world. Specifically, the U.S. proposal would broaden the scope of patentability by making it easier for pharmaceutical companies to patent new uses and minor variations of old medicines; slow the production of new generics when patents expire by expanding “data exclusivity” over clinical trials forcing either the timely and costly replication of such trials or an additional three-year delay (beyond the current five) before such “exclusivity” ends;constrict safeguards against patent abuse by makingit harder for public health advocates to challenge unjustified new patents; require new forms of drug patent policing;and mandate that countries allow patents on plants, animals Trade Policy & Access to Medicine!
What neo-liberals intend to do as they privatize public health goes beyond actual access to health care. The public sector is the last labor unions holding on to middle-class income and as we already see with handing health policy-writing to states developing private health systems as in Maryland------it is staff and labor costs cut under the guise of making health care cost effective. Women are the ones being hit by this attack on the public sector with public private partnerships and the ending of public health.
DO YOU HEAR NEO-LIBERALS SHOUTING THEY ARE THE PROTECTORS OF WOMEN, CHILDREN, AND THE MIDDLE-CLASS? DO YOU SEE THE STATE OF MARYLAND ADOPTING ALL THAT IS PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC SERVICES, PROGRAMS, AND ASSETS?
MARYLAND ADOPTED A STATE PRIVATE HEALTH SYSTEM BECAUSE IT IS RUN BY NEO-LIBERAL POLITICIANS WORKING FOR JOHNS HOPKINS AND THE HEALTH INDUSTRY!
- Roosevelt House Faculty Forum
Triple Jeopardy: Dismantling of the Public Sector and the War on Women
Mimi Abramovitz Bertha Capen Reynolds Professor of Social Policy at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, and a Roosevelt House Faculty Associate; Faculty of the CUNY Graduate Center and the Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies. Posted on January 13, 2014
The current effort to dismantle the public sector is the latest round in the rancorous debate about the role of so-called “big government” that has shaped public policy since the mid-1970s. There has been much buzz in recent news surrounding the widening inequality gap, the long-term effectiveness of President Johnson’s Great Society programs in combating poverty, and President Obama’s call to increase the federal minimum wage. While these issues are extremely important, it has been surprising to see the lack of a gender lens in these dialogues, a perspective that is absolutely critical in evaluating potential policy changes.
Since the onset of the economic crisis in the mid-1970s, U.S. leaders have pursued a neoliberal agenda designed to downsize the government, and redistribute income upwards. Its familiar tactics include tax cuts, retrenchment, privatization, and deregulation, among others. To win public support for these unpopular ideas, neoliberal advocates have resorted to what Naomi Klein called the “shock doctrine”: the creation and manipulation of a crisis to impose policies that the public would not otherwise stand for. Discounting evidence and evoking the shock doctrine, government foes targeted programs for the poor but also popular entitlement programs—once regarded as the “third rail” of politics. Unlikely to pass Congress intact their proposals which fall heavily on women –will set the agenda for months to come.
The current effort to dismantle the public sector is the latest round in the rancorous debate about the role of so-called “big government” that has shaped public policy since the mid-1970s. Initially targeted at program users, the attack subsequently took aim at public sector employees and union members. Since most scholars and activists focus on one group or another, they miss the strategy’s wider impact. Lacking the gender lens needed to bring women into view, they also miss that women comprise the majority in each group. Until the 2012 presidential campaign turned the women’s vote into a hot political issue, few officials paid much attention to women’s issues or did much to end the decades-long “war on women”
Given that women make up the majority of government service users, employees and union members, the cuts constitute a “war on women.” Many of the programs now on the chopping block address the basic needs of women and their families over the life span. Current House budgets proposed to to cut child care, Head Start, job training, Pell Grants, housing, and more by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.
Less spending by Washington translates into reduced federal aid to states and cities. To balance their budgets, states spent $75 billion less in 2012 than in 2011, and 31 states projected a $55 billion shortfall in state budgets for the 2012 fiscal year. In total, states governments have had to close more than $540 billion in shortfalls over the past four years due to cutbacks on the federal level. In addition, the right has taken aim on women’s reproductive health services, demanding ever more drastic cutbacks. In 2012, The Guttmacher Institute reported that legislators in 46 states introduced 944 provisions to limit women’s reproductive health and rights including massive cuts to Planned Parenthood.
Fewer services also mean more unpaid care work. Employed or not, women are the majority of the nation’s sixty-seven million informal caregivers; they pick up the slack when services disappear. From 1935 to 1970, the services provided by an expanding public sector helped women balance work and family life. Since the mid-1970s, neoliberal budget cuts shifted the costs and responsibility of care work back to women in the home. So does the growing practice of moving the elderly and the disabled from publicly-funded residential centers to home-based care, and discharging hospital patients still in need of medical monitoring and nursing services.
The anti-government strategy also decreased women’s access to the public sector jobs. After World War II, as social movements pressed for an expanded welfare state, these jobs became an important source of upward mobility for white women and people of color excluded from gainful private sector employment. In January 2012, women comprised 57 percent of all government workers. According to the latest available data, women comprise 43 percent of federal, 51.7 percent of state and 61.4 percent of local government employees. Women filled these jobs because society assigned care work to women, their families needed two earners to make ends meet, and social welfare programs benefited from cheap female labor. The public sector also became the single most important employer for blacks, who are 30% more likely than other workers to hold public sector jobs. More than 14% of all public sector workers are black. In most other sectors, they comprise only 10% of the workforce.
The Great Recession and the slow recovery have decimated public sector employment. During the early stages of the recession, men suffered more than 70% of total job loss because “male” jobs (construction, manufacturing, etc.) are particularly sensitive to cyclical downturns. The current “recovery,” by contrast, has been tougher on women, who comprised over half of the public workforce. From June 2009 to May 2012 as the public sector lost 2.6% of its jobs women suffered 61% of the job losses (348,000 out of 573,000). They gained only 22.5% of 2.5 million net jobs added to the overall economy. In 2012, the poverty rate among women climbed to an astounding 14.5%.
Total union membership plummeted from a peak of 35% of the civilian labor force in 1954 to just 11.3% in 2012 — the lowest percentage of union workers since the Great Depression. Private-sector unionization dropped to 6.6 %. Despite the loss of thousands of government jobs, public unions withstood the onslaught, maintaining an average membership rate of more than 35%. It helped that the majority of public sector work cannot be outsourced or automated.
Seeking to weaken the remaining unions, foes of labor and government turned against the public sector –labor’s last stronghold. Some governors demonized government workers as the new privileged elite to convince the public that collective bargaining rather than tax cuts is the enemy of balanced budgets. When governors strip teachers and nurses of their collective bargaining rights but spare police and firefighters, they hit women especially hard: 61% of unionized women but only 38% of unionized men work in the public sector. The loss of union protection sets women back economically. Unionized women of all races in both public and private jobs earn nearly one-third more per week than non-union women, although white women earn more than women of color. Trade union women face a smaller gender wage gap and are more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and pension plans than their non-union sisters.
Public sector unions historically pressed for high-quality services, dependable benefits, and fair procedures for themselves and for others. In the 1920s, the teacher’s union stood up for greater school funding and smaller class sizes. In the 1960s, unionized social workers fought for fair hearings and due process for welfare recipients. In the 1980s and 1990s, home care workers sought more sustained care for their clients. The loss of union power will cost public sector program users, workers, and union members a strong advocate. Unions remain one of the few institutions with the capacity to represent the middle and working classes and check corporate power inside and outside government.
The attack on the public sector puts women in triple jeopardy. As the majority of public sector program users, workers, and union members, they face fewer services, fewer jobs, and less union protection. In state after state, thousands of government workers and community supporters have raised up against these cuts, unwilling to take the assault on their well being, dignity, and rights lying down. As the National Economic & Social Rights Initiative reminds us, the current agenda amounts to “attacks on public responsibility, the notion of the public good, and the ability of government to secure economic and social rights for all.” These cuts pose as fundamental threats to the stability and health of both our country’s economy and our democracy. We must stand together to demand stronger social policies that support women and their families.
This OpEd was adapted from the longer article, “Feminization of Austerity,” New Labor Forum, Winter 21(1) 2012: 32-41.