Ensuring Affordable and Accessible Health Care

Ensuring Affordable and Accessible Health Care

USW Core Values Educational Series – Issue 3

The labor movement has always fought for affordable healthcare for workers and their families, both through collective bargaining and legislatively. But even with our ability to bargain, union members far too often must relinquish raises to sustain decent health insurance. In fact, in a membership survey earlier this year, USW members and retirees rated “affordable healthcare and prescription drugs” as their top issue.

Protecting the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA)

The enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 marked a key moment in expanding health care in America. While we’ve worked to perfect the bill in that time, others have repeatedly tried to repeal it in its entirety, gutting protections for USW members and retirees, and wreaking havoc on the healthcare of millions of American families. The Administration is currently arguing for the law to be overturned at the Supreme Court. This case will be heard shortly after the election. This would mean:

  • 20 million People Would Lose Health Insurance – About 20 million people who gained health insurance through the law, both through its expansion of Medicaid and through subsidized private plans on the “exchange,” would lose coverage if it is struck down. The pandemic-related job losses mean that even more people are likely relying on ACA coverage now. States that expanded Medicaid, would also see particularly sharp spikes in the uninsured.
  • Pre-Existing Condition Protections Would be Gone – The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that almost 54 million Americans have a pre-existing condition that would lead to them being denied coverage if they could not get insurance through a job and had to try to buy on the individual market without the ACA’s protections. These folks are not statistics – they are our family, neighbors, and friends.
  • Kids Up to Age 26 Are No Longer Guaranteed Coverage – If the ACA were struck down, the ability for parents to keep their kids on their insurance until age 26 would go away, and it would be up to each employer to decide whether to keep the provision for their health plan. We know what that means: concessions at the table to maintain what the law currently guarantees.
  • Lifetime and Annual Caps Would Return – The ACA prohibits health plans from putting a lifetime or annual dollar limit on benefits you receive – an issue we would often see at the bargaining table. This was a game changer for those with high treatment costs associated with chronic illnesses like cancer and diabetes. Previous to the ACA, coverage could be terminated once the cap had been reached.
  • Retirees and Seniors Will Take a Hit – The ACA reduces prescription drug costs when hitting the “doughnut hole.” Previously, when seniors hit this “hole,” they had to pay 100 percent of costs. Additionally, the ACA provides no-cost preventative screenings, a free wellness exam when joining Medicare, and protections against rising costs and age discrimination.

Whether it’s being able to keep our college aged children on our coverage, not having a lifetime cap on coverage, or worrying about how a pre-existing condition could affect coverage and affordability in the future –we know that there is much at stake should the ACA be overturned by the Supreme Court in November.

Protecting Our Right to Collectively Bargain

USW Core Values Educational Series – Issue 2

Protecting Our Right to Collectively BargainUSW Core Values Educational Series – Issue 2For decades, CEOs and their well-heeled lobbyists have found allies in anti-union lawmakers. These partnerships have resulted in anti-union laws like so-called right to work and the appointment of judges who are quick to rule against us. And, as we’ve seen in the past few years, they’re also tilting power away from workers thanks to a team of corporate appointees at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the very agency charged with safeguarding the rights of workers to organize and engage in collective bargaining.Many of these decisions from the NLRB aren’t making headlines, but they matter a great deal for our ability to get, secure, and enforce good contracts. Some of the rules the Board is overturning have existed for decades. Here are just a few examples:Allowed companies to implement policy changes without bargaining. The Board issued a decision allowing for an employer to make changes unilaterally to its policies and practices without bargaining. Less than a month after one of our locals ratified their contract, their company made changes to their health insurance because management is trying to take advantage of this ruling. In other situations, we’ve seen companies change attendance, drug, and other policies.Allowed employers to put workers in danger. In a series of five memos to their regional directors, the Board concluded that an employer is not obligated to engage in midterm bargaining regarding union proposals for paid sick leave and hazard pay during the pandemic. They also said that an employer does not have to bargain about a temporary closure. For workers who speak up about a dangerous situation on the job, the Board has decided that is not protected speech. This means that they can be fired by their employer. This guidance came after a case was filed by a nurse who was fired after  refusing to work at a nursing home that was requiring workers to share isolation gowns.Allowed employers to retaliate against the union. One USW employer wanted to celebrate after a profitable quarter. Normally, the union and the company would get together and plan a day off; it was always considered normal communication. Instead, the employer gave management the day off while leaving union workers working. An administrative law judge saw this as a “straightforward punishment of union employees in retaliation for past protected activity under the Act.” The Board overturned the judge’s ruling, saying it was ok not to bargain and that it was management’s right to not grant the day off for these workers.And so much more. – The Board has also made it easier for employers to decertify unionsmore difficult for contract employees and workers at franchise businesses to join unions, and sought to dramatically lengthen the timetable for union elections and limit access to workers, giving employers major advantages when they seek to bust unions.

How do we reverse these trends? It is critical that Congress hold the NLRB accountable. Lawmakers must also prioritize reforms that will restore the original promise of 1935’s National Labor Relation Act, which has eroded over time. Our union has done that work by pushing for passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which was successful in the House but was stopped in the Senate. It’s also critical to have people in all decision-making positions in our government who will encourage and promote the formation of unions and the practice of collective bargaining.

Protecting Our Right to Collectively Bargain

Protecting Our Right to Collectively BargainUSW Core Values Educational Series – Issue 1Our union understood right from the beginning that we couldn’t rely solely on negotiations to better our members’ lives. We would also have to push our government to act. Elected officials could help us by passing legislation to make us safer on the job, help us secure pensions, get better working hours, and more. A legislative gain meant one more thing we didn’t have to bargain over. We could then focus on even greater goals in our negotiations.We know to be powerful, we have to work for laws and policies that support us. Our core issues include: collective bargaining, safety and health, job security (trade), domestic economic issues (infrastructure investment, domestic procurement and policies that bring fairness to the workplace), health care, and retirement security. These are the fights that help us build family-supportive, good jobs and strong communities. They reflect our values and a vision of the America that works for workers.Over the next few weeks, Rapid Response will be doing a series of educational pieces around these core issues and how we work to protect them. This is the first of that series.Collective Bargaining, Our Right to Organize, and an Anti-Union NLRBOur legally-protected right to organize and collectively bargain – Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1935, creating a clear legal pathway for workers to join together to form labor unions and bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions. It also established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB is tasked with overseeing union elections and handling labor rights violations. It is governed by a five-person board (one member’s term expires each year) and a General Counsel (four-year term), all of whom are appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate.Anti-union NLRB appointees – Two recently-appointed Board members have long histories working for corporations to advance anti-worker and anti-union decisions. Bill Emanuel was a shareholder at Littler Mendelson and Chairman John Ring was a partner at Morgan Lewis, two of the largest union avoidance firms in the US. The Board takes their guidance from its General Counsel, Peter Robb.A General Counsel with a history of breaking unions – Robb, a notorious anti-union crusader, has worked for a series of union-busting law firms and, in 1981, was instrumental in President Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers, one of the most notorious labor actions in U.S. history. Almost immediately upon assuming his role as general counsel, Robb issued a memo outlining the categories of cases issued by the NLRB under the prior Administration, for which he may seek to overturn precedent. The majority of those cases were wins for unions.

Become a Gatekeeper of Democracy

Become a Gatekeeper of Democracy

Sign up to work the polls this November.

Our democracy depends on ordinary people to volunteer to work the polls on Election Day. However, a significant majority of poll workers are over age 60 and at higher risk of complications from COVID-19. They’re less likely to work this year. This contributed to unprecedented shortages in the primaries. For instance, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, an expected 180 voting sites for the presidential primary were consolidated into five. The city typically requires at least 1,400 election workers, but had less than 400 as Election Day approached. The result was long wait times for voters.

Volunteer in Your Community!

We know Steelworkers are always at the front of the line when it comes to lifting up and helping those in our communities – it’s what we do!  That’s why we are reaching out to encourage our members to sign up to work the polls this November.

What Does a Poll Worker Do?

Poll workers are recruited and hired locally and help with tasks such as verifying voters’ identities, answering questions, and assisting voters who require it. Most of these roles are temporary and paid, requiring a short training period commitment and attendance on the day of the election.

Click Here to Become a Poll Worker!

Our democracy depends on thousands of ordinary people to volunteer to work the polls and ensure that every vote is counted and the process runs smoothly.

Click HERE for a printable version to distribute in your workplace.
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(412) 562-2291 http://www.uswrr.org

Reminder! A Call For Action

Local 9185 USW SENA

Keep Your Job/Avoid Layoffs – call now!

As early as tomorrow morning, the Boston City Council will vote on Mayor Marty Walsh’s budget.  Whether that budget will pass Council is the question.  If it does NOT pass, layoffs, furloughs etc. may follow.  l don’t want to risk it – and I don’t think you do, either.

Please call your city councilor.  Tell their staffer that you are a constituent — give them your address.  After that call, please phone the four At-Large city councilors.

What to Say?

First, speak to them naturally and sincerely – you should not be perfect.  Don’t read anything prepared.  Your goal is to impress upon them that you are a regular person who is deeply concerned about Boston andthe state of Boston’s families — including your own.

Things to say:

  • Introduce yourself to the staffer
  • Thank them for taking the time to listen
  • Tell them you understand the Councilor maybe be voting on the Mayor’s Budget very soon
  • That you want to urge her/him to vote “yes” on the budget

Tell them in your own words what you do, and why it’s important to the people of Boston, as background to why you want them to vote “yes”

  • I am a member of the USW/SENA which is comprised of 750 middle-managers in Boston’s city government.  We care deeply about Boston and its families.  This is what we do for them:
    • We organize and oversee Boston’s Emergency Medical Services
    • We plan and oversee Boston’s Parks and our Rec Centers too – that help kids find summer jobs
    • We oversee the sanitizing and sweeping of Boston’s streets.
    • We plan and oversee Boston’s Youth & Family Services

Tell them it would be terrible to cut the jobs that make and guide these services – that Boston’s families depend on so much.  Especially now, during the COVID crisis, when so many families are suffering job losses and depend on them even more.

  • Sir/Ma’am., I am not saying that the debate in Council is not important to have.  I’m saying, these services are important to Boston Families and that my job and the jobs of my colleagues in the union are important to us all.

Please let the Councilor know that I urge Her/Him to vote for the budget please.

Thank you for listening.

How to Call?

This is simple.  There is one phone number at City Hall that you can to reach a City Councilor Office – either a staffer or a place to leave a message. 


Tell them that you want to speak to your City Councilor’s Office.  Be prepared for an answering machine.

Again, don’t be prefect or sound too polished.

Don’t feel comfortable calling send an email. Link: To city council page Click Here

Do it now please.  Thanks.

Joe Smith, President