portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article announcements oregon & cascadia

economic justice | education | labor

5/28 OSU Grads Need Your Help TODAY!

Help OSU grad assistants help themselvesTODAY by writing to OSU President Tim White and telling him to settle on health insurance thats affordable for OSU grad employees. OSU graduate teaching and research assistants work 40-100 hours a week, make on average less than $12,000 per year, and recieve NO Benefits! Remember 88% of americans recieve health insurance throught their employeer. Grad employees should be no different. Its a real job, it deserves real benefits.
The Graduate Employees at Oregon State University, need your help TODAY! in
telling OSU's President Tim White ( tim.white@orst.edu) that OSU Grad Employees need health insurance
benefits NOW, not empty promises. Please help them as they rally and march
TODAY! by sending an e-mail (like the following) to OSU President Tim
White ( tim.white@orst.edu ).
They are fighting to recieve the health benefits that Graduate Employees all
over the country allready have. They have been petitioning, bargining, and been
promised these benefits for over 7 years, but OSU's administration has never
followed through. Tell OSU no more empty promises.
Thanks,


Dear Mr. White ( tim.white@orst.edu ),
I am writing to voice my support for the Coalition of Graduate
Employees (teaching and research assistants) and their effort to secure
affordable health insurance benefits. I feel it is important that the OSU
administration make the health of its employees a priority and settle the
health insurance trust negotiations now. The OSU administration has delayed
and denied health insurance benefits to its Graduate Employees for more than 8
years. Now is the time to stop! OSU Graduate Employees need health insurance
that all can afford, not empty promises, and they need it now! Mr. White, do what is right.
Please instruct OSU's bargining team to settle the health
insurance trust with a plan that all OSU Graduate Employees can afford. The
reputation and quality of OSU demand it.
this needs to be fixed 28.May.2003 00:48

no way?!

are you kidding me?! 40hr/week and NO health insurance? thats bullshit!
I think most must be working less than 40hr/week.
But still, health benefits should be prorated and state mandetory minimums should be offered to the lowest part -timers with the option for the employees to kick-in pre tax dollars for benefits upgrades

totally loopy
I have a friend at UW and he always had full dental/vision/major medical coverage

mr white will deffinately be getting my 2cents

send'n letterS 28.May.2003 01:00

use r

Heres some of the people who have the POWER and what they took home in 2002 (besides their benefits)

Tim White ? OSU Interim Pres. $217,008
Leslie Burns ? OSU Interim Vice Provost $124,000
Mark McCambridge ? OSU V.P. $141,000
Richard Jarvis ? OUS Chancellor $224,016
Mike Riley ? OSU Football Coach - $625,000+Bonuses,Incentives, Etc.*
Jay John ? OSU Basketball Coach - $140,000+Bonuses, Incentives, Etc.*

Medical Interns 28.May.2003 11:10

Zack

Medical interns are treated horribly for 7 years or something? They are required to work 60 hour days etc. I dont know what their pay/benefits are but its pretty low but they have the knowledge that they will be making big bucks when they start their practice. . Likewise, professors will be making good money/ benefits for working HALF DAYS, PLUS they HAVE NO CHANCE OF LOSING THEIR JOB with TENURE!! How many people in the public sector get those kind of benis? So just hang on. Meanwhile, go talk to some medical interns to see how lucky you are. Incidental idea: Maybe some deal could be worked out that interns treat grad students for free.

Zack introduces a non sequitur 28.May.2003 12:13

White Lilac

First, to justify thecurrent treatment of these grad assistants by pointing to another group that is in some ways worse off is bullshit logic. Be thankful you're an indentured servant, because you could be a slave like these people over here, Zack would have us believe. Of course, neither result is acceptable. The practice of using medical interns as slave labor needs changing too.

Second, medical interns are better off when it comes to health care than these grad assistants. I've never heard of medical interns without health insurance (in fact, it's usually mandated by their programs), but even if they did lack insurance, they have access to free medical supplies, free drug samples, leading attending surgeons, and their buddies and colleagues to treat them for free or next to nothing should they get injured.

Finally, Zack implies that these grad assistants are all going to become professors someday, and they should just suck it up since they'll all be tenured professors someday. I'm not sure where this idea comes from; most grad students, depending on their field, end up in the private sector. Academia is highly competitive, even in obscure fields, and many are turned off by the petty arguing (albeit arguments replete with footnotes and distilled into abstracts) that constantly occurs.


This is bullshit ... these grad students need our support, and they need health insurance.

As an aside, why is no one asking why health care is so expensive to begin with, which is why these students (and 42 million other Americans, including myself) lack health insurance? Can we discuss the insane business model of trying to profit off of health care? The best you can do with health care is try to cut your losses ... and I don't mean by axing people from health plans. You cut your losses by paying for preventive health care within a single payer system ... but this is another discussion entirely.

Whie Lilac introduces a questionable cause 28.May.2003 16:02

James

Health care is expensive. Health care providers often make profits. Therefore, profits are the root cause of rising health care costs, or so White Lilac would have us believe.

White Lilac apparently is comfortable ignoring the fact that it's hard to come by a hospital actually making money these days. So it goes for insurance companies, who are in a desperate capital crunch, trying to keep their reserves above their liabilities.

The real culprit is U.S. Tort Law. (Okay, it's also Pfizer and company who are making buckets of money. That, by the way, is not a problem of the free market or capitalism. Rather, it is a manifestation of the gross inequity afforded the public by the current U.S. Patent and Copyright law, which has been abused and recast into a tool of corporate welfare from the instrument for public knowledge and betterment it was once meant to be. That says nothing of the fact that Americans now look towards health insurance in the same manner as Britons look towards their National Health Service. Health insurance in this country should be much the same as auto-insurance. If you wreck, insurance is a life-saver. But you'd hardly want your auto-insurance to cover an oil change.)

It is the same problem that is killing the insurance industry. The U.S. Court system has become a lottery for the greedy and a tax levied against everyone else. Take, for example, asbestos claims: 250,000 cases pending currently. Almost none of those plaintiffs have actually been /injured/ by asbestos in any way, shape or form. They were possibly exposed to it at some point in time. But they are unimpaired. Still, they sue. And with so many cases pending, the insurance companies would quickly go bankrupt trying to defend them all. So they settle with each, handing out token sums of $30,000 here, $50,000 here.

The end result is a rise in everyone's insurance premiums. It's a transfer of wealth from the complacent to the egoistic. From the good citizen, to the bad citizen.

The same is true of the medical industry. Insurance for doctors of all types has skyrocketed. And you need insurance to be licensed to practice. Ob/Gyn's are especially hard-hit, since the insurance has to cover every single birth they attend for 18 years - until the child is an adult.

The solution is simple: Allow judges to summarily declare a lawsuit frivolous, and force the plaintiff to pay 2x the defendents legal fees + court costs.

This single change in U.S. law would lead to a surge in productivity, more jobs, higher wages, cheaper healthcare and would benefit the many states greatly in their current fiscal crises. It would clear our the courts, so that claims with merit could proceed more quickly. And it would cost the government nothing.

It does nothing to limit liability. If a hospital commits so egregious a violation, it could and would still be held to account.

It's not as though the current healthcare system is entirely profit-driven, anyway. Many municipalities run hospitals. Many not-for-profits run hospitals. There are a ton of non-profit health insurance organizations. The two (for-profit and not-for-profit) co-exist nicely together.

It also should be noted that, were it not for massive government waste in the Medicare/Medicaid program, the United States would spend a lower percentage of GDP on health care than countries like Sweden, with socialized health care. (As it stands, we spend something like 2% more, if memory serves).

I'm genuinely surprised you're lacking in health insurance, White Lilac. From reading your posts, it seems you have a dizzying wit. Putting the 42 million other Americans aside, I suspect in your case it would not be a terribly difficult endeavor to get insured. So what's stopping you, if you don't mind my asking?

Agree with White Lilac 29.May.2003 02:22

cynical student

Not only that, but tenure is becoming more rare these days. For example, at my university (a state school), many of the professors are paid year-to-year. Competing for tenure get nasty.

In the richest country in the world, universal health care remains an illusion 29.May.2003 14:24

White Lilac

James,

I have debated about whether or not to respond to your question about why I lack health insurance, because I am tempted to (only figuratively, of course) hit you over the head with the crushing economic reality that millions of us face every day. What isolated world do you live in? I invite you to visit Sisters of the Road Cafe, 133 NW 6th Ave,  http://sistersoftheroadcafe.org . Have some coffee or a meal, and talk to the people you meet there. Almost all are very friendly and willing to tell you a bit about themselves. If you're so inclined and have the time, you can volunteer with them on a weekly basis. I guarantee that if you have an ounce of compassion in you, which I think you do, you'll become as outraged as I am that we lack universal healthcare in a country as wealthy as this one. Once a country has adequate means, as ours does, I firmly believe healthcare becomes a right for all citizens. Sisters should open your eyes, be an enjoyable experience, and you might even run into me there someday.

I lack health coverage because I can't afford it, plain and simple. I earn too much to be eligible for state and federal assistance, and too little to purchase an adequate plan on my own. Most decent plans I have looked at run around $6-8K annually, lack dental and vision coverage, do not cover most preventive healthcare, and have annual deductables of ~$500. Like many who are self-employed, I cannot take advantage of the buying power that a large business offering group coverage can. Some chambers of commerce offer plans for its members, but for a variety of reasons that's not something I want to pursue. I am very thankful for current good health but realize that being hit by a car can produce a bill significantly north of $100K.

Important note to other uninsured or underinsured: if you have car insurance, make sure to increase your uninsured motorist medical benefits coverage to the maximum amount you can afford or your policy allows. This is particularly true for bikers who own some sort of vehicle but primarily bike around. With uninsured motorist coverage, even in a hit and run you can still have your medical bills paid even if you lack health insurance. This is the single best tip I've found for bikers or others who lack health insurance ... a friend of mine was hit on her bike a year or so ago and racked up an $80k bill which was paid for by this coverage. Most people only carry $10K or so by default, but it doesn't add much to your premium to increase your coverage.

I will touch on a final point briefly, as it infuriates me to a point where I may begin to lose objectivity. Whether or not I may occasionally display 'dizzying wit' has no bearing on whether or not I can afford health care, have health insurance, or somehow am more deserving of health coverage than anyone else. Such a view is elitist to the point of being misanthropic. This view acknowledges that we have a severely flawed system of health care, that a significant number (15%) of citizens lack healthcare (and many more are underinsured), but then suggests that I am somehow distinguishable from these sweltering, unwashed masses and should wave the finger of privilege in order to secure health insurance. Do you realize what you've done? You've implicitly acknowledged that healthcare in this country is a thoroughly classist system at its roots, and I'm not just talking in terms of simple economics. Those who can pay, those who have acquired means by whatever twist of fate, fortune, or vice, are afforded better treatment, better equipment, better supplies, and in every other manner a better chance of a successful recovery than those less fortunate. Considering that these same people are the ones most likely to be able to create safe environments to live in, can best avoid hazardous working conditions, and have the mobility to move from unhealthy or polluted areas, they are less likely than poor people to become sick in the first place!

I wholeheartedly reject the capitalist notion that healthcare should somehow be merit-based. Merit, in a capitalist system, is 20% about merit, and 80% about privilege, acquiring privilege, and retaining privilege, through race, gender, sexual orientation, family status, and socioeconomic power. All people deserve universal healthcare coverage, and I'm just one example among millions who are denied these rights.

Didn't mean to offend 29.May.2003 17:16

James

Didn't mean to offend you. Sorry :-) Maybe I will stop by the cafe sometime if I'm in the neighborhood. The website sounds interesting. (Though I'm rarely in NW Portland, as I live and work in SE).

I do, of course, believe everyone should have access to health care. The question then is by what means. The point I was addressing was with regard to profits in the health care/health insurance industries. And the point I was trying to make was that profits are surely a motivating factor towards innovation in the industry. You can bet that with an entirely socialized system you'd have treatment for many life-threatening injuries and diseases. The art of surgery is often pursued for entirely altruistic purposes, so you can bet you'd probably have advanced surgical procedures as well. But I sincerely doubt the scope of the industry, were it socialized, would come anywhere near the range and ability of private medicine in America today.

As happens so oftens in debate, two ideas which are not mutually exclusive seem to become opposed to each other. We can, after all, have health insurance for every American whilst allowing profit in the industry.

I clearly recognize health care as being classist. And this seems to be the fundamental difference of agreement we share. Having thus far in my life not been presented with a differing ideal which would work in practice, and being unable to come up with such an ideal on my own, I submit that a classist health care system is the best system which we can currently practice.

If people were not inherently greedy, if we were not primarily self-concerned, then a differing approach would work. But we are. And they wouldn't.

In today's classist system in America, the quality of health care is good. Perhaps the best in the world. (If you consider the drug manufacturers to be part of the same industry, I think you could easily argue it is the best in the World). So the problem then is the uninsured and under-insured.

The state is a fine vehicle to deal with this problem. And I certainly have no problem with such support. To wit, if Medicare/Medicaid wasn't so entirely broken, we could provide healthcare to nearly every American currently uninsured.

I believe Howard Dean's health care plan is probably a good idea. I'm skeptical of the practicalities of some aspects, but that's a different discussion. The key is being able to opt-out. The ability to opt-out clearly makes Dean's plan classist, which you seem to abhor. Do you criticise his plan?

It's not as though I'm a CEO, writing from the 64th floor of Megalomaniac Center. Nor do I live in an ivory tower. Indeed, I don't have health insurance myself. (Though I certainly do not expect others should pay my share). But I can recognize that a classist plan benefits everyone, in due time.

The profits from the upper-echelon of health care motivates corporations and people to produce higher quality drugs and medical procedures, above and beyond what simple altruism would provide. (That's clear, because capitalism and altruism are also not mutually exclusive. So lest you believe money is never a motivating factor for people, you have to accept that it encourages innovation).

The wealthy are able to afford a higher-quality health insurance policy and higher-quality health care than the poor are. That's a given. But over time, as patents expire, as knowledge permeates (information does want to be free, after all), those same drugs and procedures drop in value and the poor become able to afford them. It's unfortunate that everyone didn't have access to those drugs at the same time; but without that upper echelon, able to generate the innovation required to create those new drugs and procedures, those same discoveries may have been much further away.

I'm just repeating the same things I always say, though. The root of the issue is that at heart, you're a socialist and I'm a capitalist.

The point about your dizzying wit: If I accepted your strange premise that merit under capitalism is 20% actual merit, and 80% privilege, I suspect with little or no privilege, in the final equation you'd still come out with a fair amount of merit. So I was guessing that, while you're not necessarily more deserving of health care, you have a greater ability to receive it. The fact that you don't makes me think you value other things more than health care. Perhaps helping others. Perhaps your work. Perhaps it's art. Perhaps a family. Perhaps watching television, or what have you. And assuming that any of that is right (which I certainly don't presume to know; I'm guessing), capitalism, profits and high health care costs did not prevent you from getting health care.

That's not to say the 42 million others are in a similar situation. Just making an (admittedly myopic) observation about one.

I'll also admit to undying pessimism. Equal health care for all is an appealing thought. And it seems to work okay in Sweden. But I quite simply cannot see a reality where such a system would work in the United States. Sweden's system would require a paradigm shift in the way people view the state. And that shift is at odds with many American ideals. I don't think it would work. I think a simple universal health insurance policy administered entirely by the state would work, but I think it would suck. I think a Dean-style opt-out plan would probably work well enough and is probably the right solution. I still have my problems with it and I hate giving the state any money at all, for any reason. If I think about it too much, I reflexively believe it would be a huge waste of money and help little. Medicare/Medicaid 2.0. But it might work.

Rightist views are not necessarily economic Darwinism, as is so often claimed. They're just different opinions about the best approaches towards the same ends: the best society possible.