The Price Of Life Is Too High To Give Up

Recent Newark area news prompted Analysis to consider a more national news item. Writing for In These Times, Sarah Lahm headlines Here’s why thousands of steelworkers just voted to authorize a strike U.S. Steel is one of a handful of domestic steel manufacturers who have seen a significant bump in profits in 2018 (9-24-18). “U.S. Steel is poised to rake in close to $2 billion in profits this year, and the workers who helped make that happen want their fair share of the wealth — as well as a way to shore up rapidly rising healthcare costs.” Pretty much gives the kernel of what the article covers. United Steelworkers Union, representing 16,000 steelworkers across the U.S., entered into contract negotiations with U.S. Steel after the old contract ran out 9-1-18. That contract was from 2015 when U. S. Steel was struggling and workers agreed to a wage freeze. Today is a different story. “U.S. Steel is one of a handful of domestic steel manufacturers who have seen a significant bump in profits in 2018, thanks to increased demand for steel, as well as new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. The tariffs have pushed up the cost of steel and helped pad the bottom line for large corporations such as U.S. Steel, a publicly traded company worth over $6 billion.” “[R.J.] Hufnagel [writer and editor for United Steelworkers] argued that U.S. Steel management has scored “more than $50 million in pay and bonuses since 2015 while the hourly work force has not received a wage increase over the same period.” What’s more, he wrote, U.S. Steel also appears to be trying to squeeze workers when it comes to healthcare costs — a common theme in recent negotiations for United Steelworkers.” So what else is new? This is ditto a common theme for workers in whatever capacity they labor in the U.S. The emphasis seems to be on healthcare AS WELL AS wages. “The union alleges that U.S. Steel is no longer offering the current health plan workers have, which requires much less in out of pocket costs, and is instead trying to “bribe” employees into accepting a “high deductible high cost” insurance plan. In exchange, U.S. Steel has said they will reward those who switch to the high-deductible healthcare plan with an annual payout of $1,500 for the next six years.” ““U.S. Steel has made proposals that would increase members’ out of pocket health care costs by thousands of dollars per year,” Hufnagel says.” For context as to the significance of these out of pocket costs, Lahm writes “Some examples of this include a 2017 Bloomberg News report which found that increasing health insurance costs are “eating up the wage gains won by American workers, who are being asked by their employers to pick up more of the heftier tab.” Reporter Zachary Tracer used government data and research from the Kaiser Family Foundation to show that, in recent years, “premiums for an employer-provided family insurance plan have climbed 19 percent, while worker pay increased by 12 percent.”” Analysis couldn’t help but notice that union membership across the U.S. is down tremendously since its zenith 50 years ago. Union disparagement is a standard meme for the Grand Old Party with its so called “right to work” laws. Recently we’ve covered glowing accounts that PNB corporation has continuously shown profits rising (mostly due to fees on transactions) and growth (buying another bank in South Carolina) while the workers there have celebrated…? Other Newark “business” news heralded the record number of students attending the Newark campus of OSU (second largest OSU campus). High enrollment translates into greater earnings. Coupled with low pay for temporary non-tenured faculty, teaching assistants and student workers, the administration projects spending its “profits” on a new chemistry/technology building, and then a new residence hall (in order to achieve even higher earnings). This play book of business success through greater earnings achieved by holding the line on wages while imposing “high deductible high cost” health insurance (if at all), is repeatedly celebrated by Newark’s Chamber of Commerce, Grow Licking County, and Grand Old Party administration. The 16,000 employed by U.S. Steel are lucky. Unlike the low paid teaching and student labor at OSUN, or other corporate high earners, they at least have a union by which to collectively demand better. Analysis finds the alternative, of waiting for the administration at Park or OSU to lower deductibles and health insurance costs and raise wages of their own accord, to be like the lyrics of a Merle Haggard song: “We’ll all be drinking that free Bubble Up, And eating that Rainbow Stew.’ (Rainbow Stew, 1981)



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