May 04, 2017

Thanks for nothing

It's hard to think of a (printable) word to describe my disgust at the fact that all three of WV's US representatives voted today to take health care away from around 225,000 West Virginians. Hardest hit of these are:

*the 175,000 people from working families who gained coverage from Medicaid expansion;

*the 24,000 or so of those who are getting  help for mental  health or addiction from the expansion; and

*the nearly 300,000 children who had coverage from either CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) or Medicaid at some point during 2016. Up till now, WV was a national leader in covering kids. With the whole health care system now in chaos, we may soon be leading the nation in throwing kids under the bus.

If you want to contact your representative to tell them (OK, their staff) how you feel, you can call:

Congressman David McKinley 1st district, Phone: (202) 225-4172

Congressman Alex Mooney, 2nd district, Phone: (202) 225-2711

Congressman Evan Jenkins, 3rd district, Phone (202) 225-3452

Meanwhile, the action will head to the senate, where Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito will be a crucial swing vote. You can call her office at 202-224-6472.

To his credit, Senator Joe Manchin is the only member of WV's delegation who has come out in favor of preserving the gains of the Affordable Care Act.

May 01, 2017

Born in the USA

Around the world but not here so much (yet), May 1 is celebrated as International Workers' Day. Ironically the roots of this observance began right here in the USA. A major struggle in much of the 19th and 20th century has been to reduce the hours of the working day, which could run as long as 14 hours or more in the early days of the industrial revolution.

A slogan of the movement was "eight hours for work, eight hours of sleep and eight hours for what we will."

Trade unionists in Chicago declared a strike for the eight hour day on May 1, 1886. One May 4, as police attempted to disperse a protesting crowd of workers at Haymarket Square, an unknown person threw a bomb which killed several police officers. The remaining police in turn fired at the crowd, killing four.

The bomber was never brought to justice. The only thing most historians agree on is that the eight people arrested and sentenced for the bombing weren't the guilty parties, several of whom weren't even there at the time. Of these, four were eventually executed. They are known as the "Haymarket martyrs."

The struggle to limit the working day didn't end there and was eventually won for many US workers by trade union organization and by the political reforms in the New Deal era and beyond, although some laws exempted protections for some of the most exploited workers, such as farm and domestic laborers.

Like everything else in the history of the struggle of working people for basic human justice, the fight goes on. In fact, as new forms of automation enter the traditional workplace, it may take new forms, such as limiting reducing working hours in order to share the available work.

The fight has always been about more than wages, hours and working conditions, as important as these are. It's also been about the need for culture, rest, leisure, education and dignity.

Lately, this hasn't been going so well, as you may have noticed. But it's not over yet.