The “no health care” shuffle

by Claire Pengelly—Pennsylvania

I spoke to a woman who was very passionate about the issues of health care: She has cancer and diabetes. As she signed up as a member, she told me about how her government job laid her off because of her need to take time off for chemotherapy.

She was then forced to get a job at a big box retailer because there were no other jobs for her in the area. She’s been working there for a year until recently, when she found out she could fight to get reinstated at her old job. Of course, the retailer wasn’t paying her enough to survive, so in the meantime she has been going without treatments in the hopes of getting reinstated.

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More than a pay cut

by Alex Barth—Pennsylvania

Tonight, I had a woman rip my clipboard out of my hand to sign up when I talked about the loss of jobs in Pennsylvania. The woman’s job had just been outsourced and she was denied unemployment because she wouldn’t take the job the company offered to give her instead (paying less than half of her original salary). It’s really obvious that corporate America has the upper hand.

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The bottom line

by Claire Pengelly—Pennsylvania

I talked to a man tonight who had just been informed last week that he was being laid off from his job. He worked for human resources at a major bookstore chain. He had been working there for six years and was told that before he was to be terminated, he had to train other people to do different parts of his job. Of course, this was in the interest of the company saving money on his salary and benefits. The bottom line was that money was his employers cared about!

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Closer than he thought

by Josh Pollack—Pennsylvania

I spoke with an older gentleman who said that only young people want more affordable health care because they have no health care. Five doors from this gentleman, I talked to a lady who was the same age as this man, that told me she works 70 hours a week and has no health insurance.

Health care issues are closer to people than they think or care to discover.


Working America is at your door

Richard Freeman, Harvard University professor and Herbert Ascherman Chair in Economics goes in-depth about our history and success at the AFL-CIO website’s Point of View.

The story of Working America is the one of the greatest success in reaching workers outside of collective bargaining since the Knights of Labor in the 1880s. Its primary mode of enlisting members is through community canvassing, where bright young activists go door to door in potentially union-friendly neighborhoods. At the same time, Working America’s strong online program has resulted in 60,000 new members signing up through its website….

Get the full scoop here.

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Take this job and…

by A. Mark Robinson—Pennsylvania

I spoke with a guy in Kingston, PA who revealed that he was a machinist. He said his company’s management team reported to their staff that the company was doing “very well.” The next month he came to work and noticed some of his co-workers missing. He asked the management staff, “where are these guys?” They called him into the office and confirmed that some of the employees got laid off. But the company wanted him and two other machinists to keep working for them. He told his bosses to “take this job and shove it!” Two days later he found another machinist job that paid him $5 more per hour.

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No money, no medicine

by Jackie Lima—Pennsylvania

I met a 96 year old woman tonight. She invited me into her home and we began discussing health care. She had good reason for signing up as a member of Working America. Her son was denied his medication at their small town pharmacy because he owed too much money. In fact, there was a note on her table to that end. The woman expressed how hard it is to see her children suffering and vowed to sneak down to the pharmacy and pay her son’s bill. I told her if we had national health care, this wouldn’t be an issue—that her son would have his medications. Instantly, a look of relief filled her eyes. “That is why I’m out here,” I said. She gave me some fruit and sent me on my way.

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“I thought it would never happen to me”

by Jonathan Sharwarko—Pennsylvania

Sad words, but true on so many occasions. While canvassing in Johnstown, PA an older woman opened the door with a huge smile on her face and almost instantly signed up. As the conversation went to the subject of health care, she told me how she has diabetes and lacks any type of health care coverage. Her last bill from when she was hospitalized amounted to $2700. Of course, like most Americans she couldn’t afford to pay the bill the hospital stuck her with when she became sick. I don’t know what was sadder—her situation or the fact that she tried to hold back her tears with little success. Being a strong soul though, she smiled at me and waved as I walked away. She commented about her dogs being her main source of happiness.

We never think of all the things we have that make us happy and content in life, or how easily we can lose things. Everyone likes to think that something like this “will never happen to me.” Well, I got news for you—it’s a lot closer than you think.

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Nursing “care”?

by Jackie Lima—Pennsylvania

The woman I spoke to tonight worked in a nursing home. Apparently, the home was purchased by firms from other states. One elderly client, who still held his own “power of attorney” had an outstanding bill with the nursing home. He was relegated to “hospice status,” but bounced back after responding to medication. He has Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, but because he owed the nursing home money, he was weeded out and sent to a local hospital with inpatient hospice service. The employee of the nursing home that I spoke with is concerned that he will be over-medicated, not receive the care he needs and be left, possibly to die, all because of an inability to pay.

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Generous even in hard times

by Donald Pettyjohn—Ohio

On my ninth day of canvassing in Dayton for Working America, I met a woman with an interesting and inspiring story. She was in her late fifties and raising her ten-year-old grandson, whose mother and father didn’t want anything to do with him. She didn’t want to see the boy sent to a foster home and so took custody of him. She explained that she had a medical problem consisting of a mass building up inside of her and didn’t know what exactly it was, except that it causes her a lot of pain. She also said that she had so many medical bills from her past problems that now she couldn’t possibly pay them with what she was receiving on social security. As such, she felt she couldn’t go to the doctor to find out what was wrong with her on her $450/month from social security. A few months ago, her social security had been raised to $520/month, but as a result her food stamp allowance had been reduced to $23/month. As she started crying, she told me that her rent was $325/month and that she could barely afford food and utilities.

She said between sobs that she couldn’t pay any dues but said she would make phone calls for Working America, put together fliers or even follow canvassers around with something cold to drink. I thanked her for her generosity and willingness to help despite her situation and she told me, “No, thank you for coming out each day trying to help better the lives of people like me.” I gave her a big hug and assured her that things will get better and she smiled.

As I left, I couldn’t help but think about what we do and the impact it has on peoples’ lives. And I know in my heart that coming to Working America was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If we don’t stand up and fight for these people, no one will.

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