New Ground 110
January - February, 2007
110.1 - 01.25.2007
0. DSA News
YDS National Conference
Protest Cook County Budget Butchery
Pass a Clean Minimum Wage
2. Upcoming Events of Interest
110.2 - 02.06.2007
0. DSA News
A Democratic Socialist Perspective
for the Anti-War Movement
YDS National Conference
Let the Voting Begin!
Coalition of Immokalee Workers Update
The Bush Budget
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Hates Your Freedom
2. Upcoming Events of Interest
110.3 - 02.20.2007
0. DSA News
Michael Harrington & Today's
Day Labor Fights for Justice
Defund the War
Rally at the Congress Hotel
3. Upcoming Events of Interest
110.4 - 03.08.2007
0. DSA News
YDS Spring Conference a Success
Health Care Action in Illinois
Victory at H2O+
Troops Out Now!
Latin American Solidarity Conference
2. Upcoming Events of Interest
Labor/Community Movement to Reform Resurrection West Suburban
Quality Health Care for All
by Bill Barclay
The problem of health care in the U.S.
brings together many issues for progressives. First, it illuminates
the conflict between the public provision of and access to an
essential good-quality health care vs. the corporate desire
to privatize and ration access to health services. Second, the
health care workplace is often the intersection between the aspirations
of workers for a voice in the organization of their daily work
life and the pressure of profit-maximizing enterprises to control
the organization and structure of work. Third, because of the
racial distribution of low paying service sector jobs, the health
sector is also frequently the locale where race and class meet,
with African-American and Hispanic employees supervised by white
These are the big picture frames. Each
individual hospital and its surrounding community faces these
issues in specific ways, as illustrated by the ongoing effort
to reform West Suburban Medical Center (West Sub). West Sub is
a unit of the Resurrection Health Care (RHC) chain, the second
largest in the Chicago metropolitan area and is located on the
border of Oak Park and Austin, drawing patients (customers) from
Resurrection Health Care Acquires
In early 2004 West Sub, which had been
an independent not-for-profit hospital was acquired by Resurrection
Health Care (RHC). The acquisition occurred under the new "fast
track" provisions enacted by the Illinois legislature and
was well along the path to completion before many residents were
even aware of the process. However, significant questions were
raised by residents in both communities about the potential impact
of the acquisition on the quality and availability of health
care. In response to these concerns, the Illinois Health Facilities
Board approved the acquisition only after an agreement between
RHC and the Illinois Attorney General's office. The agreement
required West Sub, as a unit of RHC to:
(1) Continue the level of charity care
at or above the level provided by West Sub prior to the acquisition;
(2) Provide an alternative to patients
seeking reproductive health services that the RHC chain refuses
to provide because of its adherence to Catholic doctrine (e.g.,
birth control, pregnancy termination, etc);
(3) Continue to seek input from community
residents with respect to the range and quality of health services
RHC's Impact on West Suburban Hospital
Despite the agreement signed with the
Attorney General's office, data compiled from the initial post-acquisition
period indicates that the level of charity health care has been
reduced below that provided prior to the acquisition. But this
was only part of the impact of RHC's acquisition of West Sub.
RHC has also implemented staff cutbacks that undermined the quality
of health care provided. These include an increase in the patient/nurse
ratio in units throughout the hospital (including labor &
delivery, and medical/surgical floors) and a cutback in support
staff (for example, the lactation consultant who helps new mothers
During 2005-06 West Sub has been cited
on multiple occasions by the Illinois Department of Public Health
for problems including procedures for medicating patients for
pain, preventing bed sores, and patients leaving the ER without
receiving care. Since acquisition of West Sub, RHC has made no
efforts to include Oak Park and Austin residents in their health
care planning. Finally, because RHC shifted its accrediting agency
from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health care Organizations
(JCAHO) to the American Osteopathic Association's Health Care
Facilities Accreditation Program (HEAP), the independent health
care quality measurements that West Sub must meet have been lowered.
JCAHO is the industry standard; HEAP is an outlier that, in contrast
to JCAHO, does not make publicly available the results of its
analysis of hospital quality performance and does not conduct
unannounced survey visits. In this case the market has decided:
HEAP accredits less than 10% Illinois hospitals but RHC
wants the lower accountability and reduced transparency provided
by HEAP. Thus we who rely on West Sub are subject to this corporate
desire to place profits over health care.
Staff at West Suburban responded to
these changes by an increased interest in organizing for collective
bargaining with RHC, working primarily with AFSCME
Council 31 . RHC countered by hiring Sefarth Shaw and the
ironically named Haymarket Group to counter employee organizing
and community accountability efforts.
Oak Park/Austin Health Alliance
The decline in charity care, the attack
on employees' rights to organize, the overall resistance to community
input into health care planning and growing concerns bout the
quality of health services provided has generated community opposition
to RHC policies and methods. In mid-2005, the Oak
Park Coalition for Truth and Justice (OPCTJ) joined with
the South Austin Community Coalition (SACC) and AFSCME Council
31 to form the Oak Park/Austin Health Alliance (OPAHA) as a community/labor
vehicle for countering West Sub's move towards a corporate approach
to medical care.
Since its inception, OPAHA has organized
several community meetings to discuss West Sub and the crisis
in health care. Out of these community meetings came a four-point
program, OPAHA's Community Benefits Agreement:
(1) Insure access to health care for
residents in need;
(2) Provide health care services that
benefit the community;
(3) Recognize employees' right to organize;
(4) Create a community outreach/input
In its organizing efforts OPAHA brings
together the predominantly African-American community of Austin,
the majority white community of Oak Park and the racially mixed
work force at West Sub. OPAHA's work to date includes actions
on several fronts.
(1) We have gone door-to-door in Oak
Park and Austin neighborhoods to learn of resident experience
with West Sub and to place signs in more than 100 yards asking
West Sub to "Put Patients First, Treat Workers Fairly."
This gives West Sub's CEO, Jay Kreuzer, something to look at
as he comes to work each day.
(2) We presented a petition from ministers,
priests and rabbis asking West Sub to meet with workers' representatives
to discuss working conditions and the need for workers to have
an independent voice.
(3) We have met with members of Illinois
Attorney General Lisa Madigan's staff, asking them to review
West Sub's adherence to the undertaking with respect to levels
of charity care provided.
(4) We are supporting members of West
Sub's housekeeping staff who are facing racial and ethnic discrimination
in hiring/job allocation/firing.
(5) We have (unsuccessfully) asked West
Sub CEO Jay Kreuzer to meet with OPAHA to discuss the CBA and
how to implement it.
(6) Most recently OPAHA members testified
before the VOP Board of Trustees (the Board is being asked to
grant West Sub a zoning variance to enlarge the ER unit), asking
the Board to attach conditions to any such zoning variance.
In all of this there is one constant:
a refusal of West Sub to meet with the only organization that
represents key stakeholders the community and the work
force. We now believe that it is time to increase the pressure
on West Sub to behave as a member of the Oak Park/Austin community
rather than as a predator seeking to extract the maximum of profit.
We invite everyone to join us in this effort.
Go to the web site devoted to changing
RHC and decide how you can assist in this struggle to assure
quality health care for all: www.reformresurrection.org
Editor's Note: Bill Barclay is a
member of Greater Oak Park DSA and the Oak Park Coalition for
Truth and Justice. Also see New Ground 102, "Resurrecting
West Suburban Hospital's Commitment to the Oak Park / Austin
Community" for more information.
Empire Strikes Back!
by Bob Roman
As this issue of New Ground goes
to the printer, the final meeting of the Adequate
Health Care Task Force will be happening. As reported in
New Ground 109,
the Task Force will be recommending to the Illinois legislature
a health insurance scheme that resembles the plan recently passed
in Massachusetts. A minority report advocating a "single-payer"
(that is to say state run) insurance plan will also be submitted.
In New Ground 109, I speculated that the insurance industry
would present its own minority report. And indeed, 5 members
(all appointed by Republicans) of the Task Force are submitting
such a dissent.
This dissent is the opening shot in
a campaign to prevent the legislature from doing much of anything
on the issue of health care. Some of this involves whining about
process: about how the Task Force went about its work, about
how the interpretation of facts and assumptions made by the Task
Force's consultant (Navigant) didn't fit with the libertarian
dogma of the dissidents. You'll be hearing more of this as "unfair"
is such an easy charge to toss at your opponents, especially
if it's a half-truth.
But the essence of the dissidents' complaint
is: "the plan advanced by the Adequate Health Care Task
Force will, if implemented, increase health care costs, reduce
consumer choice of health care coverage, have a negative effect
on the quality of health care provided to the citizens of Illinois
and restrain job growth." Some of this, particularly "consumer
choice" and "job growth", are symptoms of libertarian
If this minority is ideological and
self-serving, don't assume they are also, therefore, stupid.
In fact, some of the criticisms they make of the majority report
are dead on, and others are plausible enough to scare skittish
legislators. Among the latter, one example is the charge that
the system proposed by the majority report would violate the
federal Employee Retirement Income Securities Act (ERISA) that
regulates employee benefit plans. In order to achieve uniformity
across the states, ERISA preempts state laws. Maryland's recent
health care law aimed more or less at Wal-Mart was struck down
by the courts using ERISA. Even if it does not apply in this
case, proponents of the majority report had best get Attorney
General Madigan on board as reassurance, at least.
More to the point are the dissidents'
complaints regarding the lack of cost containment measures and
complaints (and questions) about just who is going to pay for
this system. Employers will be expected to pay about $1.5 billion.
Since this is money not necessarily going to the insurance
industry, to any good libertarian it's obviously a burden and
a waste. But there are also some 3 to 3.5 billion dollars in
expenses (and more as those numbers do not include start
up expenses) that are not funded by the majority report. Unfunded
mandates have become common in the past quarter century and typical
under the Blagojevich Administration, but they should make you
These dissidents can't simply say "no",
not in the face of so much heart-breaking testimony collected
by the Task Force. But they are mostly content with restating
elements of the insurance industry's proposal to the Task Force.
To be fair, this was not the worst proposal to the Task Force.
It might cover up to 28% of the presently uninsured (some of
the other proposals covered fewer), and if you have sufficient
income so that you could save or invest, you might do
well enough provided you're not especially sick. It represents
an attempt to address the anguish of those denied access to health
care (or bankrupted by it) while preserving the primacy of the
financial industry. (Insurers are not in business to cover your
butt against misadventure. They are in business to make money
by investing your premium payments.)
That the other Republican appointees
to the Task Force did not join this dissent suggests these dissidents
just don't get it. Health care is not just another commodity;
it is a basic human right, not a reward for being the biggest
rat in the race.
by Bob Roman
At our January 9 membership meeting,
we voted to endorse fellow DSA member Gary Schwab as a candidate
for Trustee of the Village of Oak Park.
Gary Schwab is running for a 4 year
term as part of the Vision
Community Action (VCA) slate in the April 17th consolidated
election. The slate includes Annabel Abraham, James Balanoff,
and incumbent Robert Milstein. The VCA platform embraces a Living
Wage Ordinance for the Village. It calls upon the Village to
sign contracts with all its unions by the end of 2007 and to
accept arbitrated labor decicisions. The platform calls for the
creation of a Labor Relations Commission to advise the Village
Board on contested grievance and discipline actions, contract
disputes and related issues.
Gary Schwab is a 28 year resident of
Oak Park. He holds a doctorate in Information Engineering from
the University of Illinois in Chicago. He has served as a consultant
and as information systems manager for public and private agencies.
Gary's public service has included being a member of the Historical
Society of Oak Park and River Forest. He has served as both chair
and a member of the Community Design Commission, and as a member
of the Community Development Citizen Advisory Committee. Gary
has devoted many years to public service in the Village. Gary's
remarkable grasp of history has made him a champion of historic
preservation and economic development which respects Oak Park's
unique and irreplaceable character and tradition of diversity.
If you'd like to help, call Tom Ard
at 708.386.0869 or Tom Broderick at 708.386.6007 or email email@example.com.