On Tuesday January 17th consumers, front-line workers, family members, students, and elected officials from across Oregon gathered in Portland and Eugene for a forum on mental health and addictions services as Oregon works to transform its health care system. Participants shared stories of success and failure in our current mental health and addictions system as well as ways we can make improvements on the system to make it truly work for everyone. It was amazing to see how much energy and passion people brought to this critical issue and the hunger out there for real and substantial change. What we heard again and again was the need for expanded access so that people can get the services they need and the need for front-line mental health and addictions workers to feel safe in their jobs through proper staffing and adequate training.
Stories shared by participants in the forum and information gathered at small group breakout sessions were submitted to the Oregon Health Policy Board for their consideration as they finish their final proposal on Health Care Transformation to the legislature.
However, as was stated Tuesday night, our fight for an addictions and mental health system that really works for workers, consumers, and advocates continues. We will need to continue to fight for better access, better staffing ratios, and more rights for front-line workers in order to have a system that truly works. Our next steps will be to watch the process as it unfolds at the legislature in February and at Oregon Health Policy Board meetings throughout the next year.
Empower Oregon is a project of the Service Employees International Union Local 503 which seeks to unite frontline addictions and mental health workers to successfully advocate for their clients and themselves from their workplaces to the State Capitol. We are union and non-union workers dedicated to providing quality human services and opportunities to find recovery and live with independence and dignity for the individuals we serve: People with mental, emotional or behavioral disorders; individuals struggling to overcome substance abuse addictions and people who are homeless. The essential services we provide help our clients become healthier, more productive members of our community.
Late Monday afternoon, the congressional Super-Committee announced their failure to put forward a proposal to cut $1.2 trillion from the U.S. budget over the next 10 years.
Time and time again, the Super-Committee proved unable to reach an agreement on long-term deficit reduction for one reason and one reason only:
Republicans refused to make the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.
Despite an overwhelming majority of Americans wanting the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share, Republicans refused to budge from their stance that Bush tax cuts be preserved while cutting programs that the middle class, seniors, and most Americans depend on.
Democrats on the Super-Committee stood their ground that the rich pay their fair share or no deal. They insisted that everyone in America pay their fair share and prevented devastating cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and other programs that millions of Americans rely on for their healthcare and livelihoods.
By rejecting the Republican proposals that came out of the Super-Committee, Democrats were expressing the views of the vast majority of Americans and standing behind them. While these efforts were able to prevent a bad deal from coming out of the Super-Committee, this fight is far from over.
“Now, it’s up to both chambers to focus on putting Americans back to work. That is the best way to reduce our deficit,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry in a statement following the announcement by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. “A cuts-only approach will not work and will end up shifting responsibility to already stretched state budgets and cost millions of jobs.”
In a White House press briefing Monday evening, President Obama took Republicans to task for not proposing any serious deficit reduction proposals that would required shared sacrifice:
“There’s still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise that are coming from outside of Washington. They continue to insist on protecting $100 billion worth of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans at any cost [...]“
More details from the New York Times on the failure of the Super-Committee to propose a plan to identify $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions in time for the November 23rd deadline.
I wanted to share this email I just received from SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry.
Sometimes our representatives in Washington lose their way.
It’s as simple as this: America needs good jobs, not more healthcare cuts.
Democratic and Republican members of the congressional “Super-Committee” are poised to cut Medicare and Medicaid rather than end tax giveaways for big corporations and millionaires.
That’s just plain wrong.
Please call to tell your member of Congress that they cannot support a Super-Committee deal that takes away the healthcare that seniors, people with disabilities and working families are counting on and destroys jobs. Here’s the number:
Recent news reports say that these members of Congress are reviewing proposals that include staggering cuts to Medicaid and Medicare to the tune of $500 billion or more.
Cuts of this magnitude would be a terrible deal for 99% of Americans and especially disastrous for seniors, people with disabilities and children who rely on these lifesaving healthcare services. America’s middle class is hurting. Instead of cutting healthcare and cutting jobs, it’s time for Congress to ask millionaires and big corporations to do their part in reducing our nation’s deficit.
Call your member(s) of Congress and tell them that to say NO to any deal that cuts Medicaid and Medicare and yes to protecting the jobs that get America working again:
Mary Kay Henry
SEIU International President
As we all know, the actions of Linda Williams, the union busting consultant, and managers were so outrageous last year–like erecting a stockade fence around the voting site on election day and indicating bonuses were tied to the outcome of the election–that the NLRB set aside the election. Now the state of Massachusetts Operational Services Division has opened an investigation into the possible illegal use of state money to fund their anti union campaign.
You can read the correspondence between Linda Williams and the OSD on their website here, including their most recent request for additional information filed this week. If Linda Williams does not comply with the OSD’s request for information, she could jeopardize the care of our clients by subjecting MHA to:
delay of payment, disallowance of payment expenses relative to which documentation sufficient to meet governmental agencies’ inspection or auditing standards is not provided, restriction on bidding for new contracts, restriction from receiving additional funds or price increases, determination that the Contractor is ineligible for the ready payment system under 815 CMR 3.00, or debarment from doing business with the state. In addition, Contractors of special education services shall not be eligible for an increase to prices authorized pursuant to the provisions of 808 CMR 1.06.
Linda Williams says she has nothing to hide, so lets hope she is as open and transparent with the state as she says she is with us.
In October of 2010, Springfield City Council passed a resolution supporting workers rights to allow employees to: “Choose freely whether to unionize or not, free from intimidation or coerction”
As we all know by now, because the actions of Linda Williams and management were so egregious–like erecting a stockade fence around the voting site and indicating bonuses were contingent on the union election outcome–the NLRB threw out the first election. You would think, that MHA would have learned their lesson by now.
Unfortunately, Linda Williams seems to be headed down the same path of fear, intimidation and coercion. She has once again hired a high paid “union avoidance” consultant. And this time, she seems to be acting in conflict with the goals of the City Council Resolution supporting workers rights, in addition to potential further violations of NLRB rules.
City Councilor Amaad Rivera has sent a letter calling on Linda Williams to respect the resolution:
MHA employees now report that MHA has again retained a “union avoidance” consultant, Natasha Gordon, and is requiring staff to attend mandatory meetings to dissuade employees from supporting a union. I am concerned these activities and others conflict with the resolution of City Council. During this second election, I trust you will respect the resolution of city council and allow your employees to: “to choose freely whether to unionize or not, free of intimidation or coercion.
The councilor has joined growing list of over 60 community members and community organizations like Jobs With Justice, United for Community Voices, the Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council, Arise and elected officials like state representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera who have a called on Linda Williams to respect workers rights.
If you haven’t already, you can send a letter to Linda Williams and the MHA board of directors here.
Is it KEISHA or NATASHA?
Most of us have been visited in our programs this week by a woman who sometimes goes by the name Keisha or Natasha. No one knows her real name. She claims she’s from Atlanta and that she used to work for SEIU.
The TRUTH is that Keisha/Natasha is a paid, anti-union consultant! Yes, even after the National Labor Relations Board ruled that MHA broke the law, the agency is once again spending money that could be in our pockets to keep us from forming our union.
But even after the federal government determined that MHA broke the law and ordered a new election, MHA hasn’t learned its lesson. It’s up to the same dirty tricks as last time.
Let’s not let MHA’s dirty tricks fool us into giving up our rights.
Let’s VOTE YES the week of November 14th!