Israel: More Right and Too Little left

by Ellen Isaacs

January 19, 2023

There is much consternation about Israel’s move sharply rightward under Netanyahu’s new government, but it is really just a move to more overt fascism, by which is meant rule by force without any pretense of democracy or respect for human rights. The change is really minimal as Israel has created a society of inequality, racial and gender discrimination and has unleashed terror upon Palestinians since its founding in 1948. This article will discuss some of the ways in which these conditions are manifest and how any substantive change will demand unity between Arab and Jewish workers within all of historic Palestine and most likely with workers of the world. Unity not only to struggle together but to build a non-racist, non-exploitative society beyond capitalism.

Continue reading “Israel: More Right and Too Little left”

IT’S SICKENING: Lack of Sick Pay, Leave, Insurance

by Ellen Isaacs

December 12, 2022

Given the level of attention to the recently imposed freight rail contract that provides no, zero, acute sick days for railroad workers earning an average wage of $64,210 (before the recent 24% increase spread out over 5 years), let’s remember their huge toll of Covid-19 cases as shown in this table of infected rail workers from the Federal Railroad Administration.1

And let’s remind ourselves how terribly the US compares to the rest of the developed world in minimum sick days that are mandated for workers on a national basis.2

Then let’s recall that despite being the richest country in the world, the US has the worst health outcomes among developed countries.3 Moreover, within the US there are huge disparities of health and benefits based on race as well as class (for an overview, see https://multiracialunity.org/2017/04/13/racism-is-a-scourge-on-the-publics-health/), a fact that helps to hide this woeful state of affairs, blame it on the most deprived, and diminish the struggle for change.

Sickness Among Workers Spreads Disease and Costs Money

Workers who get sick are not just a problem to themselves because of pain and suffering with possible long-term consequences, lost income, contagion, and family difficulties, but society has a lot to lose too. Sick workers without sick pay are 1.5 times more likely to go to work with a contagious illness than those with this benefit. Three million unwell workers go to work each week, mostly low wage earners, mothers with young children or both. Moreover, most have jobs such as restaurant or child care workers that directly interact with the public. It was estimated that five million people contracted swine flu in 2009 because of lack of sick leave.4 Temporary emergency paid sick leave for Covid through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 is thought to have prevented 400 Covid cases in each state.5

Capitalist enterprises may think they are saving money by not offering sick days, but they are actually hurting themselves as well as the society at large. Paid sick days lead to more preventive care, like vaccinations, and getting earlier treatment when ill and thus avoid preventable emergency room visits. This alone would save an estimated $1.1 billion annually.4 Workers who go to work sick are also 38% more likely to be injured on the job than those who can take time off, and the resulting loss of productivity at work is estimated to cost about $208 billion annually. Access to sick pay also reduces the chance of job loss by one fourth over five months, while a need for new workers increases bosses’ costs for new worker recruitment and training.6

Who Has Sick Days

As of March, 2022, over 33 million workers in the US lack even a single sick day, which is disproportionately true of low wage service workers. 55% of retail and fast food workers are in this category. Only one fifth of workers with the lowest 10% of private salaries have sick days compared to near 90% in the top tenth of wage earners. Almost half of working mothers – 54% of Latin and 42% of black mothers – have no paid sick time.6 A little over half of hourly service workers at 91 large companies like Costco and Walmart have paid leave, although the figures vary widely. 7

Even though worker organizing in 15 states and dozens of cities has resulted in laws mandating sick time, there is no such federal law, and 24 states actually have statutes preventing cities and counties from enacting their own laws.6 The federal Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides up to 26 weeks off a year for unpaid medical leave for one’s own serious illness or to care for a sick family member, but it has many restrictions. The employee must have worked for a firm with at least 50 employees for at least 12 months and for at least 1250 hours a year. Only 59% of workers meet these criteria.8 In the case of rail workers, the requirement that the worker has put in 1250 hours over the past year excludes many because hours on call do not count, which may be 24 hours a day, seven days a week.9

Everything Is Worse Without Insurance

As of 2021, 30 million people, 9.2% of Americans, had no health insurance, the main problem being affordability The highest percentage of the uninsured is those of working age, 19-64, and is disproportionately black and Latin, the latter group being 30% uninsured.10 Approximately 5.2 million people have gained health coverage since 2020 via the American Rescue Plan, which has increased marketplace subsidies and expanded Medicaid.4 Although originally expected to end in 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act has now extended these benefits through 2025.11 Then, who knows?

According to the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey of a representative sample of adults,

  • 43% of those of working age are still inadequately insured in 2022
  • Of these, one tenth had a gap in coverage during the past year
  • For nearly a quarter their coverage does not provide affordable access to care.
  • Half said they could not pay for an unexpected medical bill of $1000 within a month, which includes 68% of black and 63% of Latin workers.
  • Undocumented immigrants, about 12 million people, are ineligible for any federally subsidized insurance
  • 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid have huge uncovered medical cost risk.6
  • The result of these large gaps in coverage is that one fourth of people with chronic diseases like diabetes have skipped prescriptions because of out of pocket costs.11

The Overlap of Sick Pay and Health Insurance

It is very difficult to find data that show the combined effects of sick days and health insurance. The table below, although nine years old, illustrates that the combination of lack of both sick leave and insurance leads to the highest incidence of delayed medical care, while those with insurance and sick days do better than those with the ability to take time off but no insurance to pay for care. Doubtless the same is true today.12

Railroad workers, one group of insured workers without sick days, may take occasional personal days, but even these must be scheduled at least 48 hours in advance and so are useless for acute illnesses, which includes most infectious ones. If a worker does call in sick, there may be severe penalties, even termination. Since work schedules are irregular and may change at the last minute, it is very difficult to schedule any preventative or chronic health care.

What Is the Remedy?

It is hard to even contemplate the mindset of the US legislators or the President, well paid with generous benefits, who see fit to deny railroad workers even a single paid acute sick day. But it somehow is not out of kilter, not outrageous, in a  society where workers are treated merely as means to an end, means to make a profit, rather than as human beings with intrinsic worth. And the disregard continues even though, overall, profits and general social health and costs are negatively impacted.  

Partly this reflects the difficulty of planning beyond the next quarterly report under capitalism, always concerned with beating the competition in the here and now. Partly it reflects the need to reinforce the idea that workers, even in their own minds, are only an entity of service to a boss. And, of course, the poorer wages and benefits of black. Latin, women, and immigrant workers serve to physically and ideologically separate us and prevent the massive struggle that would be needed to overcome politicians, corporations, and sold out union leaders.

In order to uplift the status of US workers – from the unemployed to railroad and retail workers, to teachers and nurses – we must build a movement that unites us all. We must come together across all ethnicities and job categories to fight the injustices of this system, which range from working conditions to poor schools, housing and hospitals, to paying for and fighting in unjust imperialist wars. It is critical to build this unity. if we want to consider changing this whole system to one in which we can avoid climate disaster, pandemics, and nuclear war, we must overthrow capitalism and build a society we run ourselves in our own interests, without profits or racism, with only our own well being as its goal.

References

1. https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/railroad-employee-covid-19-infections-hit-pandemic-high/

2. https://cepr.net/report/contagion-nation-2020-united-states-still-the-only-wealthy-nation-without-paid-sick-leave/

3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2014/06/16/u-s-healthcare-ranked-dead-last-compared-to-10-other-countries/#76bd1600576f

4. https://www.americanprogress.org/article/lack-paid-leave-risks-public-health-coronavirus-outbreak/

5. https://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/resources/economic-justice/paid-sick-days/paid-sick-days-improve-our-public-health.pdf

6. https://www.abetterbalance.org/sick-without-a-safety-net/

7. https://shift.hks.harvard.edu/paid-sick-leave-brief/

8. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/coronavirus-puts-a-spotlight-on-paid-leave-policies/

9. https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/rail-strike-threat-brings-new-focus-on-work-attendance-policies

10. https://www.moneygeek.com/insurance/health/analysis/americans-without-coverage/

10a. https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2022/08/02/new-hhs-report-shows-national-uninsured-rate-reached-all-time-low-in-2022.html

11. https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2022/sep/state-us-health-insurance-2022-biennial-survey

12. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0965     

Climactic

by Ellen Isaacs

November 20, 2022

There is nothing new to say

Except that it is astounding, it is horrifying, it is revelatory that

Those who began it, who knew what they were doing, who now know

That the warming world, their enterprise, will kill itself and us too.

And still they barely act.

We will not say anything new

Except that we will omit the part

About how it might be averted, might reverse itself

Might not destroy our home —

Unless we destroy the destroyers.

Let’s not forget that scientists noted that something was amiss as early as the mid-1800s. In 1824, Joseph Fourier calculated that an earth-sized planet, at our distance from the sun, ought to be much colder, and in 1856 Eunice Foote discovered that carbon dioxide and water vapor were trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere. By 1886, Svante Arrhenius predicted that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could increase surface temperature; by 1956 climate change was predicted.1

.

Continue reading “Climactic”

The West Must Stop Blocking Negotiations Between Ukraine and Russia

Secretaries of State and Defense Blinken and Austin visit Kyiv in April, 2022

by Vijay Prashad

October 27, 2022

Editors’ Note: This article presents evidence that the US scuttled efforts to negotiate an end to the war in order to see Russia weakened. As many thousands of Russians and Ukrainians die, as the possibility of wider or nuclear war grows, and as billions are spent that are needed for human needs, this information strengthen the basis for an anti-war movement. Please note that the links do not work on this site, but can be followed by going to article on Counterpunch at https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/10/27/the-west-must-stop-blocking-negotiations-between-ukraine-and-russia/

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. This war has been horrendous, though it does not compare with the terrible destruction wrought by the U.S. bombardment of Iraq (“shock and awe”) in 2003. In the Gomel region of Belarus that borders Ukraine, Russian and Ukrainian diplomats met on February 28 to begin negotiations toward a ceasefire. These talks fell apart. Then, in early March, the two sides met again in Belarus to hold a second and third round of talks. On March 10, the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia met in Antalya, Türkiye, and finally, at the end of March, senior officials from Ukraine and Russia met in Istanbul, Türkiye, thanks to the initiative of Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. On March 29, Türkiye’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said, “We are pleased to see that the rapprochement between the parties has increased at every stage. Consensus and common understanding were reached on some issues.” By April, an agreement regarding a tentative interim deal was reached between Russia and Ukraine, according to an article in Foreign Affairs.

Continue reading “The West Must Stop Blocking Negotiations Between Ukraine and Russia”

US Liberal Politicians Embrace Ukrainian Fascists

Democrat Adam Schiff greets Azov members

by the Editors, October 14, 2022

There is no doubt that current day Nazis, racists and fascists with a direct link to the Nazis of World War II, are prominent among Ukrainian fighting forces. Paramount among them is the Azov Brigade, an official part of the Ukrainian military and the primary force in the battle for Mariupol, whose flag features an SS emblem. The Azov founder, Andriy Biletsky, has said that the mission of Ukraine is to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade… against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans]” (https://jewishunpacked.com/the-azov-movement-lets-talk-about-ukraines-nazi-problem/). They also proclaim their intent to cleanse Europe of immigrants and homosexuals.

Continue reading “US Liberal Politicians Embrace Ukrainian Fascists”

We Need a New Society, Not More Psychiatric Diagnoses

by Ellen Isaacs

September 30, 2022

A video recording of this article is available at https://youtu.be/vPoEoCXDcw8

Are you sad because a bout of Covid-19 disrupted your life with illness, bills, or even the death of a friend or family member? Are you anxious because your benefits have ceased and you can’t find a new job? Are you worried because the brain fog after Covid has persisted so long? Are you angry because you are being evicted or are short of food? Maybe you are one of the statistics being counted in the supposed wave of the mentally ill. After having Covid, people were 55% more likely to be on antidepressants and 65% more likely to be on anti-anxiety drugs than uninfected contemporaries (NYT 2/16/22).

We will argue that the new stressor of Covid is only another one added to those that capitalism already provides: poverty, racism, poor social services, sexism, police violence. High quality housing, education, health care, recreation and a healthy environment are difficult to attain and maintain even for middle and modestly high-income workers. In addition, we now live in a world in which we are witnessing the imminence of climate disaster, the rising risk of nuclear war, the increased frequency of pandemics, and the worsening of inflation causing desperation among millions. We urgently need to prepare to change this system. Let us begin by examining the ways in which the powerful in our society try explain away its deficiencies by blaming them on deficiencies within us, within our bodies and minds.

Continue reading “We Need a New Society, Not More Psychiatric Diagnoses”

Inflation: Capitalism’s Crises, Class Conflict, and Global Disasters

by Rodney Green

September 27, 2022

Inflation is the latest way the capitalist system’s crises are deepening the oppression of workers around the world. Capitalism is driven by competition and profit accumulation and generates global economic and political instability. While inflation is depriving U.S. workers of some of life’s necessities, the U.S.’s export of inflation to other countries is even more devastating. Such an absurd and abusive system cries out for a more sensible alternative.

Continue reading “Inflation: Capitalism’s Crises, Class Conflict, and Global Disasters”

Capitalism Floods Pakistani Working Class 

By an anonymous Pakistani activist

September 8, 2022

Workers in southern and north-western Pakistan have been devastated by severe flooding over the last several weeks. Thirty-three million people are affected, mainly being displaced, by what may be the worst flooding in the history of Pakistan. The official death count from the floods is at about 1,400 people; unofficially, the estimate is over 4,000 dead. There is nothing natural about the scope of this disaster. The blame is squarely on capitalism. Namely, climate change, mass poverty and neglect of developing infrastructure, all caused by the drive for ever increasing profit at the expense of the working class. Many reforms, like decent housing and new sewers, would save many lives and spare many workers the loss of their homes, but those reforms seem like a distant impossible dream. In fact, the situation keeps repeating and will continue to worsen as capitalist crises only get more severe.

Worsening climate change brought heavier rains than usual into this region which destroyed the homes and belongings of millions of poor workers, who the capitalist system sees as expendable. Many of those displaced and killed were among the millions of workers in Pakistan who were forced out of the countryside by the abject poverty of the agricultural system under capitalism that leaves small farmers on their own. Recent droughts, also worsened by climate change, left family farmers in the impossible position of staying on their barren land to starve or heading into the cities to find work at poverty wages (ARY News, 9/2). These workers were forced by the conditions to settle on the banks of rivers, among the riskiest places to live but one of the few ways in the cities for the working class to have access to water.

Continue reading “Capitalism Floods Pakistani Working Class “

Racism and Rot – Jackson, Mississippi

Water treatment plant crisis in Jackson, Mississippi

by Ellen Isaacs

September 9, 2022

We’ve all heard the news by now: the more than 150,000 people who live in Jackson, Mississippi haven’t had drinkable water in their homes since late July and no water at all from August 28 until September 7.  As of then, you could at least flush a toilet. Even the local elementary school had to close. It is no surprise that 82% of Jackson’s population is black and 27% are poor.

Continue reading “Racism and Rot – Jackson, Mississippi”