Free-Lunchers vs. Schwarzenegger’s ‘shared responsibility’ agenda

The Free-Lunch Coalition is on the march throughout America. On the East Coast, they’re preparing to take up picket signs and go on strike. On the West Coast, they’re holding press conferences to make their demands unequivocal to politicians.

What do they want? More health benefits. How much do they think they should pay? Absolutely nothing. When do they want them? Now–or else.

The Free-Lunch Coalition is represented mostly by the nation’s most powerful–but dwindling–labor unions, which continue to pressure employers for gold-plated health benefits at no additional cost to the employee.

However, in the health-care debate being defined by Governor Schwarzenegger–the nation’s most recognized and increasingly influential politician–the theme of “shared responsibility” has taken the national stage and is a concept that runs contrary to the very essence of organized labor.

The United Food and Commercial Workers, a leader of the Free-Lunch Coalition and one of America’s most powerful private unions, will negotiate contracts this year for more than 400,000 workers across the nation. Their Web site boasts, “We are coming together as a union and joining hands–worker to worker–across state lines, time zones and the continent.”

Translation: It’s the same old “Us vs. Them” debate. Not even a tip of the hat to concept of shared responsibility.

In New Haven, Conn., members of the UFCW’s Local 371 have voted to strike if their employer, Stop & Shop, requires them to chip in a small co-pay for health insurance as part of a new contract.

The amount? About $11 a week for individuals or $22 a week for the full family plan. For this small amount of shared responsibility–a far smaller share than the national average–the workers threaten to strike.

Nationally, three out of four Americans pay premiums for health care insurance while nearly half of the UFCW’s members pay absolutely nothing and others pay as little as a dollar a day for their coverage.

In California, it is a Neolithic hodgepodge of union and community activists who unite in defense of expanded coverage, cost controls and increased employer contributions.

Not surprisingly, the California Labor Federation, headed by Art Pulaski, isn’t keen on Schwarzenegger’s message of shared responsibility, which Pulaski calls the wrong prescription because it “shifts responsibility for health costs onto already overburdened workers and their families.”

Note there is no recognition by organized labor and their activists that America’s health-care system is overburdened by an increasingly obese society that demands access to the designer prescription drugs they see advertised on television.

No recognition for the stress that millions of illegal immigrants put on our hospitals and emergency rooms.

No recognition that the goals of quality care (i.e., shorter waits, more access to doctors on demand, and unlimited procedures) and cost controls are mutually exclusive.

The latest propaganda tool of the Free-Lunch Coalition in California is a new Web site: They have the audacity to state, “It’s OUR healthcare

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