Friday, October 6, 2017

Opposition To the Dismantling of the Affordable Care Act Involves "Little Lobbyists"

Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, shook hands with Melanie Carrigg, a 5-year-old Medicaid recipient
from Arizona, before a news conference on health care this month. CreditJacquelyn Martin/Associated Press
‘Little Lobbyists’ Help Save the Health Care Law, for Now
WASHINGTON — Anna C. Corbin had not been involved in politics, had not even been to the Capitol before this year. But since March, she has made the two-hour drive here from her home in Hanover, Pa., 15 times so her sons, Jackson and Henry, could lobby against efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

Jackson, 12, and Henry, 9, have a genetic condition known as Noonan syndrome, which causes a bleeding disorder, short stature and digestion problems. They also have a new profession — “little lobbyists.”

In the long-running battle over health care, doctors, hospitals and insurance companies have spent millions of dollars this year. But some of the most effective advocacy has come from pint-size petitioners who spent nothing at all: children with serious medical needs who told their stories to members of Congress.

“We were often told that the kids were not voters,” Ms. Corbin said. “But they will have this genetic condition for the rest of their lives. They will be voters, and these laws will affect them. So it’s important for them to have a voice.”

Children like Jackson and Henry put a human face on the debate over insurance regulation, premium subsidies, Medicaid expansion and cost estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.

The American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans and dozens of other industry groups lined up against the Republican repeal bills. But, lawmakers said, what really sank the legislation was the outpouring from constituents, and few were as influential as the little lobbyists who pleaded for their own lives and the lives of other children with special needs.

“They are fantastic,” said Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia. “These kids and their parents demonstrated how catastrophic the Medicaid cuts would be. They really added value to this debate and helped us win.”

Rebecca A. Wood’s family has employer-sponsored health insurance, but under a federal waiver granted to the State of Virginia, Medicaid pays about $15,000 a year for items and services that are not covered by insurance. That matters to her daughter, Charlie Wood, 5, who was born more than three months early, weighed 1 pound 12 ounces and was in the neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital for 10 weeks.

Charlie has a mild form of cerebral palsy and developmental delays, has seen more than a half-dozen medical specialists and uses a feeding tube. She still started kindergarten in Charlottesville, Va., on time this year, but her mother said she saw another threat coming: The bills passed by the House and considered in the Senate would have made deep cuts in projected Medicaid spending, imposing an annual cap on federal payments to each state.

“After the presidential election, I knew that health care would be a huge issue,” Ms. Wood said. “I wanted people to know, when you cut health care, it affects many innocent people like my daughter. I wanted them to see the faces behind the cuts.”

“Without the Affordable Care Act,” Ms. Wood said, “Charlie would have exceeded her lifetime cap before ever coming home from the hospital and would have been uninsurable.”

The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, said the young lobbyists “have made all the difference in the world.” And she described the parents as formidable: “You do not want to stand in between one of these moms and the good health care of her child.”

The effort started when five families visited Senate offices in June for a day of lobbying.

“It took off from there,” said Elena Hung, a co-founder of the group, whose 3-year-old daughter, Xiomara, has chronic lung and kidney disease. Since then, nearly 300 families in 47 states have shared their stories with lawmakers through the group.

They are relieved that the Senate shelved plans for a vote last week, but fully expect the battle to continue. President Trump predicted that the Senate would try again in the first quarter of next year and said Republicans would “have the votes.”

Five-year-old Melanie Carrigg, from Tucson, visited 60 Senate offices and met with Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, who ended up voting for the repeal bills in July.

Melanie, one of more than 34 million children covered by Medicaid, has Down syndrome and a heart defect and is deaf, said her mother, Austin G. Carrigg.

When the latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act collapsed in the Senate, Ms. Carrigg was happy. But she said: “I’m a realist. I know this fight is not over.”

Ms. Carrigg and her daughter visited the offices of two Republican senators who voted against the repeal bills in July, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

“We have given information to their staff numerous times,” Ms. Carrigg said. “When you walk in and a staffer says, ‘Oh, they were just talking about you,’ you think, maybe we are making an impression. That has been my personal goal every time. I want them to remember my daughter’s face when they go on the floor and vote.”

Thursday, October 5, 2017

How Teachers Unions Preserve Influence

From the Editor:
I am pro-union, but only to support members' rights and benefits. I do NOT support the extreme mishandling of members' dues that is shown in the post below from Dropout Nation, nor do I support the lazy "I don't care" attitude of many union bigwigs to the needs of members while they - the Very Important People - plunder the funds for themselves. The time has come to level the playing field, and put the money gained from dues where the funds can benefit the members and their families, not the people at the top.

See:  How Teachers Unions Preserve Influence

Betsy Combier
betsy@advocatz.com
Editor, Advocatz
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials



AFT’s Bleak Future

As this morning’s Teachers Union Money Report shows, the American Federation of Teachers knows how to spend well. Especially on its leaders and staff.
Whether or not it will be able to do so is a different story.
Some 236 staffers were paid six-figure sums in 2016-2017, according to the union’s latest disclosure to the U.S. Department of Labor. That is 14 more than in the previous fiscal year. That well-paid group includes Michelle Ringuette, the former Service Employees International Union staffer who is chief political aide to President Rhonda (Randi) Weingarten; she was paid $240,437 last fiscal year. Michael Powell, who is Weingarten’s mouthpiece, picked up $252,702 from the union.
Kombiz Lavasany, an AFT operative who oversees Weingarten’s money manager enemies’ list, earned $177,872 in 2016-2017. Kristor Cowan, who handles the union’s lobbying, collected $189,808 last fiscal year. Then there is Leo Casey, the vile propagandist who currently runs the union’s Albert Shanker Institute; he was paid $232,813 in 2016-2017 for doing, well, whatever Leo does these days that doesn’t include accusing reformers of committing “blood libel“.
Of course, the leaders are well-paid. Weingarten was paid $492,563 in 2016-2017, just a slight decrease over the previous year. She still remains among the nation’s top five percent of wage earners, and thus, an elite. Her number two, Mary Cathryn Ricker, was paid $337,434 last fiscal year (an 8.3 percent increase over the previous period), while Secretary-Treasurer Loretta Jonson was paid $392,530 in 2016-2017, a 9.6 percent increase over the past period. Altogether, AFT’s top three took home $1.2 million last fiscal year, virtually unchanged from the same time in 2015-2016.
The additional salaries and bodies explain why AFT’s union administration costs increased by 17.8 percent (to $10.2 million) over 2015-2016, while general overhead costs increased by 14 percent (to $42 million). The union still managed to keep benefits costs from increasing. It spent just $10.4 million in 2016-2017, barely unchanged from the previous period; that can be credited in part to the fact that, unlike the districts its rank-and-file work in, AFT doesn’t provide defined-benefit pensions and only gives its workers defined-contribution plans that the union can avoid contributing to during times of financial stress.
It takes a lot of money to keep Weingarten and her team on board. Of course, they can thank compulsory dues laws that force even teachers who don’t want to be part of AFT. But those dollars are on the decline.
The union collected just $177 million in dues and agency fees in 2016-2017, a 7.9 percent decline from the previous year. This is despite the fact that the union’s full-time rank-and-file increased by 5.2 percent (to 710,865 from 675,902) over the previous period, reversing a three-year decline. One reason for the decline: A 12 percent decline in the number of one-quarter rank-and-file (to 81,191 from 93,047), a group that includes nurses and government employees represented by the AFT’s non-teachers’ union affiliates, and a 29.2 percent decrease in one-eighth rank-and-filers (to 24,180 from 34,104).
Another factor lies in the move last year by United Teachers Los Angeles to jointly affiliate with the National Education Association. That move contributed to a 23 percent increase in the number of AFT rank-and-filers in affiliates also tied to NEA and other rival national unions (to 158,225 from 128,221). With more states attempting to end compulsory dues laws, a possible U.S. Supreme Court law striking them down altogether, and a desire by state and local affiliates to wield more influence in education policy at all levels, expect more AFT affiliates (and even some NEA affiliates) to also align themselves with other national unions.
Overall, AFT generated revenue (including debt borrowings) of $332 million in 2016-2017, a 1.2 percent increase over the previous year. This included $88.2 million it borrowed during the year to shore up operations (of which $68 million was repaid by the end of the fiscal period); that’s 59 percent more than the amount the union borrowed in 2015-2016. Excluding the borrowing, AFT’s revenue for 2016-2017 was $244 million, virtually unchanged from the previous year.
But as today’s report notes, AFT faces trouble in the next year. If the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down compulsory dues laws as expected in Janus v. AFSCME, the union and its affiliates will lose big. The union has already seen its affiliate in Wisconsin attempt a merger with NEA’s Wisconsin Education Association Council after losing half of its rank-and-file since the state abolished its compulsory dues law six years ago. [The merger was aborted because of the difficulty of merging dues structures.]
While AFT’s presence in Democrat-dominated states could help it stem rank-and-file losses, the reality is that it will likely lose at least 25 percent of its membership. This means a likely loss of $44 million (based on 2016-2017’s dues collections), and less revenue that it can use for influence-buying, political campaign activities, and lobbying. Not even AFT’s stalled strategy of expanding its presence into nursing and healthcare would have offset those losses,  especially since the Supreme Court ruling will also apply to public employees working at hospitals and health centers.
Those possible revenue and influence losses is one reason why AFT, along with other NEA and other public-sector unions, spent so furiously last year to support Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. If she had one, it was likely that either she would get to appoint a Supreme Court justice more-amenable to their cause, or, given congressional Republican opposition to Obama’s efforts to select a replacement for Antonin Scalia, would have kept the court split equally between conservative and more-progressive justices.
But with Trump in the White House and his appointee to the high court, Neil Gorsuch, confirmed and in the job for life, AFT and its affiliates now needs a new strategy for actually attracting members. This will be difficult.
Because AFT hasn’t had to actually win bodies since the 1960s, it lacks the strong organizing infrastructure that has made SEIU a major force in both the public and private sectors. The fact that the union has seen a 15 percent year-to-year decline in associate members (who are members of the national union) means that there is also little appetite for its presence, especially since, unlike state and local affiliates, it doesn’t have the means to help associate members out when they have workplace disputes.
While the state affiliates are strong in lobbying legislatures, they, along with AFT National, play little role in addressing the day-to-day concerns of classroom teachers; that’s what locals such as UTLA, Chicago Teachers Union, and United Federation of Teachers in New York City do. That the big locals also tend to be major players at the state levels, dominate the operations of the affiliates, and, in the case, of UFT, virtually controls the virtually-insolvent state affiliate, means that they have little need for either the state operations or national. Even without a Supreme Court ruling, you can expect the local affiliates to develop new structures that bypass AFT and allow them to try new approaches to education policymaking and organizing.
Reformers can’t exactly celebrate, either. A dirty secret of centrist Democrat and civil rights-oriented reformers is that they are as dependent as AFT on compulsory dues. This is because AFT and other public sector unions are the biggest financiers of the Democratic National Committee operations (as well as those of state parties), and also give plenty to reform-minded groups for their activities outside of education. Center for American Progress, Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, and UNIDOS are among the reform-minded outfits who will also take a hit if the Janus ruling goes against AFT and its fellow public-sector unions.
You can imagine Weingarten and her staffers shudder at the prospect of a future without compulsory dues. What they will do to preserve traditionalist influence (and keep their jobs) will be fascinating to watch.
Dropout Nation will provide additional analysis of the AFT’s financial filing later this week. You can check out the data yourself by checking out the HTML and PDF versions of the AFT’s latest financial report, or by visiting the Department of Labor’s Web site. Also check out Dropout Nation‘s Teachers Union Money Report, for this and previous reports on AFT and NEA spending.