Nov 8, 2021
Check out Code WACK!'s latest podcast featuring Cindy Young, labor advocate and expert in health benefit negotiations, discussing the significance of the labor movement in America’s struggle for healthcare justice, and the need for Medicare for All.
Host Brenda Gazzar and Young, a board member of the California Alliance for Retired Americans and vice chair of the Healthy California Now coalition, explore the historic antecedents of our nation’s current healthcare system, including the heroic role played by the United Mine Workers of America in 1946 to win health benefits for the first time.
Click here for the podcast transcript or visit our website:
Ever since then, organized labor has set the bar on health benefits, not only for union members but for the workforce in general:
“...nonunion employers were saying ‘Well, I don't want my workforce to organize so I'm going to provide benefits that are similar to what the union workers are getting so I don't have to deal with union organizing’ and that really is the beginning of health insurance in this country,” Young explains.
Yet employers were not required by the government to provide health insurance to their workers until the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010.
“...until the ACA passed, there was no obligation of any employer to provide any benefits at all, right, so an employer never had to provide health insurance to a worker...For years and years and years, how you got your benefits was either you were in a union and the union bargains wages, hours and working conditions or you got it, you know, through your employer who didn't want the union to organize,” Young says.
And though the ACA is truly a lifesaver, Young explains, it has not adequately addressed our healthcare system’s most urgent needs - universality and affordability. Without those elements, millions of Americans still face a closed door when it comes to their care.
In addition, Young paints a grim picture of a reality where bargaining for health benefits has evolved into a zero sum game that completely fails to address the ever-spiraling costs to both employers and employees.
“..employers oftentimes, almost all the time, say to us, ‘here's how much money we have to pay for benefits...we've got 1% of salary to pay for wages and benefits. If you want to take it in wages, take it in wages. If you want to take it in benefits, take it in benefits but we're not going to give you any more than x amount.’”
You’ll also hear in this episode why Young pushes back on the idea that patients are “consumers” and continues to fight for improved Medicare for All.
Thanks for listening! And remember to subscribe to Code WACK! to catch all our episodes about America’s broken healthcare system on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen.
Cindy Young's Biography
Ms. Young started her career at H.E.R.E., Local 2 in San Francisco as the Director of Research in 1985. She negotiated pension and healthcare benefits for 25,000 hotel and restaurant workers in San Francisco. She served as the key trustee for the H.E.R.E, Local 2, Pension, Education and Health and Welfare Trust Funds. She provided advice and counsel to Senior Union Staff on legislation impacting healthcare and pension benefits. She developed health reform education programs for H.E.R.E. International Union and its affiliates. She developed and organized the California Northern California Labor Health Coalition, which successfully improved Kaiser’s Chiropractic and Drug and Alcohol Benefits.
From 1988 – 2010, Ms. Young served as the Senior Health Policy Advisor to California School Employees Association (CSEA). She negotiated healthcare benefits for 220,000 classified school employees and analyzed insurance renewals. She provided leadership and counsel to the CSEA management and staff on healthcare related strategies, legislation and in the delivery of healthcare training programs. She served as Labor Chair of the California Healthcare Coalition, as well as the California Education Coalition for Healthcare Reform.
From 2010 – 2014, Ms. Young served as Regulatory /Policy Specialist for California Nurses Association, and Special Projects Coordinator, leading the nurses single payer campaign.
Ms. Young currently has a small consulting firm and assists Minnesota Nurses Association and California’s with bargaining health and welfare benefits. She serves on the Board of Directors for the California Alliance for Retired Americans. Representing CARA, she serves as Vice Chair of the Healthy California Now. Ms. Young has worked as a labor advocate and been committed to Medicare for All for 45 years.
John L. Lewis, United Mine Workers of America (Wikipedia)
The Promise of 1946 (United Mine Workers of America)
The Complete History of Employer-Provided Health Insurance, Gabrielle Smith (PeopleKeep)