GWU Issues Management

A blog established for the George Washington University School of Political Management's Issues Management course.

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A middle aged white guy, who likes to think, talk and, too infrequently, write about politics, religion and gadgets.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Labor and Management Unite

As you know, this Thursday, our guest speakers will discuss how labor and management manage issues. In most instances, their issues are opposed to one another, although the principles for managing them are the same.

In a rare exception to the division that normally marks labor management relations, an ad hoc coalition called Americans for Healthcare has been formed to confront the problem of healthcare affordability and access that includes very significant representatives from both labor and management. Review the site and educate yourselves on this coalition. Is this as big a breakthrough as it seems? What can this coalition reasonably accomplish? What is beyond its reach, what are its limitations? Please comment.

I expect this development will be a topic of discussion on Thursday. SEIU was a leader in this effort. The National Association of Manufacturers was not involved. Wonder why. Let's ask Pat.

As a reminder, these are the two reading assignments for the class, Pat Cleary's blog at NAM and the biography kit of SEIU President Andrew Stern.


Blogger Susan said...

While the site appears very upbeat (and informative). I'm a bit hesitant to be as drawn in as they may like. I think that it's a great idea, I just don't believe, especially given the players, that much will be accomplished. I think that it's great PR for all parties involved, but like so many things I do not believe that much will really be accomplished due to the competing goals of the different players.
I think that minimal changes may be made, and that some people who may not have previously had access to good healthcare and insurance neccessary to protect their health may now, but I do not believe that it will be wide-spread, at least not as widespread as the coalition may want, or at least projects to want.
They noted that they wanted to add members to the coalition. I believe that their goal was 50. I do not think that it is a realistic goal, at least not in the short-term.
All in all -- great idea, but I think it's just that. An idea, something that they can easily say that they want to work on or want to accomplish. But I think that the actual execution will be much more difficult than is being let on.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Brian C. said...

I think that the SEIU knows exactly what they have to do in order to push their health care agenda. Labor must include big business and management in order for anything to matriculate. This coalition does exactly that. While it may be in its formative stages, it is a start into the right direction of forming a powerful, well balanced group with the same objectives. I think that labor and those who are in favor of universal health care learned from the mistakes in the past (Clinton/Hillary Care) and realized that they won’t get anywhere on their own. There may be competing interest which will limit the success of this organization, and many may see this as a backdrop for just another union anti business initiative. If the collation can control the competing interests and broaden their membership to prove it is a cohesive effort it has the potential of becoming a very powerful force in improving the health care for many in this country.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Dulce said...

I had never heard about the organization "Americans for health care" At a first glance this effort looks like a good one in order to push the issue into the national agenda. However, I don't know if the organization has a strong negotiation power to really promote health care.

I think it is a good effort to create something like a "national" movement.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Brooke said...

Healthcare reform is something that has long been discussed - ideas form, spirited debate takes place - but at the end of the day not much is achieved. Obviously as the presidential election for 2008 continues to take shape, I believe that healthcare will again emerge as a major platform. If labor and management are willing to unite - two huge forces might be able to attract decent and policy oriented traction. While I have never heard of the "Americans for Health Care" movement, I am a believer in movements, and just like the environment, if health care is able to build a strong coalition and garner a large enough voice - change can and will happen.
Health care is at a cross-road and if prices continue to increase, voters continue to voice strong concern, and the amount of uninsured Americans continues to grow, then this movement will gain exposure. What it all boils down to is cost and sound policy. America saw what happened under the Clinton Administration, and if smart policy is not offered, but instead rushed through the process, Americans stand to only gain another headache. This process needs to be a thoughtful one and long-term concerns need to be addressed fully. No one wants their doctor’s office to turn into the DMV. I applaud "Americans for Health Care" for taking part in the charge, but recognize they have an uphill battle in doing so. Mobilizing such an effort is only one small step in the process, but they are on track in providing a voice for those that support such a cause and providing a platform for all to become further educated on the issue.

7:32 PM  
Blogger rach a said...

While I think that the effort is a cause worth taking, and I think both sides on the aisle would agree to SOME of the "shared principles" which ecourage business philantropy and support, I think the effort runs up against some strong political divides.

Some of the "shared principles", such as the health care coverage should also be provided not just by business but by other systems such as governments and unions, that kind of language feeds political partisanship.

The object of marketing the campaign should involve utilizing common principles that do embrace the interests on both sides of the aisle. Business philantropy towards health care is a step in the right direction, but how about the principle that all Americans and legal immigrants should have choice of where they go for their health needs. The "American" is the audience the coalition is trying to help.

Labor groups that believe in helping illegals become legal such as SEIU if they are hardworking taxpayers and helping them to citizenship, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield both agree that legal immigrants should have choice in where they choose to exercise their health coverage. In other words, here's a way to bring more people to the defense of American health care and American community. This principle will bring other groups such as: AEI, Association Health Plans movement, and a few others. Center for American Progress, while respected, is widely known as a liberal organization, promoting liberal ideas. Just last week I had a serious look into their FP/CAP study on the "Terrorism Index". In order to gain credibility OUTSIDE of your support, you need to take a look at issues important (not necessarily political) to the other side/ other camp.

Likewise here, having a coaltion that included groups more conservative (moderate-right) would be advantageous in gaining credibility.

Both sides (businesses and union groups) bemoan the lack of participation in health insurance. Both sides can market the importance of having health insurance. There's another idea.

The common principles I shared, all move towards one COMMON GOAL, which supports a more egalitarian point-of-view in the end, while the messages they are supporting are relevant and believable to their interest. Target your messages per audience, and the egalitarian goal you're trying to achieve becomes less important (people like intermediate or short-term goals that are tangible) to those who support the end goal but bring a different angle or point-of-view.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Bethany said...

It seems that the group understands that universal health care will require hard work, compromise, and strong coalitions. I think that they will be successful, but not necessarily because of their campaign.

It seems to me that the health care issue is about timing more than anything else. When Hillary tried it in 1992, the timing wasn't right and the initiative was a giant flop. A lot has changed since then. Healthcare costs have spiraled out of control, US businesses are struggling to compete in the global market, and far more Americans are without insurance. More importantly, this is no longer a low-income issue. Thousands of middle-class families have been forced into bankruptcy because of medical bills. The issue of health care has reached a "tipping point" in the public consciousness. As a result, it will be addressed.

We have seen that the timing is right in recent weeks. Gov. Schwarzenegger--a Republican--has proposed universal health care coverage in California. Many other states are considering how to address the crisis. Senator Obama has committed to addressing the issue, and has stated that we will have universal health care before the end of the next President's first term. All of these examples have nothing to do with the efforts of Americans for Health Care.

The work of Americans for Health Care & the SEIU is important and will play an important role in the public debate. However, the issue of health care will not be addressed because of their efforts. It will be addressed because it is an issue whose time has come. Will that make Americans for Health Care successful? I guess my answer is: yes and no.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

I have to agree with Susan that the Americans for Healthcare website seems upbeat, colorful and engaging, and while I agree whole-heartedly with their mission, I’m not sure how successful they can actually be at achieving their goal of “changing the nations broken health care system.” I think that this organization recognizes that for any major change to occur there must be immense political and corporate support behind the movement. The idea of providing health care coverage to the 45 million people who are currently not covered is admirable, but costly. Not just expensive for the tax paying public, but for the businesses that will be required to front a large portion of the cost. Because of this, I think that Americans for Healthcare are taking a unique approach by enlisting the help and support of big business. These are the people that wield the political and economic power necessary to create any sort of change in the system.

7:59 AM  
Blogger ChrisG. said...

Americans for Healthcare has a worthy goal – quality, affordable health care for all. Really, who would say they are against that. Doesn’t seem like much of a breakthrough to me. I’m sure we’ve been working on that for a long time now. I’m not sure what impact this new coalition will have. My first impression of them is like those little gnats always flying around during the summer time. Annoying, but you usually just walk through them. Where’s the bite? Where’s the swarm? I do commend the need of such an organization. Many, many polls nowadays keep showing us that health care, next to the economy, is the single biggest domestic issue that Americans are concerned about. The jump appears significant. But perhaps it’s just a fly by night phenomenon. A few years ago, education was the buzz issue, before that, it was crime, and so on. The solution for quality, affordable health care is laden with a lot of risk for all those involved that matter. My man in California has stepped in it. I’m optimistic that California might lead the way.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Brandt said...

I think it is important that big business and labor have come together to push for health care. There are still a lot of organizations out there that can lay strong opposition to the movement. Such as some of the health professionals, hospital associations, and the insurance companies will also stand in their way firmly. I am skeptical of how firmly will companies like Walmart put resources into push for universal healthcare. If they put a lot into the fight I think that it could be possible to see universal healthcare. Big business could make the difference should they decide to put their full weight behind it.

These people in purple shirts were a common sight during the 2004 presidential race in New Hampshire to push the candidates on supporting health care. They are continuing to be a presence at many of the 2008 presidential events in New Hampshire at least for many of the democrats. From what I saw they were mainly SIEU people.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Danny said...

Being from Canada I have a slightly different perspective on the health care issue here in the US. We basically have a completely opposite system. We have universal health care that is run by the provincial governments (although, because it is such a prominent issue the feds like to stick their nose into the fray) who also own the hospitals. There are no private hospitals so we all get the same medicocre service. As in the US, our health care costs are increasing sharply. This either results in higher taxes or poor service and longer wait times. This is equally compounded by radical unions in some provinces, namely Quebec and British Columbia, who go on strike or work to rule every year or so, which further drives up health care costs and wait times. But I'm getting off topic. The major debate in Canada is whether or not to have separate private hospitals that would create a "two tiered" system. People would still have to pay taxes into the public system, but could either pay or have private health insurance to "jump ahead of the line" to go to a private hospital. Some argue that this will result in a collapse of the socialist system we currently have, while others think it will help ease the burden on the current system, making the whole system work better

What I'm getting at is that a government run universal health care system sounds great, (and I do believe in universal coverage) but it has a lot of problems. I think an organization like this needs to find a way to either address these problems or find an alternative to having the government run the system. The organization seems to be trying to push for more coverage through companies, which might be a good option. I think it's nice that both sides are coming together on this issue, but I really question how much this group will accomplish.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Justin P said...

I agree strongly that this is an excellent "win-win" PR effort for both labor and management. The only question I have is, "does this serve any other real purpose?"

Possibly, I would speculate. If the shared principles of these two groups are in alignment around a two-tiered system then it seems likely that opportunistic politicians in Washington might respond with some kind of action. Healthcare is an issue that every presidential candidate is talking about, particularly the Democrats.

However, a small coalition between SOME managers and laborers doesn't suggest that this is indicative of the opinions of most members of each group. I would suspect that the opposite is true. If not, how does one explain the lack of cooperation in the status quo?

11:04 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

To be honest, this is the first I've heard of "Americans for Healthcare," so the group hasn't done a great job of promoting itself. Their goal is certainly admirable, but I doubt it will come close to being achieved. When you have two groups that consistently take opposite positions, in this case corporations and unions, the chances of either side getting what they want is slim.
I think both sides are sincere in their belief that "every person in America must have quality, affordable health insurance coverage." But when I read something like that, my initial reaction is "Of course, who doesn't want that, but how will it happen?" That's where the problem always comes up, and that is who's going to pay for it?
And suggesting that government should play a bigger role in providing healthcare is unlikely, even with the upcoming 2008 presidential election. Again, all sides will advocate this, but the devil will, as always, be in the details. Neither side, whether it's corporations vs. unions or Republicans vs. Democrats, is going to want to give in on key positions, so a deal on expanded healthcare coverage for all is unlikely in the near future.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Melinda R said...

As was previously noted, labor and management are usually at odds because they inherently want different things. However, healthcare is an issue where they all want the same thing -- affordable healthcare for all. A national healthcare system could ease the burden of determining what healthcare companies should offer their employess, and has the potential to reduce costs as well. Employees want to have healthcare coverage they can actually afford to be a apart of. In this instance, it seems that these players make natural partners, as unnatural as that may seem. While it is still far too early to tell if this will be a successful movement, it certainly is starting on the right foot.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Americans for Healthcare make a positive statement in favor of healthcare access for all Americans, but I doubt that there was much debate about that issue. The coalition could be a great PR venture, but it seems to have little ablitiy to actually cooperate to formulate a plan to fight the problem. Its greatest accomplishment may just be to put more pressure on Congress and 2008 Presidential candidates to seriously consider the issue. I do not doubt that some of the participants have altruistic intensions, bowever, many (Wal-Mart, I'm looking at you) are most likely using the coalition to gain positive PR and to pressure the government to formulate a plan to provide healthcare instead of the coporation to it itself.

12:20 PM  
Blogger John said...

This is an interesting coalition of different groups which normally would not be fighting from the same side of the line -- in this case, they have been able to put aside motive and focus on results. I tend to ascribe to the utilitarian principle (doing the most good for the largest number of people) and it would say that, ethically, in this case, the motive does not matter because the end result is health care for all people. But some might argue the economic motivations of business management are disingenuous and that groups like the SEIU and the Center for American Progress should not cooperate with them...

12:57 PM  
Blogger lindsay a said...

Healthcare reform and affordability has been an issue pretty much forever. With Wal-Mart being attacked on every front possible, it is no surprise that they would try to make themselves seem more compassionate (human) by joining this coalition. While the Health Care Story of the Week about young children that have died because of a lack of healthcare pull at the heartstrings, this issue has been around forever, and unfortunately will more than likely remain one. In regards to companies like Wal-Mart, did they join because it looks good to do so or because they actually want change. If they want change, why don't the internally work on a plan to better access to healthcare for employees? In the end, I wonder how hard Wal-Mart will push, and how active they will be in making this an issue. (A note on the website: the About Us section should be on the top of the page so a vistor knows exactly what the mission of the coalition is...shouldn't have to search for that)

1:58 PM  
Blogger alison m said...

It's funny, I probably would have had a pretty passive and general opinion on this had this been our topic last week. However, I had a particularly ugly run-in with my health insurance company last Friday (apparently no one wants to take responsibility for the four impacted wisdom teeth that they extracted from my head last week)- so anyway I find this topic timely.

I read over the Common Sense Principles for a New American Health Care System. They are of course great, but benign, principles. It's not hard to get people to agree to them in theory, but actually excecuting a plan to make them happen is an age-old story.

I also found Andy Stern's (SEIU) Wall Street Journal editorial interesting. He starts off really strong, with captivating facts and strong language. But by the end he kind of wimps out and concludes without really ever saying anything.

Is Health Care Reform like the weather in this sense?-You can talk about it, but there really isn't much you can do about it. I don't know. It seems to be pretty unanimous that changes need to be made and people need to be protected, but no one seems to be making the necessasry strides to achieve that.

In order to really accomplish anything, people are going to need to start getting down in the trenches and getting dirty. There's no other way-otherwise, we'll just be walking around in the same circles repeatedly.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

I think that this group has the potenital to succeed where others have failed before. It is no longer 1992, the health care situation has deteirorated rapidly since then. I think there exists a larger groundswell of support to get something done about health care. If a group is going to do so, it is going to have to be comprised of both camps in the healthcare debate, as this group is. One important factor to remember in a healthcare discussion is that individuals who lack healthcare already cost taxpayers a lot of money. Just because they have no healthcare doesnt mean that they dont seek health services. They find it in the form of costly emergency room visits. If such services cannot be paid for by the individual, they ultimatley get picked up by taxpayers. Paying for healthcare that allows access to preventive medicinal practices is a lot less expensive in the long term. If we as a society allow our society to be one that largely lacks health care, the costs will be even greater than if the entire system were socialized.

The membership roster of this group provides it with a promising start. If its members are serious, and if more are recruited into the fold, I believe that some success will probably be had. What that would look like however, could vary widely.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Caitlin said...

In many ways having a good national healthcare system benefits labor management and I think it's a smart move for them to be a part of this movement. Similar to the way that some industries welcome regulation to protect them from unfair competition and most importantly lawsuits from employees I believe management will embrace the national healthcare movement. In the long run a national healthcare movement will provide happier and more productive employees. Preventative care has the potential to cut workers compensation costs. By taking the burden of healthcare off of employers and putting it on the federal government, management is cutting major costs. We see companies like GM who attribute their poor success rates to the growing cost of the healthcare they offer employees and it makes sense that management would buy-in to a national healthcare movement. It is for pragmatic reasons such as these that I think this movement most likely is sincere on the part of both groups. I'm excited to see what happens with it.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Elan said...

I was not initially particularly impressed by the announcement of this “Americans for Healthcare” organization, assuming that a project on which both labor and management, the SEIU and Wal-mart, namely, were collaborating could be little more than a publicity-grabbing stunt. It seemed unlikely that organizations as different and, often, polarly opposed as those comprising the coalition would come together over an issue as divisive as healthcare.

That said, I began rethinking my assumption that Americans for Healthcare was nothing but a publicity stunt. As they say, “no press is bad press” – regardless of the intention of the organizations comprising the coalition (perhaps it was nothing more than seeking publicity for themselves individually, in an attempt to appear to care about healthcare issues), the ultimate effect will be, likely to bring attention to the matter. A meeting of minds, and organization, as diverse as these are bound to prove interesting enough to garner the attention of the media (if not the primetime television media, at least the press, I would think), which will bring attention to their stated goal of improving the nation’s healthcare system.

Perhaps this particular coalition, “Americans for Healthcare,” won’t be the ones single-handedly responsible for changing the nation’s healthcare system. But any steps forward that take place as a result of the attention drawn to the issue by the coalition will be a good thing.

Furthermore, my initial worry that this might be a rather unsubstantiated announcement were assuaged when I moved onto the “Shared Principles” of this “Better Health Care Together” push. Clearly, this is not simply a move to draw attention to the flaws in the nation’s existing healthcare system; the organization presents what they call “Common Sense Principles for Achieving a New American Health Care System By 2012.” The principles may not be, say, full-on planks of public policy, but they are firm ideas on how to improve America’s healthcare.

On the whole, I am impressed with Americans for Healthcare and “Better Health Care Together,” and am looking forward to hearing more about what goes on around them.

3:10 PM  
Blogger phillip cory said...

The things that keep surfacing in my mind is, one, only a certain demographic will ever be touched by this campaign and most people that would love to change health care in this country do not fit that demographic. Of course it will be a huge topic in an election year because it is every election year for any elected official. People respond to it because health care is something that affects us all. It is great for the corporations to jump on this bandwagon because of the positive outcome they can get for it but I think that is one problem. They only care about the bottom line of showing a positive, caring face to the public with a much smaller interest in actually fixing the problem of health care in the U.S.

I think it is smart for the organization to tap into the corporate world because if it can generate enough support it can at least fund itself into trying reform even if its donors aren't actually interested in the problem that the organization is trying to solve. More donors mean more money if that strategy is one they are looking at.

1:47 AM  

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