23 March 2009

In Remembrance

My mom had been sick for sometime when she was finally got a diagnosis in December 2000. She had been dismissed by doctors as unhappy, hormonal and stressed. A cough and various "female" symptoms was all she had...it took months before someone finally ordered a chest x-ray. By that time, it was too late.

Two days after Christmas 2000, my mom was diagnosed with Lung Cancer.

For three agonizing months, she tried everything chemotherapy, experimental chemotherapy, after it was apparent that the stage III cancer had spread to distant lymph nodes, she was started on radiation. It was miserable, she was miserable. If we would have known how it all would end, I'm sure our decisions would have been a bit different.

On March 23, 2001, Melody Ann Whisler Teter left us. She was 43.

Obviously, this is supposed to be a political blog and well, even death is political.
Cancer funding in this country is substantial, but so are the death rates of certain cancers.

As you can see from this chart, Breast Cancer research far exceeds the other cancers on this list. This is a testament to the powerful lobbying efforts of the Komen foundations and others like it that have been a force for getting money for their cause.

I guess what bothers me is that we are spending the least on the deadliest cancer (by incidence) on this list. Lung Cancer kills more people every year than Breast, Prostate, Colo-Rectal and Pancreatic Cancers COMBINED! Yet it received only $1,151 per diagnosis, compared to $3,104 for Breast Cancer. It only received $1,529 for each death, compared to $13,989 for Breast Cancer.

Lung Cancer is almost always diagnosed in advance stages, there are currently no screening tests that catch it in its early stages leading to extremely high death rates.

It doesn't have to be this way. We must find a way to increase funding. How do you think the inroads were made against Breast Cancer...massive funding, it still gets massive funding.

If you'd like to help in the fight against Lung Cancer, please consider a donation to the Lung Cancer Alliance.


Is It the Word "Choice" They Don't Like?

Haymarket Riot, Courtesy of Library of Congress.

I've been trying to get to the bottom of the Employee Free Choice Act. Everything I've heard about it suggests that it's a weakening of workers' rights, just cleverly titled.

So what's the deal?

Is it the end of secret ballots? Is it a great leap for workers' rights? I'll let you decide.

Current law: 30% of employees must sign a card certifying their wish to unionize. At that time the employer has the right to either accept the union or request a secret ballot to certify the wishes of the workers to organize. If a secret ballot is requested, a majority of the workers must agree to unionize. If that happens, the National Labor Relations Board will certify that the union will the representation for the workers for collective bargaining. (Courtesy of Wikipedia, it was the most concise explanation lol)

EFCA: If enacted, the NLRB would certify a union for bargaining if the majority signed union cards. Now, employees could request a secret ballot, if 30% agree to it.

On this point, it seems that it shifts the decision to the workers, which in theory should make it easier to unionize. Now as far as the secret ballot thing, it seems like they are splitting hairs. The “card check” has always been a part of it, so why is it an issue now? As I understand it, the difference would be instead of a 30% card check triggering a secret ballot at the employers' request, now a 50%+1 card check would result in a union, unless 30% of the employees' requested a secret ballot.

So maybe that isn't the real issue, maybe they are using it as a distraction for something in the bill that they really don't want. Ya know, preying on the fear of workers thinking that they wouldn't have the protection of secrecy if they agreed to unionization.

Let's see what else is there, according to the EFCA Exposed:

  1. It opens the workers, not wishing to sign up publicly, to intimidation.

  2. It mandates harsher penalties on companies, based on highly subjective judgements.

  3. It damages American business by implementing mandatory mediation if an agreement is not reached 90 days after union certification, and mandatory arbitrations 30 days after that.The majority of federal arbitrators have never written a labor contract in their lives and most have come from academia or government jobs. Yet they will be setting the wages, hours and benefits structures. (Emphasis Added)

Now the AFL-CIO says that they are just trying to punish the companies that refuse to bargain, fire employees for even talking about a union (Wal-Mart for example), and simplifying the certification process.

I really don't know what to think about all this. To me, it seems like the “secret ballot” thing is a red herring. What they are really concerned about is the bargaining and the penalties. Seeing as the American people are not exactly in a forgiving mood when it comes to perceived greedy businessmen, it was a brilliant maneuver.