Healthcare and the West Virginia Teachers strike
March 6, 2018 7:44 AM   Subscribe

 
Throughout the strike teachers held signs that read “Will teach for insurance” and “I’d take a bullet for your child but PEIA won’t cover it.”
From the Department of It’s Sickening Because It's True.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:59 AM on March 6 [36 favorites]


Part of the latest healthcare plan that the state was offering to teachers would require teachers to use a smart phone app that tracks their health "metrics" or get penalized with higher insurance premiums. So basically, "go to the gym after putting in a full day of teaching work or we'll cut your pay."
posted by indubitable at 8:06 AM on March 6 [23 favorites]


Yesterday's report on All Things Considered studiously avoided mentioning the insurance issue and framed it as primarily a dispute over pay. Which just indicates how important the insurance issue actually is -- to report it accurately would evidently lead to the story appearing slanted.
posted by Gelatin at 8:07 AM on March 6 [27 favorites]




It's insanely common for media to portray teacher strikes as being all about pay. It's an effective wedge against sympathy for teachers. The other side starts beating the "greedy teachers" drum, people buy into it despite the clear oxymoron, and media generally loves a binary story so they roll with it. I've seen that break one strike after another around western Washington.

When we went on strike in Seattle a couple years ago, we had a lot of issues of concern, with pay being only one of them. We were on strike over racial equity issues for students (the district literally didn't want to study the problem), an imbalance of recess time for elementary schools that was clearly drawn over racial lines, poor coverage of nurses and school psychologists, utterly contemptible performance on the district's part re: special ed... and the media kept coming back to the pay issue. I'm fairly certain the only reason we made any progress from that strike is because of the weight of all the non-pay issues. We were loud enough about those that they couldn't be ignored.

The West Virginia strike has me deeply impressed. They're going way longer than we did, and it's the whole state rather than one city.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:25 AM on March 6 [43 favorites]


Today's NPR report also ignored the insurance issue, making it seem like the strike was continuing over a 1% pay difference. That is deliberate news manipulation on the part of NPR.
posted by happyroach at 8:27 AM on March 6 [40 favorites]


What if we gave teachers decent insurance AND higher pay? We'd have to be in some other country, right?
posted by Slinga at 8:32 AM on March 6 [24 favorites]


It's even more important to have decent health coverage for teachers than it is for the general population. The work is physically demanding, and new teachers are sick all the time for at least the first couple of years, catching every child-incubated contagion that goes around.
posted by asperity at 8:33 AM on March 6 [16 favorites]


it's almost like npr is establishment garbage
posted by entropicamericana at 8:37 AM on March 6 [37 favorites]


Sometimes I get this weird, damp feeling, like Reagan's ghost is pissing on our premature graves.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:46 AM on March 6 [12 favorites]


Today's NPR report also ignored the insurance issue, making it seem like the strike was continuing over a 1% pay difference. That is deliberate news manipulation on the part of NPR.

Incompetence or Maliciousness? "Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice."

It's really weird how NPR is seemingly incapable of either calling out bad faith on their interviewees, or of doing a strong follow-up on a bullshit clearly untrue response to their questions. Do they do zero homework on their guests? Do they just not give a shit? What do they think their job actually is? Filling air space between dead car repair show hosts and folksy sexual assaulters? Their kind of milquetoast waffling is bad enough during normal times; now it's a fundamental dereliction of journalistic duty. NY Times gets it. Wash Post gets it. The networks get it. Even CNN gets it, for God's sake.

What I wouldn't give to have a BBC style interviewer (or a Dutch one, they do pretty well) nail the dissembling fucks to the wall on their bullshit.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:04 AM on March 6 [21 favorites]


Oh, Brexit is largely the result of the BBC pulling the exact same bullshit, they are not any better in the slightest.
posted by Artw at 9:23 AM on March 6 [14 favorites]


Also the thing with America's ridiculous system is that health insurance is part of pay, so it's doubly fucked up that NPR don't cover it.
posted by Artw at 9:26 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


The utter failure of NPR to do their job for the past year is just really depressing.

They're like that friend that makes all the right noises about all the right things but doesn't actually give a shit or do anything whenever it matters because it might inconvenience them. They'll Facebook like, but won't vote. They'll join your group for game night, but won't ever help you move.

I feel like I'm Shoshanna and NPR is Hannah Horvath and I'm in the bathroom at my engagement party and I'm just DONE with all their performative bullshit. Like, I'm tired. Just go, and don't come back, and take your Nina Totin' Bag with you on the way out.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:35 AM on March 6 [19 favorites]


Major media is corporate controlled or heavily corporate influenced, meaning they can and do put a lot of pressure on the newsroom regarding what they cover and how they cover it.

In my area, there's one major local media company that is and always has been openly anti-union. When we went on strike, we weren't surprised when they initially failed to cover it, and then only covered it from our employer's carefully-crafted-for-maximum-PR-impact POV.

We were surprised when the other local media followed suit, until the reporters who'd come to us to get our side of the story came back to us and told us what happened next. Their stories were killed, or were rewritten to our employer's POV. Why? Because our employer went to the local media and told them all how they would retaliate if they didn't play ball: they'd cut off the non-compliant media's access to their sports teams/facilities, thus gutting their sports coverage. Media management didn't want to take a change of having that actually happen, so they caved in and obediently reported only the employer's version of the strike.

There are organizations that provide legal and p.r. expertise to employers to assist with stopping their workers from unionizing, to frustrate attempts to get a contract after unionizing, and to portray the union in the worst possible light, not just to the company's employees, but to the public. Working the media is part of the service.

NPR might be clueless, but it's even more likely that one or more of their major corporate donors leaned on them, and they caved. Salving their consciences by telling themselves that, after all, they are covering the story...kinda, sorta.
posted by Lunaloon at 9:49 AM on March 6 [16 favorites]


Because our employer went to the local media and told them all how they would retaliate if they didn't play ball: they'd cut off the non-compliant media's access to their sports teams/facilities, thus gutting their sports coverage.

Man, that would have been an even better story to cover.

You'd think, given that there are only 3-4 local networks, that they'd consider standing together on that kind of bullshit.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:59 AM on March 6 [9 favorites]


Thanks for posting this! I stand with these teachers & school staff 100% and have been so inspired by their actions over the past nine days.
I have a question/issue with something mentioned towards the end of the second linked article:
"Blair said the government will see a $20 million reduction in spending to come out of cuts to general services and Medicaid."
This seems like a common tactic (state gov't cutting funding from other public programs in order to make up deficits). This seems like a very obvious ploy to make the union look bad ("they're taking money from Medicaid to pay teachers!"). In conversations with centrist and conservative friends and family, I desperately want to be able to explain why I stand with the strikers, but I often hear some version of the above argument. Can anyone help me out with a response to this?
posted by sleepingwithcats at 10:11 AM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Lay it out like this: The state Government stole the teachers' health insurance to hand out money to millionaires, and now they want to steal from the state after they got caught and were held accountable.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:19 AM on March 6 [29 favorites]


Excellent related blog post from the must-read David Anderson over at Balloon Juice:

Wellness programs and the West Virginia Teacher’s strike
posted by NoMich at 10:31 AM on March 6 [5 favorites]


That Go365 app sounds like a 110% insult to teachers who already have to account for so much. Triple their pay and maybe we can talk about a compromise if they're really worried about teacher health. If it's just an engine for recission, then we've got a problem.
posted by rhizome at 10:49 AM on March 6 [9 favorites]


It's some Peter Thiel disruption black mirror donate organs to earn points nightmare bullshit, is what it is.
posted by Artw at 10:54 AM on March 6 [5 favorites]


BTW, teachers in Oklahoma (who make even less than those striking in West Virginia) are starting to stand up now too, hopefully helping to turn this moment into a movement.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:56 AM on March 6 [13 favorites]


Today's NPR report also ignored the insurance issue, making it seem like the strike was continuing over a 1% pay difference. That is deliberate news manipulation on the part of NPR.

It isn't even that it's a complicated issue, or that the facts -- remember good old objective journalism? -- are much in dispute. Teachers accepted a lower pay rate in return for guarantees about health insurance. Which the state, as has happened so many times before, reneged upon. The state is in breach of promise over the health coverage issue, simple as that. And yet NPR can't seem to bring itself to report objective facts that conflict with its favored, and phony, "balanced" narrative.

Someone needs to be fired over this misleading coverage, and excuses that NPR gets criticized from the left as well as the right does not mean they're doing a good job.
posted by Gelatin at 12:05 PM on March 6 [9 favorites]


Can anyone help me out with a response to this?

The amount available in the state budget is not some number handed down from the top of Mt. Sinai. The state needs to provide certain services and that means it's got to pay for them properly through taxes. It turns out it costs money to build a decent society! If you refuse to pay sufficient taxes to provide a living wage for the people teaching your kids in school as well as all the other services you want, that's on you, wanting to freeload, not on the teachers or Medicaid services or anyone else. (Additionally, there are always ways in which the state is giving handouts to corporations, etc....why don't we cut those instead of Medicaid?)

Now some people will say "great, I don't want the state anyway," but those people were never asking you that question in good faith.
posted by praemunire at 2:58 PM on March 6 [6 favorites]


The health app stuff is the most fucking disgusting thing I can imagine on TOP of the lack of pay and healthcare.

As a disabled and body positive woman the idea of measuring your fucking body and your ability to walk around as a way to determine if you have to PAY MORE for fucking healthcare makes my brain boil.

Your waist size has nothing to do with health. Your steps have nothing to do with health. Your activity level has nothing to do with health. And NONE of this should be given to your JOB in order to get HEALTHCARE!

Teaching is a hard ass job. There's no way I could handle it. They deserve GOOD pay and benefits.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:14 PM on March 6 [10 favorites]


I've heard stories of this step stuff being done at other government agencies, even those with contractors. Like, yeah, so much voodoo. When I lived in Florida I routinely made my 10,000 steps after margarita #8 or so. Yay healthy me!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:54 PM on March 6


Can anyone help me out with a response to this?

The teachers had no hand in choosing where the money to fund the raises came from, the Medicaid cut is solely Blair's responsibility. Blair is the one who said if teachers have money to feed the kids out of school then they didn't need a raise. Charming fellow, that one. I do want to note that the insurance dumbassery hit all State employees. The State is already having a hard time holding on to CPS workers overstressed by the opioid epidemic. (Find some time to get your steps in while you're rocking a baby that you have no placement for as there are not enough foster parents to meet the need! Also - hope you have cell service in your holler! Cause otherwise those steps don't count!! LOL!) The insurance rules also applied to healthy and underweight individuals - causing some employees to ask if corsets and rib removal were going to come back into fashion in WV just to save $50 a month on their premium and to avoid the $500 deductible increase. It was truly crazy. But sure, sure NPR, drive the "greedy teacher" narrative.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 4:55 PM on March 6 [6 favorites]


One other data point: Seattle just recently had a school bus drivers' strike that was also primarily about health insurance benefits.
posted by mhum at 5:09 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


I know people love to jump on NPR but in this case at least some of the blame should go to the people they’re interviewing. This segment interviewed one of the union reps and they never once mentioned that:

https://www.npr.org/2018/03/05/590803660/salary-snag-keeps-west-virginia-teachers-out-of-classrooms

Yes, it’s part of aggregate pay but they really should have been making an effort to head off the crab-pot types who reliably respond with “I haven’t gotten a raise, why should you?”. It definitely seems like the teachers have been underserved by their union leaders – hopefully this will inspire new leadership there, too.
posted by adamsc at 5:26 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


There are times when some prudent tax cuts may be beneficial to a state's economy, but when you haven't got enough money to pay for your public servants' salary and benefits, you should know that now isn't one of them.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:03 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


I know people love to jump on NPR but in this case at least some of the blame should go to the people they’re interviewing. This segment interviewed one of the union reps and they never once mentioned that

In a word, no. (OK, "some of the blame" fine, but IMO NPR needs to be jumped on.)

The media needs to get out of this idea that they are there to repeat what people say. If they deal with people trying to spin the story different ways their job is to cut through the spin and help the listener understand the most important issues. "Rep A did a bad job so it's OK that their side of the story is poorly represented" is not OK.

Not only do they think it's OK but--and NPR is especially bad at this--when it's apparent they have been spun and not given a clear picture to their listeners, they run another story saying how the losing side has a communication and messaging issue. Further dumping on the side that they covered poorly.

The media is running on rules that were settled and sort of made sense in the '50s, and seems to think it would be unfair to actually change them in the name of getting stories that are communicating things accurately and clearly.

I know this is easier said than done but NPR doesn't even try. The NYT is bad but not as consistently as bad. I'm at the point where I'm willing to give Jeff fucking Bezos money because the Post seems to come the closest of the mainstream outlets.
posted by mark k at 11:09 PM on March 6 [6 favorites]


I know people love to jump on NPR but in this case at least some of the blame should go to the people they’re interviewing. This segment interviewed one of the union reps and they never once mentioned that

Keep in mind that this is a wildcat strike. The union bureaucracies accepted the legislature's initial offer and did not authorize the strike, teachers spontaneously organized to carry it out anyway. The union bureaucrats are part of the problem here, and including one or two of them in an interview is not airing the concerns of the striking teachers.
posted by indubitable at 7:29 AM on March 7 [12 favorites]


More on the "why is my employer creepily turning into my healthcare manager?" topic: employers are using very personal Big Data from the insurers, from ADP, and from dozens of other companies selling data on you to figure out ways to "nudge" you to being healthier.

For example:

"If a company has a population of workers with diabetes who are missing work and spending more than usual on diabetic healthcare interventions, for example, the tools available through Springbuk will help employers identify the types of disease management programs and wellness vendors to use. While the employer may not know which employees have diabetes due to HIPAA regulations, they will be able to track whether or not the new disease management programs focused on diabetic care are working to improve employee health and reduce diabetic intervention costs."

"The software’s predictive modeling engine allows users to forecast their company’s overall healthcare spending, identify at-risk employees, and uncover costs that will occur in the future."
posted by hexaflexagon at 8:53 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


how nice that the f'd up American health care system is getting companies to optimize costs by screwing their employees
posted by kokaku at 9:25 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


The municipal government I work for has a similar wellness program as part of it's health plan, including the $500 "discount" for "voluntary" participation. It seems to be designed to make it easy to fail to meet all the requirements, which are all annoying. This year they're slightly less creepy, I think they removed the opportunity to tie your grocery discount card to it so they could track what food you buy. But you can still link your fitbit. Noooo thank you. I was in the union until recently, and they also had a wellness program. It was less obnoxious by far, you got all your points by getting normal preventative care and a blood test.
posted by sepviva at 9:43 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]








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