PNHP and ISPC members support United Mine Workers

May 29 2013
Pam Gronemeyer

May 29, 2013

In May, physicians and a pharmacy student from the Illinois and Missouri chapters of Physicians for a National Program (PNHP) and the Illinois Single-Payer Coalition (ISPC) Edwardsville joined thousands of United Mine Workers Association (UMWA) members who are fighting for their earned health and pension benefits. Miners' jobs are dangerous: among other hazards they are exposed to coal dust, which can lead to cancer and black lung disease.  Yet, Patriot Coal, through its pending bankruptcy proceedings, is attempting to shed its responsibility for these benefits: one more effort by a corporation to both destroy a union and deprive the laborers of the wealth they have created.

As a pathologist, I have seen at autopsy the lung disease created by mining, so I know how much coal miners need their health benefits. I and other physicians know that we must support them in their continued struggle for justice. Once again, this fight points out the need for a Medicare for All program in the United States. If health benefits were not tied to jobs, no one could lose them through an industry's manipulation of interrelated  companies. Corporations could not in this way deliberately inflct pain and suffering on the workers who toiled for many years in underground mines, in order to increase shareholder return.

Unions have worked very hard to make sure that their members have health benefits. However, they are facing increasing obstructions to their efforts. Insurance plans are raising deductibles and co-pays; some companies are developing plans that eliminate coverage for hospital care. If single payer health care (HR 676) became a reality, the American people would be the organized bargaining unit demanding and ensuring healthcare as a human right for all!

Pam Gronemeyer is Co-President for Southern Illinois of PNHP Illinois; and a board member of Missourians for Single Payer and of ISPC.

For additional coverage of the UMWA struggle with Peabody Coal, see the following articles in the ISPC website: Miners follow example of Moses; Over 7,000 march; Illinois background.

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