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harvest of shame

We celebrate Labor Day by honoring workers – especially the forgotten workers.  Stay-at-home mothers who home school their children are often forgotten.  Other forgotten members of the labor force are those who work in school cafeterias,  those who empty bedpans in nursing homes, and ordinary local guys, like my plumber.  He is smart, honest, and he never over-charges.  These are just ordinary people. Most have no degrees – no fancy pieces of paper to frame and hang on their walls. These are the ‘good guys’ that keep our country and homes running.  They are the real backbone of our country.

There are also many others. Can anyone celebrate Labor Day without thinking about farm labor.  If you are too old to remember it, or too young to have ever heard of it, now is the time to crank up your computer and watch “Harvest of Shame”.  That is the amazing documentary made by Edward R. Murrow.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJTVF_dya7E  There is no labor more important for our existence and survival than farm labor. Often those who work in the field are the most overworked and under paid.  In Vermont we should be sensitive to the plight of workers on dairy farms. Often they live in sub standard housing. They live in fear of exposure if they lack the ‘right’ papers.  In Bennington we depend on the workers from the ‘islands’ who pick the apple crop every year.   One of our nation’s greatest scandals is the treatment of child farm workers who never seem to have the legal protections necessary. In California, who is looking out for the kids?  They often are exposed to dangerous chemicals while working long hours in the blazing sun.

Any examination of labor must also include those who are overpaid – corporate CEOs.  Corporations have the right to compensate administrators any way and in any amount the Board determines. BUT, the unfair distribution of wealth is taking a toll on the unity of our country.  It is time for voters to speak up. This widespread policy of excessive pay for Corporate CEOs can be easily fixed by changing the tax code.  Place a 100% tax on all income above $100,000 – or a 100% tax on all income that is more than five times the minimum wage.  Of course members of Congress are not willing to do that.  It is obvious why.  We know whose side they are on.

The most outrageous compensation scheme is often in the so-called ‘non-profits’.  Of all those, the health care business is no doubt the worse.  It is the most dangerous because it is, in part, responsible for lack of universal access to quality health care which can lead to death.   The US has the most expensive health care system on the planet – but it is not the best.  Quality of health care in Thailand and many other countries is far superior – so much so that many Americans have become medical tourists.  They will do anything to avoid the ‘assembly line’, dehumanized health care in the US.

Remember the good old days when we were patients. Then we became customers.  Now we are just algorithms.  Has your doctor made eye contact with you lately, or is your doctor focused on a computer screen during the entire length of your annual visit. This is not always the doctor’s fault. They did not design the system, but maybe they could fix it if they organized and at least tried.

Not all doctors are over paid. Some are under paid. The problem is that too much of the money goes to the top and too little to real health care providers at the bottom of the wage scale.  This has resulted in a loss of quality in health care and puts patients at risk.

Take a good look at the following numbers from IRS Form 990 reports.  Can they be justified?

Vermont Hospital CEO pay – 2016
•University of Vermont Medical Center: $2,186,275
•Dartmouth-Hitchcock: $1,494,669
•Southwestern Vermont Medical Center: $620,368
•Porter Medical Center: $612,877
•Rutland Regional Medical Center: $565,038
•Central Vermont Medical Center: $503,385
•Gifford Medical Center: $470,574
•Copley Hospital: $435,524
•North Country Hospital: $417,940
•Brattleboro Memorial Hospital: $390,731
•Northwestern Medical Center: $378,272
•Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center: $374,660
•Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital: $350,764
•Springfield Hospital: $264,563
•Grace Cottage Hospital: $124,800

Just one more fact. Recently Dartmouth Hitchcock hired a new CEO, Dr. Joanne M. Conroy. Her compensation is being kept secret.

Rosemarie Jackowski is an Advocacy Journalist. She is author of BANNED IN VERMONT.
dissent@sover.net

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