Medicare and Medicaid Turn 50

via wpr.org

via wpr.org

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law legislation that established the Medicare and Medicaid programs—our country’s first major form of national health care.

Prior to Medicare, very few Americans over the age of 65 had health care and many lived in poverty. Similar to the Affordable Care Act, the idea of establishing a national health care safety net for older Americans was contentious.  President Roosevelt stopped short of including a federal health insurance program in the Social Security Act of 1935 in order to avoid jeopardizing the bill’s passage, and both Presidents Truman and Kennedy tried and failed to pass legislation to establish a health insurance program for older Americans.

President Johnson made Medicare a top priority as part of his War on Poverty, and launched an aggressive and successful campaign to pass the legislation.  On July 30, 1965, President Johnson traveled to the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, to sign Medicare into law, and presented President Truman and his wife with the first two Medicare cards.

At the signing ceremony, President Johnson said, “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years. No longer will young families see their own incomes, and their own hopes, eaten away simply because they are carrying out their deep moral obligations to their parents, and to their uncles, and their aunts. And no longer will this Nation refuse the hand of justice to those who have given a lifetime of service and wisdom and labor to the progress of this progressive country.”


UFCW President Perrone Statement on the Equality Act

“No one should be fired or discriminated against because of who they are or love.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), today released the following statement in pridesupport of the introduction of the Equality Act.

“Workers across America go to work every day in fear that they will be fired for simply being who they are. From state to state, LGBTQ workers do not have the adequate protections from being discriminated against or from losing their jobs because of who they love or because of their gender identity or expression.

“The Equality Act takes meaningful steps towards ensuring better protections for LGBTQ workers and families. The fact that so many workers continue to face discrimination at their workplace, often with little recourse, demonstrates that we must continue working towards building the better America each and every one of us deserves.

“Currently union contracts are often the only protection LGBTQ workers and their families have to combat discrimination. Our UFCW family strongly supports full equality for LGBTQ people both at home and on the job. We support the basic right for everyone to have employment opportunities and to keep their job regardless sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

“Our legislators should follow the path that labor has set for LGBTQ equality and protections. For the better America we all believe in, I urge Congress to pass the Equality Act.”


Join the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) online at www.ufcw.org

We are 1.3 million families standing together to build an economy that every hard-working family deserves.

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President Perrone in The Hill: Overtime Pay is Long Overdue

OT Rules are UnfairYesterday The Hill published UFCW International President Marc Perrone’s op-ed on the importance of expanding overtime pay to increase the threshold of salaried employees working more than 40 hours a week and not making time-and-a-half pay. You can read the op-ed below:

Every day, millions of hard-working Americans wake up to the realization that they will work more than 40 hours per week, but will not compensated for their hard work. Even though employers have to provide overtime pay to employees who work more than 40 hours per week under the Fair Labor Standards Act, many salaried workers are exempt. While it may be hard to believe that this is still possible, it may have to do with the simple fact that salary threshold for overtime pay has been raised only once since 1975.

How low is the threshold for these workers? The exact threshold is $23,660, which is lower – if you can believe – than the federal poverty level for a family of four. Even worse, because the overtime regulation has not been updated and adjusted for inflation, it has allowed employers to classify workers with salaries as low as $24,000. These are workers that have very low level supervisory authority, even though many will essentially perform the same work as their hourly coworkers. As a result, employers have used this overtime exemption to their advantage by requiring these low level supervisors to work for free after 40 hours. 

Under the new regulation, some workers will no longer be required to work long hours for no pay, and that means they can spend more time at home with their families or they can get paid for the work they do.  Others will get a pay increase in the form of time-and-a-half pay for overtime work. As to be expected, some workers will get a salary bump to exceed the new threshold. And in what could help spur the creation of countless of jobs, hard-working Americans who are struggling in low-wage, part-time jobs may see those jobs converted to full-time work, while some unemployed workers will get a new job when employers increase hiring to “spread the work.” 

While executive actions will not solve the fundamental economic challenges facing millions of families across this country, this new regulation is one of the most significant steps the Obama Administration can take on its own. It will also help cement a basic American value enshrined within the Fair Labor Standards Act that men and women who do the hard work would receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

While it is clear there are many areas our elected leaders must address to truly improve the lives of every hard-working American—such as paid leave, the minimum wage and fair scheduling—one would hope our elected leaders, especially Republican Members of Congress and leadership, would remember that no American in this day and age should ever be exploited simply because they want a job.

Those who oppose this rule change will have difficulty explaining why to their salaried workers in their districts and states, and that’s something to look for as we approach the 2016 election.