Home Letters to the Editor LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Defend the right to affordable healthcare for graduate workers

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Defend the right to affordable healthcare for graduate workers

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Letter to the Editor

This Letter to the Editor was sent by Athens resident and food service worker Ryan Powers to promote a campaign for better health care coverage for Ohio U’s graduate employees.

Everyone who works for a living should support the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) at Ohio University in their fight for affordable healthcare. Although I am not a graduate employee, nor am I a student at all, I support GEO’s campaign because everyone deserves a living wage.

Currently, Ohio U only covers 4 percent ($80) of Graduate Employee health insurance per year. Meanwhile, Ohio U’s peer institution — universities with similar student populations and rankings to Ohio U — average health care coverage is 89 percent. That is why GEO is simply demanding Ohio U cover the average of 89 percent of graduate employee healthcare. Their campaign is called #BeAverageOU.

GEO is calling for support at their planned picket outside Ohio U’s Board of Trustees meeting. The picket will be Friday, March 23 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside of Walter Hall.

All workers have an interest in supporting this fight. Just like an injury to one section of workers hurts us all — paying immigrants and women less is a nifty way to justify lower wages for everyone else, too, for example — the inverse is also true. A victory for better pay and working conditions won by one group of workers can help bring up the standards for everyone else, too.

Despite the fact that our society is becoming more unequal by the day and that the relative wages of workers and their families is on the decline, many of us still enjoy the fruits of working-class victories. The minimum wage, the weekend (although, as a food service worker, I know that many of us don’t actually have weekends) and what little social programs we have were won by ordinary people fighting for them. The eight-hour day, for example, was won by a national campaign of workers going on strike for it.

What Ohio U is doing boils down to a corporate attack on workers’ lives. Any institution that can afford to pay its president, Duane Nellis, hundreds of thousands of dollars, or to pay $2 million for a new basketball scoreboard, is not prioritizing its workers’ livelihoods. GEO is showing us one way to resist the corporate attack that all workers face in our society.

But they are showing us more than mere resistance. GEO is showing a way forward to win a new generation of reforms beyond the minimum wage, the weekend or the eight-hour day. Healthcare is and should be treated as a human right. Without it, a good, decent life is impossible. Workers organizing themselves to challenge the profit system is how we can win healthcare as a right and more.

We have to start somewhere. Why not start with challenging the corporate giant in our own backyard? We can remind the millionaire Board of Trustees, Pres. Nellis,and other exploitators that the bosses need us; we don’t need them, so they better start treating us with respect and paying us what we deserve for our hard work.

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