Labor Day was created to honor and celebrate American workers, the backbone of the economy and the engine of our democracy. Working people today continue to face a massive array of barriers to balancing work with family responsibilities, earning wages that keep up with cost of living, and affording healthcare that they can count on when they need it. But they are also making progress under the current Administration thanks to President Biden’s commitment to lowering costs, creating more jobs, and providing every worker with an opportunity to join a union in their workplace.
It’s been a big week for workers. First, a new National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling made it a lot harder for employers to union-bust by intimidating, threatening, and misleading workers with misinformation about the benefits of unions. For decades, the deck has been stacked against workers who want to organize to negotiate their wages and benefits on the job because of antiquated labor laws that made organizing unions nearly impossible and gave employers license to violate workers’ rights.
In a historic move, this week the NLRB announced a new framework for worker rights that will enable workers to form unions through a more simple process if they can show majority support. The new rules stop bosses from obstructing free and fair union elections to gain representation on the job, which they do routinely and without penalty in order to stop workers from gaining rights at work. Legal recognition for a union is a critical step to improving wages and working conditions: it gives workers the right to bargain a contract that often results in better treatment, higher pay, and more affordable healthcare.
More affordable healthcare is a leading reason why many workers form and join unions. Health care premiums are rising and basic costs–like the price of prescription drugs–are increasing faster than inflation. Millions of average working Americans can’t afford the health care they need even though they have insurance at work.
But the Biden Administration is making progress on that front too. Last week President Biden announced the first ten prescription drugs that, for the first time, will have lower prices through Medicare negotiations. Retirees and people with disabilities will finally be able to get some of the most expensive and widely used prescriptions in Medicare at a reasonable price they can afford thanks to the new law that enables Medicare to negotiate and lowers out of pocket costs on everything from insulin to cancer drugs. Working Americans who pay taxes to fund Medicare will save tens of billions over the next decade thanks to price negotiations.
Medicare negotiation to lower prices is also great news for seniors who, after a lifetime of work, should not have to ration medicine, go into debt or for other basic needs to afford medicines.
But older Americans aren’t the only ones struggling: millions of people under age 65 who have private insurance are also struggling with drug prices and need relief. That’s why even as we implement drug pricing improvements in Medicare, we are working with key leaders like Congressman Pallone of New Jersey to expand these cost-cutting reforms to private insurance plans as well.
Meanwhile, the nation’s biggest drug corporations who have reaped billions in profit from decades of price-gouging are fighting to stop lower prices. A new analysis from Accountable.US found that the Pharma companies that are suing Medicare to stop Medicare negotiations (Merck, AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, Bristol Myers Squibb, AMGEN, Novartis, and Janssen) boasted $38.7 billion in profits in 2022 alone.
But no matter how hard the drug corporations and their Republican allies in Congress try to stop lower drug prices, seniors, people with disabilities, and working Americans will fight back harder so everyone can have lower drug prices. We have no choice: unless we tackle the drug corporations’ monopoly power to price-gouge, prescription drug costs will eat up more and more of our paychecks and our health premium dollars. People of all ages need access to affordable medicines.
On Labor Day, people will come together to honor the myriad contributions American workers make to every facet of our lives. As we take a moment to celebrate the victories of the last year, we’re ready to keep fighting for even more – because no one, no matter their insurance plan, zip code, or age, should have to worry whether they can afford the medication they need.