Was an Increase in Liability Insurance Premiums an Example of Structural Racism?

Around 2000, I moved from one apartment complex in Indianapolis. I had the lowest permissible level of car insurance while I lived in Indiana, liability coverage only.

My premium increased when I moved. When I asked my insurance company (Allstate), the representative told me that the state regulatory agency allowed this price increase based on my new zip code.

If I had comprehensive coverage, I perhaps could understand a premium increase (although I felt as safe in both locations). But why should a change in zip code result in an increase in premium for automobile liability coverage?

A higher percentage of the residents near my new apartment were African-Americans. Is my experience an example of structural racism?

Nursing Home Association Seeks to Repel #Union Organizing #Labor #Ohio

Nursing-Home-Union

Carol Simpson, 2008

My business sells software to nursing homes. So I participate in trade associations to help my company market to nursing homes and to receive the education programs the associations offer.

The anti-union position of most of these associations disturbs me greatly.

On August 31, the Ohio Health Care Association will hold the Staying Union Free in 2011 webinar.

Ohio S.B. 5 will likely increase union organizing in private sector workplaces. Supervisors in long-term care facilities will need to be prepared. Health care environments are perfect targets: large numbers of employees capable of paying monthly dues; performing demanding work that can create tension with management; in jobs that cannot be ‘off-shored.’ Once a union works itself in, it is virtually impossible to extract. The best strategy for healthcare employers and their supervisors is to focus on prevention: create and maintain a workplace environment that repels union organizing.

As the unions’ resources are not unlimited, they must allocate their efforts to the workplaces that show the most promise of becoming organized. In this presentation, participants will learn effective strategies to assess vulnerability to organizing, detect union activity, and to deter union organizers from becoming interested in their facilities. Case studies are used to introduce and work with the best practices to remain union-free.

In 1999 or so, I did time studies in nursing homes in Indiana. As part of those studies, my company collected wage data. In rural areas, certified nursing assistants (CNAs) were making $5.50 / hr. In Indianapolis, that might increase to $9.00 / hr. Licensed practical nurses were making around $17-20 / hr, and registered nurses were making $28-30 / hr.

Whenever I’d meet one of these nurses, I’d say, “Learn to program. It’s much less stressful, and you’d make the same amount of money.” Programmers aren’t lifting and bathing 200 lb people with behavior problems in a work environment characterized by rigorous professional standards, incredibly difficult medical situations such as wounds and advanced dementia and, frequently, ownership which focused more on the bottom line than the welfare of the residents and employees.

In this context, would not a union be a counterweight to poor management? Should not CNAs make more than employees at Taco Bell a living wage?

Updated May 4, 2019: Persons as Producers: Why bioethics should be concerned with work culture and the structure of labor by Alison Reiheld, May 1, 2018

Feminist bioethics—heck, bioethics writ large—should be deeply concerned with this nation’s culture and structure of labor. And while have focused on the US, we can look for the same features and issues in other nations to see how they do better or worse*. May 1 gives us an important opportunity to bring these issues back to the forefront.

Bioethics, as much as social justice movements more generally, need to be asking an inter-related set of questions of each nation. Do we value humans primarily as producers? Is the economy and work culture structured for human flourishing or for narrowly measured economic gain? What kinds of labor are valued? And of most direct interest, is health care only accessible to those who perform particular kinds of culturally valuable labor?

Updated May 4, 2019: Zero-Sum Game? A Consideration Of Dependency Workers and Dependent Persons by Alison Reiheld, August 10, 2013

And the work of caring for dependent persons—whether young or old, temporarily or permanently—is critically important work to our society which we nonetheless reward badly if at all (I have not even touched on the toll of unpaid dependency work). Doing better by dependency workers may lead to doing better by dependent persons, as well as being a simple matter of fairness to all concerned. And yet, rising wages and benefits for the former will mean rising costs for the latter at a stage when many are on a fixed income, at best. Ought society to take on this burden of justice? If so, how? Regulation alone—say, through revision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)—will not cut the cake: it does nothing to make better, more fair provision of care affordable.

If you know how I should properly credit the cartoonist Carole Simpson for using her work, let me know.