October 13, 2009 | 2 Comments
The Peace, Justice & Environment Project (PJEP) has over 1,400 organizations participating in 40 online networks in 50 states. A basic premise of the project is that by making available powerful online resources such as petitions, eletters, boycotts and online fundraising, it can allow small local organizations to have more choices when seeking to accomplish social-change goals. PJEP seeks to enhance creativity, empowering local activists to facilitate change. In addition, PJEP seeks to put into the hands of local activists powerful email lists, built from these online resources, providing access to allies to accomplish goals.
There is a sleeper issue regarding health care that only occasionally gets much play in the media. My wife and I have been running small businesses for 30 years. Good staff is integral to a healthy business. Health care benefits are too expensive to provide to staff in a business as small as Marcia and I maintain. This is particularly true in our case because we have a daughter with diabetes, a condition which closed off options regarding health care.
After our daughter contracted diabetes, our insurance was doubled to $30,000 a year. We then contracted with a staffing firm to handle payroll in order to be part of its group insurance. We do not need a payroll firm to handle four employees. We pay thousands of dollars a year for them to do this for us in order to get on a group plan that will cover family members with preexisting conditions.
We do not offer full health care for employees. This plan we are on is very expensive. Even splitting the cost with staff, something we have tried, has not worked because the other half is so expensive that no employee has wanted to keep it past half a year. It constitutes a sizable percentage of their paycheck.
Over the years, we have offered jobs to excellent prospects only to have them take an offer elsewhere that included insurance. Many times we have lost staff to another firm that offered health care. The net result of our present health care system is that talented people often go to work for a large firm that offers health care. I get and keep talented people for a time by hiring exclusively young folks out of college. I have been the employer of many people in their first job.
Imagine a health care system that doesn’t propel people to work for larger firms, firms that charge more for their services to help cover those higher costs of staffing. The net result would be lower costs and an astonishing surge in productivity and creativity.
A level playing field for health care would, without doubt, result in my keeping talented young people. Those looking for jobs could choose smaller firms that provide the kind of job that they are looking for. Hundreds of thousands of people could quit jobs that they keep only for the health care. Instead, they could work for a smaller firm or for themselves. Creative people working in a hospitable environment would flourish.
I could drop the services of a payroll company I don’t need and use that money to keep good staff.
As an organizer, I look for ways to empower activists. As a business person, I seek to get and keep good people to provide good service. There would be no better way for the government to empower small business than to insure employees of small businesses. The stranglehold that large firms have had on their staff would disappear. There would be a surge in the direction of small business productivity. Home businesses would flourish. New, small start-ups would proliferate.
Social change can come through protest or the kinds of interventions becoming common on the web. Social change can also come through a halting of tacit support of big business by providing health care to the employees of small businesses that provide local services. This single intervention could have a huge effect.