NYT Joins the Human Race (for a moment)

While I’ve earned no college credits here, I’ve had a lesson in hypocrisy.

On my way to work each morning, I pass a building with the inscription: “The highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being.” If Harvard believes this, why is the administration asking dining hall workers to pay even more for our health care even though some of us pay as much as $4,000 a year in premiums alone?

I serve the people who created Obamacare, people who treat epidemics and devise ways to make the world healthier and more humane. But I can’t afford the health care plan Harvard wants us to accept.

That’s why I have been on strike with 750 co-workers for more than two weeks. That’s why the other day, co-workers and I were arrested after we sat down in Harvard Square, blocking traffic, in an act of civil disobedience. And that’s why the medical school students, in their white coats, have been walking the picket line with us in solidarity.

The co-pays alone can be a problem. When a doctor told me my daughter had failed a hearing test and might need surgery, I thought about what care I could do without. I recently skipped an appointment to have a spot on my lung checked for cancer to save on the co-pays.

Medical students analyzed Harvard’s proposal and found that the cost of premiums alone could eat up almost 10 percent of my income. And Harvard wants to increase our co-pays for every single doctor visit to $25, from $15, for primary care and to $100, from zero, for outpatient hospital care and some tests. Some costs would be reimbursed for lower-income workers, but out-of-pocket expenses would still be hard to meet.

The students say that Harvard’s proposal is unaffordable for nearly all of us according to state government guidelines. If it goes through, I will keep avoiding the doctor to save that money for my kids’ co-pays. Any increase puts me at the breaking point.

Harvard is the richest university in the nation, with a $35 billion endowment. But I can’t live on what Harvard pays me. I take home between $430 and $480 a week, and this August, I fell behind on my $1,150 rent and lost my apartment. Now my two kids and I are staying with my mother in public housing, with all four of us sharing a single bedroom. I grew up in the projects and on welfare. I want my 8-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son to climb out of the cycle of poverty. But for most of my time at Harvard it’s been hard.

The average dining hall worker makes $31,193 a year, higher than other cafeterias in the area, but it still doesn’t go far around Boston. That’s why we’re asking for an annual salary of $35,000 for some financial stability, particularly since most dining halls are open only during the school year. Right now I’m lucky to work in one of the few cafeterias that’s open all year.

I know that health care costs are going up everywhere, and I don’t have all the answers. But there must be some way not to shift costs onto Harvard’s poorest workers.

If good health is truly “one of the fundamental rights of every human being,” then shouldn’t that also apply to the human beings working in Harvard’s cafeterias?


4 thoughts on “NYT Joins the Human Race (for a moment)

  1. Quote: “The highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being.” If Harvard believes this, why is the administration asking dining hall workers to pay even more for our health care even though some of us pay as much as $4,000 a year in premiums alone?
    Ah well, could it be because institutes of “higher learning” are traditionally the stomping grounds of the elites? One way or the other they want to get back to those good old days when only the rich could have an education, or perhaps those even better old days when anyone not of the elites who learned how to read or write could be fined, jailed, or executed.
    As for the motto for health for a medical school, how can the medical establishment even mention health? They’re not there for health, they’re there for the sick (hopefully but one could be forgiven for doubting that), but mostly for a future very lucrative position. The healthy, that is those who know how to stay out of their drugged clutches, or can’t afford them mock the medical establishment. For medicos to even use the word “health” is pure hypocrisy. Health never comes from the medical establishment, it comes from a healthy natural and social environment. The specialty of modern medical “procedure” is disease maintenance and establishing drug dependency.


    • Agree.

      People do need see a doctor sometimes, and some people need medical procedures. In this country that boasts of having the best health care in the world, 45 thousand people a year die of preventable or treatable health problems because they cannot afford that glorious care.

      It is a gross violation of human rights.


  2. This country should never boast of having the best health care in the world. Before Obamacare, the WHO placed the US between Chad and Rawanda for healthcare availability and fairness on the list of every country in the world. I don’t know where it stands now, to be honest, but I hear stories like yours all of the time. It isn’t right. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege, and it’s ridiculous that an institution as rich as Harvard can’t do any better than that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amen.

      It is inhumane and so very wrong.

      I’ve just caught an ending of a PBS report about American university students who are homeless and starving. The stats show that there are about 58 thousands homeless university students in the US. Homeless. University students. My mind reels.

      How is this possible in the greatest, richest nation on Earth? Or rather, how is this acceptable (because we all know how it’s possible)?

      Growing up in a socialist / Communist country, I never saw homeless people — because there weren’t any. The first time I saw a homeless person was after moving to the US, on the streets of Chicago.

      This is what rapacious capitalism creates — an inhumane, uncaring world where people are treated like things to use and discard when not (no longer) usable.

      We need to make a better world. Soon, before it’s too late. (Though it may be too late already.)

      Liked by 2 people

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