We are cooks and custodial and maintenance workers at the Old Rochester Regional (ORR) School district in Massachusetts, where the School Committee is proposing to make new hires pay 50% of health care premiums. For cooks who start out at $13,300 a year, it would cost 80% of their paycheck to buy health insurance for their families, leaving them earning $2 an hour - not enough for food, rent, and other basic necessities.
Choosing to go uninsured is not an option for workers like us. We live in Massachusetts where everyone is required to purchase health insurance or face a fine of over $1,000 a year - an "individual mandate" that will apply to everyone in the country next year. Making matters worse, most workers who are offered a health plan by their employers are banned from receiving subsidized health care from the state, which means many of us will not see any help from health reform.
Pushing 50% of premiums onto school employees at ORR is not just immoral, it puts our families in an impossible situation: we can pay almost all of our wages towards a health plan, or go uninsured and face a fine that we also cannot afford.
Health care should be a right for everyone. Every other country in the developed world protects this right at half the cost through a medicare-for-all, or "single payer" type health care system. Until we win that, please support the families of workers at ORR by asking the School Committee to provide affordable health insurance and care for all school district employees.