Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Express Scripts: "Shock Doctrine" in action

Back in October, National Jobs with Justice regional organizer Treston Davis-Faulkner highlighted the rise of shock doctrine union busting tactics--right wing use of economic crises as an excuse to push through radical free-market ideology that cuts jobs, undermines worker power, and undercuts our social safety nets.

Treston wrote about the struggles of ILA Local 1291 dockworkers fighting back against the highly profitable Del Monte Fresh Produce Co., which despite two years of record profits eliminated about two hundred union jobs in the Philadelphia area, replacing them with poorly paying jobs at a nearby Camden port "organized" by a company-controlled sham union. When the laid-off workers protested, Del Monte slammed them with an injunction that effectively gagged the local and its members. Luckily, family members, community supporters, and allies--including Philly JwJ--have stepped up and united in a campaign to fight to restore these workers' jobs.

Another big labor struggle in the area also fits snugly into the shock doctrine model. In the midst of a recession, SEIU Healthcare PA workers continue to fight scheduled facility closures in Bensalem. Is the elimination of these jobs a matter of company survival, somehow a regrettable but ultimately necessary business decision? Nope. Express Scripts hauled in an easy $1.7 billion in profits last year.

SEIU's blog has more on the Express Scripts fight:

According to a new research report, Express Scripts (ESI), the second-largest pharmacy benefit management firm in the country, is alienating clients by engaging in pricing schemes, handling personal data carelessly, expanding so fast the company may be overvalued, and is so loaded with debt its liquidity may be in danger. The report titled "Overdosing on Greed" was issued by SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, which represents ESI workers in Bensalem, PA, and is locked in a dispute with the company.

Express Scripts, racked up profits of $1.7 billion last year while processing 449 million prescriptions -- 12 percent of all prescriptions filled in the United States. Nevertheless, the company is demanding draconian concessions and threatening to close two of its facilities in suburban Philadelphia if the workers don't agree to the concessions by mid-December. The closures would put an estimated 1,000 workers out of jobs in this economically hard-hit community just in time for Christmas.

In the Philly area and across the country, companies are using the recession as an excuse to put more folks out of work. Thankfully, people are beginning to stand up and call these callow tactics what they really are--corporate greed. Those of us who care about workers, their power, and their rights need to be vigilant now more than ever, and it's exciting to see workers like the SEIU Healthcare PA folks and Local 1291 fiercely taking these battles head-on.