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Gathering Place In My View
Carolyn Martinez Golojuch

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Business is modern-day
Scrooge where benefits,
pay are concerned

At this time of the year, there is a variety of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" offered for our viewing pleasure. Each one reminds us to bring the "spirit of good will to all" into our everyday lives.

While the annual holiday attempt to reach the needy in our community is most worthy, this does not address the basic daily needs for food, shelter, clothing and medical care. Employment with dignity and medical care would give respect to our citizens on a daily basis.

Today a record number of people need health care coverage. In "A Christmas Carol," we meet Tiny Tim, who needs medical care. Today there are many Tiny Tims in the world around us. They are adults and children, who lack basic medical care. There are families who live in fear of larger medical bills than the paychecks they take home.

The present-day Scrooge is the company that does not offer medical coverage for its employees. This includes our government, which allows these companies to continue this draconian practice and does not provide the basic framework for universal health care. Another part of this picture is the U.S. executives whose take-home salaries are the largest in the world, while U.S. employees lack medical coverage. Where is the "spirit of good will to all" in this situation?

Without medical coverage, employees and their families risk financial disaster when medical costs exceed their low wages. Where is the "spirit of good will to all" in this situation?

Universal medical coverage would open the door for the companies and employees to enhance the workplace to a humane environment.

Today's Scrooge is the business that does not provide sick leave for its employees. While this is a benefit that unions won for employees, many companies claim that their employees do not need unions in the workplace and at the same time do not provide sick leave, much less vacation pay for their employees. I know, I have worked for such firms even as a social worker.

It is cruel to drag out each year the stories of families who ask for a holiday dinner, a kitchen appliance or a bed for a child. What would be more humane would be jobs that pay a living wage and provide health care to afford dignity year 'round. Working without being able to provide basic needs of food, shelter and medical care is slave labor.

In today's world, unions are doing their best to hold on to health-care benefits, living wages and retirement benefits for their members. If the large and small firms, along with our government, provided a living wage with health care benefits, unions might be obsolete. Unfortunately, it does not appear to be part of the work ethic for the business world. Higher dividends for their stockholders appear to be their priority. Parity in the workplace would benefit the employees and their families. This would be the "spirit of good will to all" on a daily basis.

Few people want a handout. It is not a handout when people have access to jobs with dignity that would allow them to rent or buy their homes. Respectful jobs and health care would lead to a decrease in our homeless problem.

This would bring the "spirit of good will to all" to our people 365 days a year! Even Scrooge had to wake up for this to happen. Until then, my heart goes out to all homeless families and underpaid employees without health care. May the "spirit of good will" reign someday in the United States.

Carolyn Martinez Golojuch, who holds a master's degree in social work, is a business owner and college instructor.

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