The LuLac Edition #1415, Dec. 26th, 2010
PHOTO INDEX: THE LATE TWO TIME PENNSYLVANIA SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, KEN LEE (CIRCA 1974) A BOX OF CANDY THAT SOME PEOPLE GET AS CHRISTMAS BONUSES (FOR WHICH I AM THANKFUL) AND STRIKING NURSES AT THURSDAY'S LABOR RALLY AT WILKES BARRE GENERAL HOSPITAL.
Wilkes Barre General Hospital Nurses had a one day strike on Dec. 23rd to call attention to what is going on at the facility. When Community Health Systems of Tennessee bought the place last year they promised to continue General’s long tradition of putting patients before profits. Kind of like my dad’s theory about anyone telling you how much they love God, those are the people that will screw you over in a New York minute without even blinking. CHS is now (surprise, surprise) refusing to negotiate a contract with Registered Nurses which would provide competitive salaries and safe staffing levels. The company made 249 million dollars in profits last year. 240 million. Not gross, not net but profit. Community Health came into this area and like so many out of town vultures broke their promises. I’ve known some very good health care professionals who have left General not over money but because of the mandatory long hours and the fact that they were being overworked. Nurses have to be sharp because people’s lives depend on that factor. The strike hopefully was a wake up call to everyone in this area concerned about their health care. And on an unrelated matter, when Community health came in last year and bought General, which at that time was a non profit, who the hell got the proceeds of the sale? Were there any members of the non profit board that got something maybe? I never knew where the money for that sale went.
I’ve worked in enough places to witness a virtual Peyton Place atmosphere among employees. Couples kept coming and going with their various dramas that sometimes it was hard to keep track. But the only reward they got was maybe getting a life long relationship. But if you work at the Luzerne County Courthouse, marriage definitely pays.
The other day the Times Leader reported that: If two Luzerne County employees are married and receiving county-funded health insurance, one of them is eligible for an annual $1,500 bonus. The bonus was originally set up to reward workers who save the county money by obtaining their health insurance elsewhere, but married employees were also lumped in. The county’s newly revised personnel policy eliminates the bonus for non-union employee spouses hired after Jan. 1, but keeps the benefit intact for those who have already been receiving it. County Controller Walter Griffith questions why commissioners didn’t eliminate the perk altogether for married non-union employees.
Our man Walter is on the case. This is another example of stuff that has gone under the radar. This is an example of how “those in the know” will always find out about the angle why us poor taxpayers get hosed. Now I don’t mind paying taxes. As I said here a few hundred times, I think it is downright patriotic. I don’t mind paying taxes for the military or public safety, I don’t mind paying taxes for education, libraries, social service intervention programs and infrastructure improvement. I do mind paying taxes for Courthouse employees to get a bonus just because Uncle Billy the ward leader in Courtdale managed to get not only his nephew under the dome but his wife. That is just plain wrong. Health Care (having worked at the County’s Health Insurer I know the rates) is too damn expensive to be giving some employee's spouse a “bonus” just because they happen to work in the same place. You know what my bonus was this year where I work? A box of caramels! This is just another reason why this County needs an attitude adjustment. Hopefully Home Rule will provide that real soon. In the meantime if Walter Griffith never existed, then would we have ever found out about this “bonus?”
Former Speaker of the House Ken Lee died this past week at the age of 88. Lee was from the Williamsport Area and served twice as Pennsylvania’s Speaker of the House. Lee ran unsuccessfully for Lt. Governor in 1974 with Drew Lewis, a future Reagan Transportation Secretary. Lee was an affable but no nonsense guy who stayed active in party politics long after leaving the House. Lee Represented the 111th District and was a former Sullivan County District Attorney. When Lee was running for the second spot in the state in '74, former Governor Bill Scranton said, "Ken Lee never waivers in his loyalty and he is one of the most direct, straight forward and honest man that I know". Lee was known as a class act and is now remembered as part of a dying breed among certain Republicans, he could be reasonable.
Nancy Kemp, a Luzerne County Taxpayer Advocate I sometimes agreed with also died this past week. Kemp was largely responsible for putting Home Rule on the ballot the last time around and was a vociferous spokesperson for accountability in government. She was 74.