In the wall and ceiling industry, approximately 20 percent of the workforce is unionized, and as a result of collective bargaining, those employed by union shops have medical insurance provided as part of their compensation. After interviewing literally thousands of non-union workers over 20-plus years as a union representative, my educated guess would be that less than 15 percent of non-union or “open shop” companies in our industry offer any form of medical insurance option to their employees. Let’s be generous and say that another 25 percent of the non-union sector has some form of health insurance provided from their spouse’s employer. That leaves at least 50 percent of all the workers in our trade unprotected in the event of a serious medical issue. So what is such a person to do if they or a loved one come down with diabetes, heart disease, or cancer?

Why the emergency room of course …

In America we wouldn’t turn away someone in need. They may have to wait an incredibly long time to be seen in an emergency room, but eventually they will be seen and treated. So this raises a number of the questions like, who picks up the tab?

Just like any other aspect of doing business, hospitals pass along the cost to the consumer. In this case it means higher premiums for the medical insurance the other half of us now enjoy (premiums have risen an average of 40 percent in the last 5 years) or the cost is taken care of by some form of welfare assistance such as medical, where the taxpayer foots the bill.

Is it fair for union employers to pay for medical insurance when non-union ones generally don’t?

Is it fair for the employees of an open shop contractor to receive medical care paid for by the rest of us who are paying for insurance?

Wouldn’t it make competition in the wall and ceiling industry fairer if all employers had to provide medical insurance for their employees; or if the government provided a public option for everyone where the cost was shared equally?