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Happy Thanksgiving: Tell Us What You're Thankful For

John and Gloria Martes. Photo courtesy of Leslie Martes.

This Thanksgiving, Leslie Martes, program and outreach director at The Voter Participation Center, is thankful her father, John, had access to union retiree health care benefits. Without that health care plan, it's likely John wouldn't have lived to celebrate the holiday with his family.  

Gloria Martes (Leslie's mother), who retired in 2007, worked for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California as a surgical technician or a "scrub nurse," says Martes. Gloria was a member of OPEIU Local 30 and represented her union at the negotiating table a few years before she retired. She knew she would be retiring soon, so she bargained for a high-quality retiree health care plan with low co-payments. Gloria has been active in her union for decades. In the '70s, Gloria walked a picket line, so ever since then, John refers to her as "Gloria Picket."

In August 2011, John slipped and fell while moving boxes. Wanting to make sure he didn't crack his rib, Gloria decided to take John to the urgent care. The co-pay was only $5, thanks to the union retiree health care plan, so cost wasn't an issue, even though they live on a fixed income. While John's ribs were intact, the doctors did discover a tumor on his lung after reviewing the x-rays. The urgent care visit saved his life. 

"He had no symptoms," says Martes. "We were able to find the cancer early. If we didn't, the doctors said he wouldn't have made it a year."

Martes says her father, who was diagnosed with lung cancer last September, started chemo in January of this year. John had surgery in April and finished his radiation treatment in July. For now, John is completely cancer free, although he will have to continue getting screened. 

It's all 'thanks to unions,' my mom says. She can go to urgent care and not have to worry about the cost because her union fought for its retirees. 

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Share your comments below. 

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