Over 150 labor leaders from across U.S. kick off coordinated grassroots campaign for single payer healthcare
St. Louis – More than 150 union leaders from 31 states gathered in St. Louis last weekend to step up a grassroots campaign to enact comprehensive national healthcare reform. The group is promoting a single-payer plan, which would work like an improved and expanded Medicare program to cover everyone.
The national kick-off meeting was convened by Labor for Single-Payer Healthcare, a campaign spearheaded by scores of trade union organizations. The national single-payer bill, HR 676 — expected to be reintroduced in Congress later this month — has been endorsed by 39 state AFL-CIO federations, 100 Central Labor Councils, and more than 400 local unions. The bill has 92 co-sponsors in Congress, more than any other health care reform bill.
In 2007, the national AFL-CIO Executive Council also adopted a resolution in support of the Medicare for All approach.
Speakers at the conference* included three members of the national AFL-CIO Executive Council, three AFL-CIO state federation presidents, three Central Labor Council presidents along with many other major union leaders.
Over the course of two days, delegates vigorously discussed strategies to promote single payer reform while also developing the new campaign’s mission statement, governance structure and a grassroots action plan.
“Poll after poll shows that the public supports a Medicare for All approach, yet a lot of policy makers think it is politically unrealistic,” said United Electrical Workers Regional President Carl Rosen, a leader of the recent occupation by workers at Republic Windows and Door in Chicago. “However our economic future depends on making the right policy choices on health care — and that’s single payer.”
“Our members have been active promoting real health care reform in nearly every municipality in California. I am excited about the Labor Campaign’s potential to expand this work across the rest of America,” said Clyde Rivers, a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council and past president of the California School Employees Association.
“President-elect Obama has invited Americans to join a national dialogue on how to solve our national healthcare crisis. Labor and grassroots activists around the country are responding with a clear and emphatic message — a single-payer plan such as HR 676 is the only way to protect American families from skyrocketing medical costs and the disgraceful denials of care so common in the current system,” said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.
Rose Ann DeMoro Speaks at the Labor for Single Payer Healthcare Meeting
“In virtually every contract negotiation, employers are seeking to shift the cost of healthcare to workers, resulting in contentious bargaining and many strikes. For the vast majority of workers without a union, the situation is even more desperate. A publicly financed, national healthcare plan similar to our Medicare system that could efficiently cover all Americans is the only solution that will control costs, increase access and improve the quality of care,” said Jeff Crosby, president of the North Shore Labor Council, AFL-CIO.
“Our campaign will promote grassroots labor support for a Medicare for All solution to the healthcare crisis. We will educate and mobilize broad membership support for healthcare reforms that would take basic healthcare benefits ‘off the table’ and allow our unions to focus on pay, working conditions, and other important benefits in collective bargaining,” said Nancy Wohlforth, a vice president of the California Federation of Labor and a leader of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU).
* Speakers at the conference included:
- Missouri AFL-CIO President Hugh McVay
- St. Louis Central Labor Council President Bob Soutier
- Coalition of Black Trade Unionists Vice President Lew Moye
- Washington DC Central Labor Council President Jos Williams
- California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro
- California School Employees Association Past President Clyde Rivers
- Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Dave Newby
- North Shore Labor Council (Massachusetts) President Jeff Crosby
- South Carolina AFL-CIO President Donna Dewitt
- United Electrical Workers Regional President Carl Rosen
- Office Professional Employees International Union Secretary-Treasurer, Nancy Wohlforth
- National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees 1199C, AFSCME President Henry Nicholas