The Labor Campaign for Single Payer held its largest ever strategy conference August 22-24 in Oakland, CA. Over 300 attendees packed the joint session at the historic ILWU Local 6 Hall, which was co-sponsored by Healthcare-NOW! and One-Payer States. And California labor was in the house with 88 delegates and messages of support from the Bay Area Labor Councils and leaders of CNA, CSEA, CFT, CTA, ILWU and NUHW.
Co-Chairs Cindy Young, David Newby and Clyde Rivers led participants through a series of presentations and deliberations that culminated in a wide-ranging discussion over components of a strategic work plan. Delegates adopted a new Mission Statement that reflects our current strategic vision.
In the joint session, Michael Lighty, Director of Public Policy for National Nurses United gave a comprehensive assessment of the current state and prospects of the healthcare justice movement. Nation columnist John Nichols led a lively panel and audience response. Panelists included Vermont State Legislator Keesha Ram, Ethel Long-Scott (Women’s Economic Action Project), Donna Smith (Healthcare for All Colorado), Fernando Gapasin (Portland, Oregon Jobs with Justice) and Rita Valenti (Healthcare NOW Georgia).
Attendees also participated in workshops on Labor and Community Collaboration, Social Media Strategy, the Healthcare Is a Human Right Organizing Model, Using HR 676 to Organize for Single-Payer, Transformations in the Healthcare Industry, Defending the Public Sector and Lessons from Winning and Losing Ballot Initiatives. A Wiki Page has been set up with materials and reports from all of the conference workshops and presentations.
Steering Committee Outline Conference Outcomes
Following the national strategy conference, the LCSP Steering Committee summed up the various outcomes and outlined the following organizational opportunities:
- The Affordable Care Act has made it even more difficult for unions to continue to bargain for their members’ healthcare and has created an existential crisis for Taft-Hartley health and welfare funds. Our call to “Finish the Job!” and our critique of the new pressures under the ACA has broad resonance. Now is the time to reach out to all levels of the labor movement and ask them to join our campaign.
- Because of the dysfunctional Congress and Washington gridlock, any national reform is blocked for the immediate future. The focus has shifted to the states. Breakthroughs there will build the momentum to re-launch a national reform movement. We will work to build viable state-level single-payer campaigns with substantial labor support.
- Vermont leads the way and will be under substantial attacks from the healthcare industrial complex as it moves to implement its single-payer legislation. We must mobilize the national labor movement to support Vermont.
- In the red states, the demand to accept Federal funding to expand Medicaid to the working poor is the cutting edge of healthcare justice. We must support these fights and link them to the healthcare is a human right movement.
- Immigrants have been broadly excluded from healthcare reform. We must link up with the dynamic movements for immigrant rights and demand, “Everybody in, nobody out!”
- Federal legislation continues to be important as touchstones that serve to unify and define movement. We will continue to urge unions to make support for HR 676 and the American Health Security Act a priority in their political endorsements.
- 2015 will mark the 50th Anniversary of Medicare. This provides an extraordinary opportunity to promote our core message and build relationships with potential allies. We need to start now on plans for 2015.
Social Media Campaign Launched
The national strategy conference marked the launch of our exciting new social media campaign. Examples of some of our releases during the conference are available here. Eleven new members joined our Social Media Committee. Please make sure your union is represented. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to join the committee.
We Win When We Build a Social Movement!
The conference affirmed that our fight for healthcare justice is fundamentally a fight against corporate power. To win, labor needs to commit all of its resources and organizing capacity and help craft a powerful alliance with community, civic and religious organizations that are concerned about the well being of working class Americans. The fight for healthcare for all can help frame the fightback against austerity attacks against workers and heir unions.
Universal access to affordable, quality healthcare is a central measure of social justice. The 2014 national strategy conference made important steps forward towards the achievement of that goal.