In a unanimous vote, the AFL-CIO yesterday endorsed the Single Payer Medicare for All approach to healthcare reform as the “most cost-effective and equitable way to provide quality healthcare for all.” The resolution caps a successful effort led by the Labor Campaign for Single Payer (LCSP), the Labor Caucus for HR 676 (a coalition of national unions) and the All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care to put the Federation on record rejecting private insurance and in support of a social insurance model for healthcare reform.
Over 70 resolutions were submitted to the Convention on this subject–more than on any other single issue in the history of the AFL-CIO. Submissions came from a diverse range of labor organizations including 5 national unions, 7 state labor federations and over 60 central labor councils. Yesterday’s Convention actions came as a direct result of the mobilization efforts of hundreds of labor bodies, state federations, central labor councils and local unions.
The resolution passed shortly after President Obama addressed the Convention. The Convention also passed a resolution that set conditions for support of the main legislative proposals before the House and Senate but delegates were unanimous in their agreement that the private insurance industry was the biggest roadblock to real healthcare reform.
“We’ve had debate within our own movement,” said United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, who chaired the discussion,”But what unites us is greater than what divides us.”
The single payer resolution charts a clear course for the future by stating that, “Whatever the outcome of the current debate over health care reform in the 111th Congress, the task of establishing health care as a human right, not a privilege, will still lay before us.” It supports current single payer legislation including the HR 676 Medicare for All legislation introduced by Congressman John Conyers.
Yesterday’s vote capped several days of enthusiastic organizing at the Convention. Many delegates wore stickers and buttons in support of single payer. On Monday night, hundreds of delegates attended a reception sponsored by the LCSP and the Labor Caucus. Several national union presidents spoke at the gathering including USW President Leo Gerard and Mineworkers President Cecil Roberts. LCSP Board Members Donna Dewitt,President of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, and Jos Williams, President of the DC Metro Labor Council also spoke. CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro introduced special guest Michael Moore. After the reception, over 1,000 delegates and guests marched through Pittsburgh to a movie theater to watch the U.S. premiere of Moore’s new film, “Capitalism, A Love Story”.
Twelve delegates gave impassioned speeches in favor of the Single Payer Resolution. IFPTE President Greg Junemann stressed that the resolution reflects the “realities of tomorrow”. “We will not rest,” he said, “until we have healthcare for all Americans.” Clyde Rivers of CSEA spoke of the incredible burden that the costs of the private insurance system places on the backs of public workers in California and elsewhere and of the cost savings that could be achieved through single payer. Jeff Crosby, President of the North Shore (MA) Labor Council said that he was proud that the Federation will assume “moral leadership” of the movement for healthcare for all and of how important that leadership is for our allies in the community.
South Carolina State Federation President urged delegates to support the Weiner amendment which is due to come up for debate in Congress. Rose Ann DeMoro expressed hope on behalf of all nurses that, by the next AFL-CIO Convention, the establishment of single-payer in the U. S. will have moved the country’s international healthcare ranking “from a deplorable 37th into the top 10.”
“This resolution is an extraordinary achievement,” said LCSP National Coordinator Mark Dudzic. “Its passage was made possible by the powerful organizing efforts of grassroots labor activists around the country. Now our job is go back to our communities, build the campaign and take the fight to the halls of Congress.”
AFL-CIO Convention Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/jonflan/2009AFLCIOConvention#
Labor Campaign for Single Payer www.laborforsinglepayer.org