The National Single Payer Strategy Conference in New York City this past January 13-15 opened with a demonstration in front of Trump Tower and closed with a march on Wall Street. Conference sponsors also announced the launching of the Campaign for Guaranteed Healthcare to give voice and shape to the new spirit of activism that animates the healthcare justice movement.
As the Trump administration proceeds to repeal the Affordable Care Act and dismantle social insurance programs and protections, here are five takeaways from the New York conference that can help us face the challenges ahead:
- Fight for what we want. The healthcare system was in meltdown before Trump’s election and will continue to deny us the healthcare that we need as long as it is based on private insurance and for-profit medicine. Americans need to know that we fight to expand an improved Medicare to everyone rather than to restore a failing status quo.
- Solidarity must guide us. We start from the principle that healthcare is a human right and we stand in solidarity with anyone anywhere whose right to healthcare is being denied. Whether workers on strike, immigrants excluded from social insurance programs or victims of greedy pharmaceutical corporations, our movement grows stronger when we support these battles and connect them to Medicare for All.
- Unions Matter. Unions bring essential resources and organizing capacity to the healthcare justice struggle. At their best, they understand how to take on the massed corporate power that stands between the American people and their healthcare. Unions are facing an existential threat under the Trump administration. Their survival, growth and transformation into advocates for the entire working class is crucial to defeating our adversaries and winning healthcare for all.
- We must find ways to go on offense while playing defense. If all we do over the next four years is defend our past accomplishments, we will only emerge weaker and diminished. The attacks on the ACA and other social insurance programs will produce opportunities to propose single payer solutions at both a state and national level and we need to be ready and willing to exploit those opportunities to win breakthrough victories that will inspire our movement and bring in new allies.
- We need to be the healthcare wing of a broad resistance movement. We win when we build a social movement. Our core principle is: “Everybody In; Nobody Out!” This should be the basis on which we unite with all others who work to protect and expand public goods and services, defend workers’ rights and fight for an inclusive America that treats everyone with dignity.
The Campaign for Guaranteed Healthcare was launched to advance these principles. In the coming weeks we hope to begin to coordinate lobbying and public education efforts with unions and organizations in every state. This will include national call-in days, delegations to legislators, public demonstrations and other actions. We’ll also keep track of legislative developments as they unfold in Congress.
This coalition will ensure that our voices aren’t drowned out by powerful interests and that the concept of “universal healthcare” isn’t co-opted to simply defend an inadequate status quo. If your union supports this goal, please join the campaign here.
If you want to continue the work we began at the National Strategy Conference, please add your name as a supporter of the Campaign for Guaranteed Healthcare.