The Gottfried-Perkins Bill got a shot in the arm on February 17 when two large statewide unions-1199 SEIU and CWA District 1–and theWorking Families Party announced their support on February 17. “The passage of Obamacare represented a huge advance in this country,” said CWA District 1 Political Director Bob Master, “but it is not enough.”
The Gottfried-Perkins Bill would establish New York Health: a publicly funded universal healthcare plan for all New Yorkers with no premiums, deductibles or co-pays. 73 out of 150 state assembly members have endorsed it. The Bill faces a more difficult path in the state senate where a small group of renegade Democrats have joined with the Republican minority to block progressive initiatives.
The new union endorsers join long-time single-payer supporting unions in New York State including the New York State Nurses Association, the Public Employees Federation and Local One IATSE. “As tireless advocates of patient care, registered nurses of New York state are proud to stand with Assembly Health Committee Chair, Richard Gottfried, state Senator Bill Perkins, and countless other patient advocates in support of the New York health bill,” said Lisa Blodgett, a registered nurse and member of the New York Nurse’s Association.”There’s a health care crisis throughout our state and the only solution is a single payer system that guarantees quality health care to all.”
“This is a real breakthrough,” said IATSE Local One Recording-Corresponding Secretary Bob Score. “We’ve said all along that we will win when the tremendous organizing and mobilizing capacity of labor is brought into play. 1199 SEIU and CWA District One are big time players in New York with a large activist base. We are glad to have them on board for all working people.”
More and more unions are speaking out about the substantial difficulties that Obamacare creates for union-sponsored health and welfare funds. And, because it does nothing to take healthcare off the bargaining table, the long-term trends to shift costs, cut benefits and move towards a “defined contribution” healthcare benefits model have continued. A recent briefing paper by the Labor Campaign for Single Payer notes that, “because it relies on employment-based coverage to provide the lion’s share of healthcare insurance while, perversely, undermining key aspects of that coverage, we have concluded that the ACA will place new stresses and pressures on collective bargaining.”
Having no place left to go but forward, more and more unions are looking for opportunities to support a single-payer solution. And because the path to federal action on single-payer appears closed for the near future, a number of unions have been committing substantial resources to state-level campaigns that seek to take advantage of the state innovation waivers available in 2017 under the ACA to move their states towards single-payer and re-ignite the national Medicare for All movement.
In Vermont, the Vermont Education Association—the largest union in the state—recently committed $80,000 to support single-payer efforts in the state.
“We know that the rest of the country is looking at Vermont to see how well it does,” says Martha Allen, president of the Vermont-NEA. “And if we don’t make it work, I don’t know where it will be able to work.”
In California, the Campaign for a Healthy California and Labor United for Universal Healthcare has brought together dozens of unions and central labor councils in a multi-year campaign to win guaranteed healthcare for all Californians. Strong, labor-supported campaigns are also taking off in Maine, Oregon, Maryland and a number of other states.
The Labor Campaign for Single Payer has called on the labor movement to “Finish the Job! Guarantee healthcare for every worker by guaranteeing healthcare for all!” The development of serious state single payer initiatives provides an opportunity to build organizing capacity and a mobilization model powerful enough to establish healthcare as a fundamental birthright for everyone in America.
We urge your union to support and participate in these efforts. For more information on organizing in your state, contact us firstname.lastname@example.org.