When the history of healthcare justice in the United States is written, 2020 will be seen as a pivotal year. Let’s take a moment to consider how far we’ve come:
- Moving Congress. Ever since the 1970’s, single-payer bills have languished in the U.S. Congress, usually completely ignored by the Democratic leadership. In May of 2009, Senator Max Bacchus (D., MT) ordered the arrest of 8 activists who were demanding that he put single payer on the table in the hearings concerning the Affordable Care Act. Ten years later, Reps. Pramilla Jayapal (D, WA) and Debbie Dingell introduced HR 1384–The Medicare for All Act of 2019 with 118 cosponsors. Rather than locking advocates out of the hearings, M4A leaders were prominent witnesses at four congressional hearings in 2019 including the December 9 Energy and Commerce hearing where NNU President Jean Ross made an eloquent case for Medicare for All.
- Moving Labor. In February 1993, the AFL-CIO Executive Council voted to reverse its historic support for single-payer healthcare in favor of the Clinton healthcare plan which would have provided little relief at the bargaining table. In February 2019 unions representing a majority of organized workers endorsed HR 1384. This follows resolutions at the 2009 and 2017 AFL-CIO Conventions. After years of strikes, lockouts, concession bargaining and wage stagnation driven by healthcare costs, it is no surprise that Medicare for All is again the mainstream policy of America’s labor movement.
- Setting the Terms of Debate. In the 2016 presidential elections, the Democratic Candidate vowed that Medicare for All would “never ever come to pass”. Today it is the central issue in every presidential debate. Even those candidates who oppose Medicare for All feel compelled to mask their opposition, calling their proposals “Medicare for All Who Want It,” “Allowing All Americans to Choose Medicare,” etc.
- Winning the Battle of Ideas. Despite negative framing , a majority of Americans consistently support Medicare for All. This paradigm shift has been driven by the ongoing crisis in healthcare that affects nearly every American family. Americans are convinced that the status quo is untenable. It is up to us to organize and mobilize our co-workers and neighbors into a powerful force for healthcare justice.
The Year Ahead
Medicare for All will be a central theme throughout the 2020 election cycle creating huge opportunities for our movement. During the primary season the Labor Campaign will work with our allies to educate voters and urge unions to make support for Medicare for All a “litmus test” in their candidate endorsement process.
The summer political convention season will surely provide new opportunities to educate and advocate around Medicare for All. During the general election season, we will work to ensure that Medicare for All plays a central role in the debates, including in strategically important congressional and senate races.
Whatever the outcome in November, we must be prepared to rapidly respond to developments in the post-election period. When the new President and the new Congress take office in 2021, we will be there waiting for them.
Time To Step Up
The opportunities opening up in 2020 will require that we rapidly scale up our movement. First and foremost, this means that we must intensify our efforts to move all of labor beyond “resolutionary politics” and towards the commitment of the resources and organizing capacity necessary to win.
In addition, we must support the “big organizing” tactics embraced by NNU and others. Bringing hundreds of thousands of new supporters into the streets is the only way to hold politicians accountable and build the momentum necessary to overcome the staunch resistance that is sure to come from the healthcare profiteers and their political henchmen.
Finally, we must make sure that the transition to Medicare for All centers workers’ concerns. This must include a robust just transition for all workers whose jobs are eliminated or substantially changed and provisions to prevent employers from pocketing all of the windfall savings from decades of workers’ wages that were deferred to bolster our dysfunctional, for- profit healthcare system.
Everything that we have worked for since we launched the Labor Campaign in 2009 is coming to a head this year. We ask that you work with us to ensure that every union, central labor council and state federation makes Medicare for All a central part of all of their election work. We ask that you redouble your efforts in organizing and educating your co-workers, family and neighbors and help bring them to the voting booth as “Medicare for All Voters.”
And we ask that you consider making a monthly contribution to support the work of the Labor Campaign in this crucial year.