Labor Campaign For Single Payer
Fighting for Health Care for All in the Age of Trump

Time to Call the Question: The AFL-CIO Should Endorse the Medicare For All Bill

On September 13, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced S 1804–The Medicare for All Act of 2017 into the U.S. Senate. Sixteen U.S. Senators signed on as cosponsors. More than a dozen national unions endorsed the Bill.

The fight against Trumpcare and the Republican attacks on public health programs has produced a sea change in popular opinion.  A majority of Americans now support single payer Medicare for All. People don’t want to just circle the wagons around an inadequate status quo. They want to fight for the right to healthcare.

Anyone who has sat at a bargaining table in the past ten years understands that our employment-based system of healthcare is economically unsustainable with total healthcare costs for a family of four running in excess of $26,000 per year.

And anyone who represents public sector workers understands that decent union benefits are becoming politically unsustainable as demagogues use the politics of resentment to crush bargaining rights. “When you have public employees getting these Cadillac benefits and paying virtually nothing–$20 per month–and the taxpayers in some cases are paying over $23,000 per year for health insurance…it’s not fair,” said Governor Terry Branstad as Iowa recently joined many other states in stripping public employees of the right to bargain over healthcare.

This is the moment for labor to step up on behalf of the entire working class and lead the fight for healthcare justice. At its 2009 and 2013 Conventions and, again at its July 2017 Executive Council meeting, the AFL-CIO has gone on record in support of single payer Medicare for All. Now we are asking that the AFL-CIO endorse the Sanders Medicare for All Bill and actively work for its passage.

Twelve national unions, three state labor councils and three central labor councils have submitted a resolution for consideration at next week’s AFL-CIO quadrennial convention in St. Louis to do just that. The Convention Resolutions Committee meets this Saturday (October 21) and the Convention may take up the resolution as early as next Monday. So we need your help today to help ensure that America’s largest labor federation takes a stand on this crucial issue.

Here’s what you can do to help:

  • If your union is an AFL-CIO affiliate: Ask your national officers to support the below resolution and to communicate their support to AFL-CIO President Trumka and to the Convention Resolutions Committee.
  • If you are a member of a State Labor Council and/or a Central Labor Council: Pass this email along to your officers and ask them to come to the Convention prepared to support this resolution.
  • If you are a delegate to the Convention or you are a supporter living in the St. Louis area: Plan to attend the Labor for Single Payer Briefing and Strategy Session at 5 pm on Monday, October 23 in the Marriott Grand Majestic Ballroom A-B.
  • If you are a supporter of this effort: Stay tuned for an email later this week about how you can use social media to have your voice heard at the Convention.

The proposed resolution is below. Thank you for all that you do.


Making Health Care a Right

Resolution to 2017 AFL-CIO Convention submitted by:  Albany County Central Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American Postal Workers Union (APWU), Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), California School Employees Association (CSEA), Green Mountain Labor Council AFL-CIO, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), Maine State Labor Council AFL-CIO, National Nurses United (NNU), SMART Transportation, Troy Area Labor Council AFL-CIO, Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA), Vermont State Labor Council AFL-CIO, Washington State Labor Council AFL-CIO

Getting the health care we need, no matter who we are and regardless of our circumstances in life, is fundamental to our well-being as individuals and as a nation. That is why the American labor movement has fought for more than a century to make health care a basic right in the United States. We support and will campaign to establish a single-payer system, like Medicare for All, which provides universal coverage using a social insurance model, while retaining a role for workers’ health plans. To reach our goal for achieving this expeditiously, we endorse S1804 (Sanders), the Medicare for All Act of 2017.

S 1804 would extend health care provided on a single-payer basis to all Americans after a four-year transition period. In its first year of enactment, it would lower Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 55, while also including all children from birth to age 18. This would provide coverage for pre-65 retirees whose current health benefits earned through work are increasingly at risk. In the following three years, S 1804 would continue to expand the age of people covered under Medicare, until all Americans are included. This transition also envisions a time-limited public health insurance option as an alternative to for-profit insurance companies.

The urgency for this reform is clear every day at the bargaining table, where we seek to preserve the benefits workers have earned, but see our potential wage and pension improvements diverted to the pockets of the insurance companies and their high-salaried executives. Furthermore, the price of health insurance along with prescription drugs and hospital charges keep rising, and these costs are increasingly shifted to workers, creating an unsustainable situation for the average American worker.

We have a real opportunity to achieve the labor movement’s historic demand for healthcare as a human right, and we will engage with all affiliate bodies and constituency groups to campaign to win Medicare for All, S 1804.

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