Stating that, "We have a real opportunity to achieve the labor movement's historic demand for health care as a basic human right," delegates at the AFL-CIO Convention today approved a resolution promising that America's largest labor federation will play a leading role in the fight for Medicare for All.
This resolution, said USW President Leo Gerard on behalf of the Resolutions Committee, "commits the AFL-CIO to work with sponsors of single payer legislation...to move expeditiously towards a single payer Medicare for All system."
National Nurses United (NNU) Secretary Treasurer Martha Kuhl was the first to speak in favor of the resolution, "Every day at the bedside, nurses see the impact of a private insurance-based healthcare industry that denies care and diverts resources away from patients to profits. We must guarantee healthcare as a human right. Patient need, not profit, must be the cornerstone of any medical system."
Jill Charboneau, President of the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, thanked Senator Bernie Sanders for his leadership on this issue and called on the Federation to stand with him in this signature fight for social justice.
"Each time we go to the bargaining table, it's a battle over the rising cost of healthcare," said Yvonne Williams of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), "ATU is convinced that Medicare for All is the solution to our healthcare crisis."
Speaking for the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), Judy Beard stated that she was proud that her union supported HR 676 The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act and S 1804 The Medicare for All Act of 2017. "We look forward to working with the AFL-CIO to secure their passage." She also reminded the convention delegates that the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) has been a strong supporter of Medicare for All.
South Carolina AFL-CIO President Erin McKee said that she was fortunate to have always been covered by good union health benefits but told the stories of her family members without coverage. "To be without health insurance is terrifying. We need to be on the right side of history and lead the fight for healthcare for all."
AFL-CIO Executive Council member Clyde Rivers of the California School Employees Association (CSEA) stressed that "We can't bargain our way out of this healthcare crisis." Greg Junemann, the President of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) added that, "We face a nightmarish scenario every time we go into negotiations. The only cure is to make access to Medicare a right for every man, woman and child in America." And Art Pulaski of the California AFL-CIO reminded delegates that, "Our union employers can't compete with non-union employers who pay nothing for healthcare."
In urging support of the resolution, NNU President Jean Ross spoke of the sea change of popular support for Medicare for All that has emerged in response to the debates over the future of the Affordable Care Act. "Even 52% of Trump supporters who earn less that $30,000 per year support a federal guarantee of healthcare."
Convention delegates were brought to tears by the story of District Columbia nurse Sandra Falwell who told of the death of a young toddler under her care because his private insurance company refused to authorize adequate treatment.
Eighteen national unions, state labor councils and central labor councils submitted a Making Healthcare a Right resolution for consideration at the convention and several additional labor councils sent letters of support. The Labor Campaign for Single Payer worked with its national union supporters to lobby the AFL-CIO Resolutions Committee for its passage. The Resolution passed today incorporates much of the language and intent of that resolution into a broader resolution that also supports a wide range of transitional healthcare issues of importance to workers and their unions.
As the movement to establish a single payer Medicare for All system moves beyond the aspirational and begins to wrestle with serious opportunities to implement healthcare for all legislatively, today's convention action will prove to be an important step forward in that fight. We thank all of our supporters who made this advance possible and commit to redouble our efforts at this historic moment.
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