Union Leaders Hope To Restore Relevance In Push For Health Reform
The Associated Press: "The man expected to become the AFL-CIO's next president said Monday that lawmakers would pay a political price if they abandon a government-run option in any health care overhaul. 'We need to be a labor movement that stands by our friends, punishes its enemies and challenges those who, well, can't seem to decide which side they're on,' said Richard Trumka, currently the AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer." He spoke at the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress.
Trumka said: "I think [lawmakers] need to understand that that you can have a bill that guarantees quality, affordable health care for every American, or you can have a bill the Republicans will vote for But you can't have both" (Hananel, 8/31).
Trumka, who could head the 11-million-member federation of unions, acknowledged that labor unions have "lost touch with a whole generation," the Wall Street Journal reports. No longer considered relevant by many younger workers, labor's "latest drive comes at a time when labor sees new opportunities in a Democratic administration but continues to face a decline of membership and interest," the Journal reports (Maher, 9/1).
Trumka's remarks are also part of a larger effort by labor groups to campaign for health care reform. "From health-care-themed picnics to public rallies to door-to-door campaigning, labor unions are behind many of the activities in Indiana aimed at drumming up grass-roots support for an overhaul of the nation's health-care system," the Indianapolis Star reports. Even though union members often have better health benefits that other workers, they say they support the bill because "it's about what's good for America." A union critic says it's a move to force nonunion employers to offer health benefits, thus driving up their costs (Groppe, 9/1).
Unions are also working to make Democrats prioritize legislation that would make it "easier to organize" new local chapters, Politico reports. They will begin pushing the plan around Labor Day. Politico reports: "The events begin Tuesday, when AFL-CIO President John Sweeney plans to release a new survey of young workers that sheds light on their experiences and expectations. Among its findings: 31 percent of young workers don't have health insurance - up from 24 percent 10 years ago ..."
"Beyond health care, Congress has yet to take final action on energy and climate change, tougher financial regulations and a host of federal agency budgets. So carving out floor time for the labor bill will become increasingly difficult as lawmakers move toward their December break" (Cummings, 9/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.