AFL-CIO convention may feature showdown over health care

AFL-CIO convention may feature showdown over health care

By Mark Gruenberg

16 August 2009

WASHINGTON – With one month to go before September’s national AFL-CIO Convention in Pittsburgh, the biggest floor fight there may be over health care. And that floor fight, in turn, could affect the whole health care battle on Capitol Hill and nationally.
That’s because while the federation has supported and actively campaigned for legislation based on the principles of universality, cost controls, choosing your own doctor and a government-run alternative to the insurance companies, 552 labor bodies — from international unions down to local councils — want to go in a different direction: A government-run single-payer Medicare-like system.So if the AFL-CIO yanks its support for legislation being considered in Congress, and backed by Democratic President Barack Obama, that legislation could sink.

As of Aug. 10, four days before the resolutions deadline, single-payer health care coverage advocates had sent 40 draft resolutions backing the bill (HR 676, S 703) to the AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer’s office. One was from the California School Employees Association, a union that sits on the AFL-CIO Executive Council.

While dozens of union groups back single-payer, the Executive Council has not — so far. That may change, a CSEA council rep previously told Press Associates.

Backers include the Steelworkers, CSEA, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and more than a dozen other AFL-CIO unions. Several, but not those three, call single-payer one of several alternative roads to health care reform.

Other labor bodies sending single-payer resolutions to the AFL-CIO include two central labor councils in the greater Cleveland area (the Dayton-Miami Valley AFL-CIO and the Erie-Crawford Pa., CLC), two in the Iron Range (the Duluth AFL-CIO and the Marquette County, Mich., Labor Council), the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, many California central labor councils and the Wisconsin and South Carolina state feds.

The resolutions are blunt, with a model version, from Troy, N.Y., blasting the health insurance companies. The Troy CLC’s resolution not only supports the single-payer bill by long-time Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., but bars the AFL-CIO from taking a fall-back stand in favor of a “public option” in a wider health care reform plan.

If passed, the single-payer resolutions would put the federation on record as trashing and abolishing the private insurers and their high co-pays, premiums and deductibles, denial of care and resulting 101,000 deaths from refusal to pay for care.

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