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AFL-CIO Declares '08 Elections a Mandate For High Quality Health Care for All by '09
WASHINGTON - August 30 - At its annual Labor Day briefing today, the AFL-CIO announced an historic new drive that puts the full force of 10 million AFL-CIO members and 3 million retirees behind winning secure, high quality health care for all by 2009.
“In America, no one should go without health care,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.
“Health care is the top domestic issue for our members and for all Americans, and the AFL-CIO is making the 2008 elections a mandate on fixing our broken system,” Sweeney said. “We will hold candidates at every level responsible for supporting comprehensive, progressive national health care reform, and we will elect a president and a Congress prepared to turn their campaign promises into reality.”
Sweeney said the labor federation and its 55 affiliates will continue efforts to “change our nation’s economic course and guarantee the freedom of workers to form and join unions.”
“We must have a strategy to create and keep good jobs in our country. For too long, our trade policies have encouraged companies to ship jobs overseas. We will hold every presidential candidate accountable for how they will stop the flow of American jobs out of our country and protect workers’ rights around the world.
“We will continue to build support for the Employee Free Choice Act, which will make it easier for workers to form and join unions by making it harder for employers to trample their rights.”
And, he said, union members are preparing “to change the direction of our country in 2008” with “the largest political mobilization in the history of our movement.”
Sweeney said that while the AFL-CIO is not endorsing a specific health care approach at this time, any proposal that gets labor’s support will have to control costs, cover everyone in the country, provide preventive care, preserve the right of patients to choose their own doctors, require the government to police greed and incompetence, lower employer costs and require them as well as government and individuals to “share fairly” in the cost. He said a health care solution also needs “to step up government’s involvement in making sure retirees aren’t the victims when corporations struggle with legacy costs, including finding early retirement solutions.”
“We can solve our health care problem in a uniquely American way. We need to create a new system that builds on what’s best about American health care – the right to choose your own doctors, and keep the best quality care where it exists -- while drawing from what works in other countries,” he said.
According to Sweeney, the “first big push” of the AFL-CIO campaign will take place in September, when union members will “hold George Bush responsible” for his failure to support the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Congress recently agreed to continue coverage for nearly 7 million children and to provide health insurance for the first time to up to 5 million more. Bush has said he will veto the legislation.
Sweeney pledged to build an army of a million union activists to organize for changing the nation’s broken health care system. “Working America -- our community organization for people who don’t have a union on the job -- is knocking on more than 3500 doors a night talking to people about children’s health care funding,” Sweeney said, adding that the AFL-CIO will continue to support state level health care initiatives as it has done in California.
Sweeney and Heather Booth, who will direct the AFL-CIO campaign, said other elements of the AFL-CIO health care reform campaign include:
"America's broken health care system has failed me and millions like me,” Jean Tome, a retail worker in Ohio said at today’s announcement. "Even though I have job, I still can't afford to pay for health care. In the richest country in the world, it's simply wrong that so many hard-working people go without getting their basic needs met."
"We think of a nurse sitting at a bedside and working with the families to feel comforted and safe. Today, that duty is compressed into nanoseconds because there is simply not the time," said Mary Florio, a nurse from Connecticut and AFSCME member. "The healthcare system does not allow me to be the nurse I want to be."
In addition to offering details about the AFL-CIO health care campaign, Sweeney talked about the State of America for working families.
“Today, on the two-year anniversary of Katrina, we are reminded of all that has been lost in America – and of the unprecedented indifference shown working families by the current occupant of the White House.”