AFL-CIO Convention Endorses Single-Payer

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Charles Idelson, 510-273-2246

AFL-CIO Convention Endorses Single-Payer

Unanimous Vote for Medicare-for-All Reform

PITTSBURGH -  In a historic vote that adds the nation’s leading voice of American
workers to a broad national campaign, the AFL-CIO voted unanimously at
its national convention here today to endorse the enactment of
single-payer, universal healthcare for all Americans.

The resolution was sponsored by the California Nurses
Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO, the
International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and the Alameda County
(California) Central Labor Council.

In urging its support, CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro,
an AFL-CIO National Vice-President, noted the recent death of Crystal
Lee Sutton, the real-life union organizer from the film Norma Rae who
died last week after a long battle with cancer, exacerbated by her own
three-year fight with her insurance company.

“No one should spend the last days of their life fighting with their
insurance company,” said DeMoro. “We should not make choices of who
gets healthcare based on their ethnicity, gender, or economic status.
But I am addressing the labor movement, not Wall Street. And we all
know what is the right thing – the moral thing – single-payer
healthcare.”

It marks the first time in perhaps two decades that the AFL-CIO has
been formally on record in support of single-payer, which would
essentially expand and improve Medicare to cover all Americans. Labor
unions around the country have been in the forefront of grassroots
actions around the nation in support of single-payer and many labor
bodies submitted resolutions to the national convention in support of
an endorsement.

The resolution notes that “the experience of Medicare (and of nearly
every other industrialized country) shows the most cost-effective and
equitable way to provide quality healthcare is through a single-payer
system. Our nation should provide a single high standard of
comprehensive care for all.” It also sites specific single-payer bills,
including HR 676, which has 86 cosponsors in Congress.

The vote came shortly after the convention was addressed by
President Obama who repeated his call for comprehensive healthcare
reform, and will accompany another AFL-CIO resolution supporting other
Congressional efforts to pass comprehensive reform.

It also followed a reception hosted by CNA/NNOC and other unions
Monday night featuring filmmaker Michael Moore whose previous film
SiCKO presaged the current national debate with its indictment of the
healthcare industry, and was on hand to premiere his latest film,
Capitalism: A Love Story to the AFL-CIO convention.

In his speech Moore recalled that 65 years ago President Franklin
Roosevelt proposed a second bill of rights which called for a right to
universal medical care, a fight that continues. He noted that every day
the healthcare industry spends over $1 million to block reform while
thousands of Americans continue to lose coverage, and urged labor and
community activists to keep up the fight.

Regardless of the outcome of the current healthcare legislative
action, said United Steel Workers President Leo Gerard, “we’re going to
continue the fight for single-payer. I’m not in favor of universal
insurance, I’m in favor of universal healthcare. We are going to fight
to make sure every single American gets high quality healthcare.”

“We know the patient care crisis, we see it every day,” said
CNA/NNOC co-president Zenei Cortez, RN at the reception. “We will not
rest until we get rid of the private insurance companies that profit
off of suffering.”

Greg Junemann, president of International Federation of Professional
and Technical Engineers and chair of the HR 676 Labor Caucus, which has
won similar endorsements from hundreds of international and local
unions and state and local labor federations, noted to the convention
the unity of labor in fighting for real reform. He also cited the
ongoing fight of workers every day to protect the health coverage many
have now.

“The labor movement needs to set our flag on the top of the
mountain, and that we will not rest until we have single-payer
healthcare for all,” said Junemann.

DeMoro welcomed the many international guests in the convention, and
noted how most of them represent industrial nations where no one dies
from lack of health coverage or goes bankrupt or loses homes due to
un-payable medical bills.

“The reason? Because they have single-payer or other national
healthcare systems, and because your labor movement led the fight for
healthcare. Here insurance companies are at the apex of power,
controlling our lives. It is not the public option we should be
questioning, it is the private option and its horrendous power over our
families,” DeMoro said.

“When we meet again in four years, perhaps if we adopt single-payer,
we will be like all our international brothers and sisters in this
room, and no longer be the richest nation in the world but just 37th in
healthcare,” DeMoro said.

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National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.

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