Plumbers put health care in the pipeline

Plumbers local unions in Memphis, Tenn., and Northwood, Ohio, have endorsed HR 676, legislation introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) that would implement a single-payer health care system in the U.S. The locals are affiliated with the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA).

Local 17 in Memphis represents workers in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. Local 50, based near Toledo, recently hosted activists with the Single-Payer Action Network who are walking across Ohio to promote a state referendum that would guarantee health care for everyone in Ohio.

Frank Rodgers, business manager of Local 17, said that the health care costs for members have escalated rapidly in the last few years. When another 60 cents per hour is added this coming November, the cost of health care per member will total $4.80 per hour.

“This should have happened a long time ago,” said Rodgers, referring to the Conyers legislation. Five local UA unions and the California Pipe Trades Council have endorsed HR 676. Jack Love, business manager of Local 188 in Savannah, Ga., is leading an effort within the UA to have the international convention endorse HR 676 when it meets this August.

Supporters say HR 676 would save billions annually by eliminating high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.

— Carolyn Taylor