Union support grows for Medicare for All

At its 33rd National Convention in Atlanta Memorial Day weekend, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists endorsed the United States National Health Insurance Act, HR 676, the single-payer health care bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D.-Mich.). “With over 42 million Americans uninsured in the U. S. and another 40 million who are under-insured, the time has come to change our inefficient and costly fragmented health care system,” declared the resolution submitted by the St. Louis Metro CBTU Chapter. The Conyers legislation brings coverage to all by removing profit-making HMOs and insurance companies from the system. HR 676 provides for conversion of all hospitals and health providers into non-profit entities.

The CBTU resolution notes that HR 676 would create “a health care program that uses the already existing Medicare program by improving it and expanding it to all U.S. residents, and all residents living in U. S. territories.” Declaring that this bill would ensure that everyone has access to the highest quality health care services regardless of employment, income, or health care status, the convention resolved that “CBTU local and national leaders give the highest priority to the United States National Health Insurance Act at its conferences, town hall meetings and rallies in the coming years.”

Two weeks earlier, on May 15, the California State Pipe Trades Council convention, representing 30,000 plumbers, pipefitters and sprinklerfitters, unanimously endorsed HR 676. The Council affirmed the “need to remove the health care obstacle from the bargaining table across the board by establishing a non-profit, publicly financed national health care plan that guarantees comprehensive, lifetime care for all.” The resolution stated further: “Our health care system is driven by making profits with as much as 30 cents out of every dollar spent on outrageous CEO salaries, shareholder dividends, marketing and administration, with not much left over for health care, and as long as we permit corporate values and profits to take precedence over the health of working families, we will never have comprehensive health care for all.”

The California Pipe Trades Council called on local labor councils, the California State Federation of Labor, their international union, and the AFL-CIO to endorse HR 676. The Plumbers, Steamfitters and Refrigeration Fitters, Local 393, first adopted the resolution and brought it to the State Pipe Trades Council. In addition to endorsing HR 676, both Local 393 and the State Council also endorsed the California single-payer legislation, SB 921, introduced by State Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles). The State Pipe Trades Council and Local 393 sent copies of their resolution to all their Congressional representatives urging them to support HR 676 “for nationwide, comprehensive health care coverage as a human right for all.”

Earlier union endorsers of HR 676 include the National Convention of the Coalition of Labor Union Women; Local 6787 of the United Steelworkers of America in Burns Harbor, Ind.; the Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor; Local 2629 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Louisville, Ky.; and the Jefferson County Teachers Association (NEA), Louisville, Ky.

Physicians for a National Health Program at www.pnhp.org will supply further information on HR 676, and an on-line petition endorsing HR 676 is available at www.cnhpnow.org.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.