National Advisory Board
Lindol Atkins, Jr., President
Jeff Crosby, President
Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive Director
Donna Dewitt, President
Maria Elena Durazo, Exec. Secty-Treasurer
Pat Eiding, President
Fernando Gapasin, President
Edward Gorham, President
Bruce Klipple, Secty-Treasurer
Fred Mason, President
Hugh McVey, President
David Newby, President
Henry Nicholas, President
Tim Paulsen, Executive Director
Clyde Rivers, Representative
Jos Williams, President
Nancy Wohlforth, Representing
As unions and employers begin to assess the impact of the recently passed healthcare legislation, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: there is no let up in the relentless employer attacks on medical benefits at the bargaining table. From the Boeing workers in Long Beach, California and St. Louis, Missouri to the warehouse workers at Shaw's distribution center in Methuen, Massachusetts, healthcare costs continue to be the number one cause of strikes and lockouts.
At best, union leaders are hopeful that the new legislation will not adversely affect workers' benefits. "It's very important for UMWA members to understand what this bill does-and what it does not do," said Mineworkers President Cecil Roberts recently. "The main thing to know is that there will be little to no effect on our members, retirees and their families."
But these hopes may soon be shattered. A recent Towers Watson survey of 650 human resources professionals found that 94% believe that the new legislation will increase their costs for employee healthcare and 88% plan to pass some or all of these costs on to their employees. 74% plan to reduce benefits and programs and 58% plan to move to "consumer driven" healthcare plans with high deductibles and co-pays.
Retiree medical benefits are also on the chopping block. 85% of the professionals in the Towers Watson survey are planning to reduce or eliminate these benefits. Workers covered under various VEBA schemes are particularly vulnerable as employers have no obligation to make additional contributions if healthcare costs continue to explode. The urgency of this issue prompted Retirees for Single Payer to leaflet the opening day of the United Auto Workers Convention this past Sunday, June 12.
And the fiscal crisis in the public sector has led to an all-out assault on the benefits of public workers in nearly every state as workers and their unions are scapegoated for a healthcare crisis that they had no part in creating. New Jersey recently bypassed the collective bargaining process altogether, passing legislation that requires workers to contribute to their health insurance.
The Labor Campaign for Single Payer is working to spread a simple message to all levels of the labor movement: workers do not have the luxury of resting on their laurels in the fight for real healthcare reform. Labor must commit to a long-term strategy to win single-payer Medicare for All as the only way to protect workers' benefits and take healthcare off the bargaining table. This includes support for a strengthened national effort as well as state-level single payer reforms. Already, unions in California have worked with community allies to pass a state single payer bill through the state Senate and send it to the Assembly for hearings and in Vermont, the Workers Center helped lead the fight for legislation that will establish healthcare as a basic human right.
This fight will require that we reallocate public resources to provide healthcare for all in America. That is why the Labor Campaign has joined with US Labor Against the War and other organizations in support of the Progressive Democrats of America's Healthcare Not Warfare campaign. The Campaign sponsors monthly "Brown Bag Vigils" in front of congressional offices in nearly 100 cities. The theme of this month's vigil-on Wednesday, June 16-is "Hands off Medicare and Social Security." Please join them.
Medicare--a single payer system that covers all Americans over 65--is currently under attack as the growing calls for "entitlement reform" will surely seek to cut and privatize both Medicare and Social Security. Medicare can be strengthened-and the tables turned on the privatizers-- by expanding it to younger and healthier Americans. July 30 is the 45 birthday of Medicare and the Labor Campaign enthusiastically supports Healthcare NOW's call for local actions to celebrate its birthday by calling for the protection and expansion of Medicare.
The Labor Campaign for Single Payer has vowed to act in solidarity with workers everywhere who are fighting to protect their hard won healthcare and to publicize their struggles and monitor the impact of the new legislation on workers' benefits. Please let us know what is happening in your union or workplace by writing us at email@example.com.
The struggle for healthcare justice must go on!