June 2011, Week 2


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Fri, 10 Jun 2011 19:59:27 -0400
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Report on Labor Campaign for Single Payer National
Meeting June 3-5, 2011 Washington, DC

Healthcare Is A Right --Not A Privilege


Labor Campaign for Single-Payer

Friday Afternoon Briefing

The meeting was called to order by Co-Chair Jos Williams
at 1 PM on Friday, June 3 in the President's Room of the
AFL-CIO Building in Washington, DC. National Coordinator
Mark Dudzic gave an overview of the meeting agenda and
logistics. He expressed regrets from a number of key
leaders unable to attend the meeting including the UE
and IUE/CWA delegations who are engaged in a difficult
contract fight with General Electric where healthcare is
(once again) a major bargaining issue.

Dudzic read from a letter from Vermont Senator Bernie
Sanders who was unable to attend because of prior
commitments in the state of Vermont. Senator Sanders
wrote that, "I appreciate the Labor Campaign's hard work
to keep this issue at the forefront of labor's agenda."
He gave particular recognition to the work of the
Vermont unionists in attendance--Vermont State Fed
President Jill Charbonneau, Mari Cordes, President of
the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health
Professionals and Jonathan Kissam of the Vermont Workers
Center--for their work "[to] help our state take a very
important step closer to a single payer healthcare

Matt Biggs, IFPTE Political and Legislative Director,
gave opening remarks on behalf of IFPTE President Greg
Junemann. Junemann also chairs the Labor Caucus for
Single Payer which, under his leadership, has grown to
nine national unions. IATSE Vice President J. Walter
Cahill gave remarks on behalf of IATSE.

Representative Jim McDermott (D., WA) joined the meeting
by speaker phone. He spoke of his long-term support for
a single payer, Medicare-for-All solution to the
healthcare crisis and his recent partnering with Senator
Sanders to submit the American Health Security Act of
2011 (S.915/H.R. 1200) which has been endorsed by the
AFLCIO. He expressed his appreciation for the work of
the Labor Campaign.

Jos Williams called together a panel of allies in the
fight to make healthcare a right to everyone in America.
Panelists made presentations on their organization's
views on the current strategic moment and took questions
from the participants. Panelists included:

Katie Robbins, National Organizer, Healthcare NOW!

Richard Fiesta, Director of Government and Political
Affairs, Alliance for Retired Americans.

Andy Coates, Physicians for a National Health Program

Kay Tillow, All Unions Committee for Single Payer
Healthcare--HR 676

Steve Cobble, Progressive Democrats of America

Joe Jurczak, Political Director, National Nurses United

Representative John Conyers (D., MI) joined the meeting.
He spoke of his work on behalf of single payer and the
current status of HR 676 which has 56 co-sponsors. He
talked about the importance of connecting the fight for
healthcare for all with the response to the economic
crisis. He discussed his recent submission of
legislation calling for a real jobs program.

Representative Dennis Kucinich arrived fresh from the
House debate on his resolution to withdraw all American
forces from the Libyan theater. He talked about the
connection between spending on endless wars and the need
to redirect resources to social needs like healthcare.
He stated his support for HR 676, HR 1200 and
legislation to allow states to secure the necessary
waivers to implement state-based single-payer reforms.
He stressed that any rational healthcare system must
also encourage and support healthy lifestyles and
preventive care.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addressed the meeting
and re-confirmed the AFLCIO's support for single-payer
and the social insurance model. He talked of his support
for single-payer in the early 1990's when he was UMWA
President and a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council
and how important it was for the Labor Campaign to
continue those efforts to move all of labor forward. He
pointed to the shortcomings in the PPACA legislation and
expressed regret that the AFL-CIO had not worked closer
with Representative Kucinich on his legislative
initiatives. He fielded several questions from
participants about the need to strengthen Executive
Council support for single-payer and encourage state
federations to play a more active role.

The meeting adjourned at 5 PM and participants were
bussed to the National Labor College for the remainder
of the conference.

Saturday Roundtable Presentations

On Saturday, June 4, the meeting was called to order at
9 AM by Co-Chair Donna Dewitt at the Kirkland Center of
the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Labor singer/songwriter/activist Anne Feeney performed
an upbeat musical introduction.

The meeting addressed the need to situate our Campaign
within the broader movement to defend and expand the
social insurance model and to align ourselves with
workers fighting to preserve their gains in both the
public and private sectors. Gene Bruskin, Co- Convener
of U.S. Labor Against War spoke about their New
Priorities Network seeking to fund urgently needed jobs
and restore vital public services by ending the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan. Donna Smith presented the National
Nurses United's Main Street Contract Campaign that will
link the fight for guaranteed healthcare with the call
for jobs for all, secure retirement, quality public
education, a safe and healthy environment, fair
taxation, adequate housing and protection from hunger
and will target Wall Street as the source of the crisis
that working people are in.

Stewart Acuff of the Utility Workers Union of America
gave a presentation on the "fundamentals of organic
movement building" and the importance of the fight for
healthcare in the movement for economic justice. He said
that, while the utilities industry has not been
particularly affected by the economic crisis, the
employers were using the crisis as an opportunity to
intensify their attacks on workers. UWUA is calling for
the public ownership of all electric, gas, water and
sewer utilities. Acuff also conveyed greetings from UWUA
President D. Michael Langford and UWUA support for the
work of the Labor Campaign.

Shaun Flynn, Director of Governmental Affairs for the
New York State Nurses Association gave a presentation on
the situation in New York State. Late last year, the
state completed a study showing that single-payer would
be the most cost-effective and equitable method of
healthcare delivery but the administration chose not to
publicly release it or follow-up on its recommendations.
Meanwhile, the Cuomo administration's failure to support
the renewal of the "millionaire's tax" has exacerbated
the state's fiscal crisis and led to major bargaining
fights by public workers to preserve jobs and benefits.

Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400 spoke about
the upcoming Verizon negotiations and the long history
of the fight of Verizon workers to preserve their
employer-paid healthcare benefits. He connected this
fight with that of the GE workers and many other workers
in the private sector whose employers are making
billions in profits yet want to jettison their
healthcare obligations to their workers.

David Newby, President Emeritus of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO
spoke about the development and prospects of the fight
in Wisconsin to beat back the anti-labor attacks of the
Walker administration. He identified several
characteristics which moved that fight from the typical
labor lobbying effort into something that mobilized the
entire labor movement. He stressed that, while
healthcare wasn't part of the immediate demands, the
healthcare crisis underlies all of the attacks on
workers rights and urged the Labor Campaign to work with
these emerging fights in ways that will build both

Kurt Bateman, the Executive Director of the Ohio Single
Payer Action Network talked about his work with the
One-Payer Network which brings together activists who
are fighting for state-based single-payer reforms. There
are currently projects underway in 23 states. Many have
significant labor support.

Participants then heard from a panel about recent
victories in Vermont. Jonathan Kissam spoke about how
the Vermont Workers Center always understood the fight
to be about power, not public policy and about how
framing the issue as a human rights issue helped build
the coalition necessary to win. Mari Cordes of the
Vermont Nurses discussed how the campaign affected her
union and their role in mobilizing members in their
communities. Jill Charbonneau spoke of the role of the
State Fed in building alliances and advancing the
legislative program.

Cindy Young of the California Nurses Association then
gave a presentation on the campaign to pass and defend a
single-payer bill in California. She outlined a
multi-year, multi-million dollar project that would need
to mobilize more than 20,000 activists at the precinct
level. Only labor has the capacity to lead such an
effort. Lenny Potash of Labor United for Universal
Healthcare and Don Bechler of Single Payer Now responded
to and amplified her presentation.

Plenary Action Items

The Conference went into plenary on Saturday afternoon
until adjournment on Sunday morning (broken up by an
excellent slide presentation on the causes, consequences
and solutions of the healthcare crisis by Andy Coates
that he has been presenting at union meetings around New
York State). Mark Dudzic gave the National Coordinator's
report summarizing the work of the Campaign since our
last national meeting. The following Action Items were

Participants heard about the recent right-wing smear
campaign orchestrated by serial defamer Andrew Breitbart
against Steering Committee Member Don Giljum and his
colleague Judy Ancel. Breitbart spread falsehoods and
doctored tapes about a labor studies course that Giljum
and Ancel co-teach at the University of Missouri
accusing them of promoting thuggery and violence. Until
they were finally fully exonerated by the University,
many of Giljum's and Ancel's colleagues and institutions
ran for cover and did not distinguish themselves in
their defense. The Meeting acknowledged the crucial
support that Giljum and his Local 148 of the IUOE has
given to the Labor Campaign and resolved that, "We stand
in solidarity with our brother, Don Giljum, and are
proud to have him serve with us on the Steering
Committee of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer."

The Meeting voted to add Andy Coates to the national
Steering Committee as a new position representing the
New York State Public Employees Association which has
recently moved to endorse and financially support the
Labor Campaign.

Participants reviewed, discussed and debated the merits
and shortcomings of national and state single-payer
legislation. After much discussion, consensus was
reached that we will continue to move forward based on
the broad principle that we will support all legislative
efforts that move us closer to single-payer including HR
676, S 915/HR 1200, serious state single-payer
initiatives that have significant labor support,
legislative and regulatory efforts to provide the
necessary waivers to allow the implementation of
state-level reforms while not undercutting the standards
of healthcare delivery in other states, and viable
"incremental" initiatives that move us closer to single
payer such as lowering the eligibility age for Medicare.

We resolved that the mission of the Labor Campaign must
be pursued independent of the agendas of any elected
official and that our job will not be  done until
everyone in America has the right to access quality and
affordable healthcare.

We affirmed that, in order to win, our Campaign must
find ways to link up with those who are in the fight to
defend and expand the social insurance model. This
includes fights by public workers to defend their
bargaining rights and benefits whatever the political
affiliation of the administrations they work under and
the continuing battles that private sector workers must
wage until we are able to remove healthcare from the
bargaining table.

We must address the issue of building diversity in our
movement. This includes outreach to communities of
color, building direct relationships with organizations
such as APRI, CBTU, LACLA, AAPLA, CLUW and PAW at both
the national and local levels and providing
opportunities and forum for young labor leaders to
emerge and find their voice.

Labor needs to do more to build our movement. We will
work to encourage our unions to commit real resources
and mobilization to the fight for healthcare for all. We
will work to move them beyond just passing resolutions.
In doing so, we will stress our basic unity rather that
pointing fingers at those who may have been right or
wrong in the recent PPACA debates. Our theme is that "we
cannot bargain our way out of this crisis." We will work
to establish a LCSP presence at national union
conventions and in every state fed and central labor
council. We will build on the positive recent actions of
the AFL-CIO Executive Council and many other unions.

We must adequately fund the Labor Campaign.
Participating unions must renew their contributions and
encourage others to contribute. Individual activists
will be asked to financially support our efforts. We
will ask the Labor Caucus for Single Payer to help reach
out to other national unions. We will ask national
unions that support the Labor Campaign to ask their
local affiliates to also contribute.

We will explore the possibility of mobilizing union
pension and investment funds to support a divestment
campaign against the private insurance industry.

We will work to provide publicity, organizational and
financial support for state campaigns and for workers'
fights where healthcare is a key issue.

We will strengthen our efforts to be a clearinghouse for
activists and organizations and work to ensure that the
voices and concerns of grassroots activists and leaders
are heard at the highest national policy and labor



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