Labor & Healthcare-The Issue of Our Time

  1. [/B][/B]Labor & Healthcare-The Issue of Our Time

    The UAW's strike against GM is not just about their members' healthcare...but also about the healthcare of millions of people not represented by a powerful union. We'll look at the potential impact of this historic strike and what it means for workers and the nation that is healthcare increasingly becoming the central issue for labor, both in bargaining and activism...

    cross-posted at the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association's Breakroom Blog, as we organize to make 2007 the Year of GUARANTEED healthcare on the single-payer model.

    You probably know that the UAW has called a national strike against GM. This is the first auto strike since 1976, the first strike against GM since 1970...and the first strike since the AFL endorse a "Medicare for All" style guaranteed healthcare plan.
    And what are they fighting for? Healthcare of course!

    No one keeps the stats, but about 90 percent of strikes are caused by the issue of healthcare. The labor movement remains at the heart of the movement to protect and expand access to healthcare for all people, while employers are looking to get out of the healthcare field.

    It is cruel and short-sighted of employers to just want to drop benefits rather than look for solutions that are in everbody's interests. And guess what? It's only going to get worse. Just like GM will try to dump their U.S. employees out of the healthcare system, and end their own interest in solving the healthcare crisis, many of the healthcare reform proposals being floated by politicians will encourage the same thing to happen.

    Let's look at the emerging deal between Schwarzenegger and the legislature in California
    : Employers spend between 12% and 15% of payroll on average for health care, and CNA fears either the 4% or 7.5% plan would encourage them to move to high-deductible insurance policies with limited services, Communications Director Chuck Idelson said. "If you think we have a lot of labor strife now over health-care benefits, wait until this plan goes into effect," Idelson said of the Democratic bill.

    Unlike employers, labor unions, however, won't give up the fight for guaranteed healthcare. Why? Because more and more employers think of Medicaid and charity care as their health benefit. And now even healthcare workers are in danger of losing their healthcare. Strikes like the UAW's will help us build momentum for guaranteed, single-payer healthcare--and force corporations to really grapple with the crisis.

    The rapid unionization of America's RNs will also provide the movement with a committed, organized, knowledgable group of activists who are personally committed to improving patient care. As UAW is standing up to GM, California's nurses will take the lead in standing up to the fake healthcare reform bill that is being pushed by a "coalition of the willing" Sacramento insiders.

    Healthcare hero Sen. Sheila Kuehl, author of the groundbreaking single-payer bill SB 840, gives an update on the strategy: "I continue to believe that the movement that's been building for single payer, a movement that has seen support for a single payer universal health care system more than double over the last six months alone, will continue to build in '08 in'09 in 2010," Kuehl said. "Then, with a new governor, perhaps there might finally be a chance to get a signature on the bill that is actually the best solution for businesses, for employees, and for all the people in California. Because if you take the insurance companies out of the system, and they are the only entity that adds no value at all to the provision of health care, the overall costs for health care in California drop $19 billion in the first year alone, simply because we're finally not paying their inflated overhead and profit."

    And finally, Zenei Cortez, RN, a member of the Council of Presidents of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee issued the following statement on the UAW strike:
    America's registered nurses recognize that the UAW is standing up not just for their own healthcare--but for the healthcare of all our patients. The California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee strongly supports their efforts, and will continue to work to see guaranteed healthcare won for autoworkers and everyone
    else in this nation.

    To join the fight for guaranteed healthcare (with a "Medicare for All" or SinglePayer financing), visit GuaranteedHealthcare.org, a project of the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association.
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