Maine AFL-CIO Calls for Labor Summit to Win Single Payer

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by Matt Schlobohm and Charlie Urquhart

On Friday October 23, 2009 the delegates at the Maine AFL-CIO’s 27th Biennial Convention unanimously passed a resolution calling on the AFL-CIO to convene, after the current healthcare reform process in Congress concludes, a democratic strategic planning process to develop a long term strategy to win Single Payer national health insurance.

The resolution was enthusiastically supported by the delegates and is rooted in the belief that to win a Medicare for all single payer system the labor movement needs to pursue a different strategy – one that is rooted in building a broadbased social movement, taking a long term approach to this fight, organizing around basic principles and pursuing relentless rank & file education and mobilization.

Maine AFL-CIO Vice President & IBEW 567 Training Director Don Berry laid out the Federation’s position, “Most union leaders are clear that we need a single payer system to solve the healthcare crisis. Yet as a labor movement our strategy has not been clearly, solidly and unambiguously behind single payer. We think it is time for us to commit to and stick with a long term strategy to win Medicare for All. That’s the only thing that’s going to get us out of the healthcare crisis we face at the bargaining table and in society at large and its high time we put our full force behind it.”

Building on the momentum of the National AFL-CIO’s historic and unanimous passage of Resolution 34 that called for the creation of a Medicare for All, single payer social insurance program, the Maine AFL-CIO saw this resolution as an important step to making that resolution real and pursuing some important next steps.

In this spirit the Maine AFL-CIO unanimously passed the following resolution:

RESOLUTION # 5 Single Payer Healthcare Resolution

Whereas the National AFL-CIO unanimously passed Resolution 34 strongly endorsing a Medicare for All single payer health care system; Whereas 39 State AFL-CIO Federations, 134 Central Labor Councils, and 572 different labor organizations have endorsed HR 676;

Whereas as a State Federation we strongly believe that a Medicare for all national health insurance system with single payer financing is the solution that is required to solve the healthcare crisis union members face at the bargaining table and that we face collectively as a society;

Whereas regardless of how the current healthcare reform effort concludes in Congress it will not come close to solving the current healthcare crisis; Whereas historically, significant structural changes in this country have occurred when progressive forces have built powerful social movements that organize around a long term strategy that involves relentless rank & file education, organizing around basic fundamental principles, having rank & file leaders lead the movement and committing to a long term approach to the issue;

Whereas we strongly believe that to win a single payer national health insurance system the labor movement needs to pursue that kind of strategy and work to build a broad based working class social movement and; Whereas we believe that had we collectively pursued such a strategy after the last healthcare policy failure in Congress in the mid 1990s – by staking out a strong single payer position, educating our membership as deeply as possible, pushing for political support of single payer legislation and sticking with that approach for the last fifteen years – we would be in a much stronger position today to win meaningful healthcare reform;

Therefore, we call on the National AFL-CIO to convene, after the current healthcare reform process in Congress concludes, a democratic strategic planning process to develop a long term strategy to win Single Payer national health insurance. We think this process should: 1. Start with a Single Payer labor movement summit

2. Involve, among others, Central Labor Councils, State Federations and rank & file single payer union activists in the planning process

3. Do an assessment of how we’ve historically built powerful social movements in this country and put our best thinking forward about what would need to be done today to build a social movement powerful enough to win single payer

4. Include a commitment of resources from the AFL-CIO of no less than the resources that have been devoted to the current health care reform effort

5. Include a commitment from the AFL-CIO to support state’s efforts to pass single payer legislation

Matt Schlobohm is  Public Policy & Poltical Mobilization Director for  Maine AFL-CIO; Charlie Urquhart is  Organizer for the Maine Labor Group on Health

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One Response

  1. Now you’re talkin’! I like the part that says ‘had we concentrated on single payer right after the Clinton failure we’d be in a better position to push for it now. Let’s go, brothers and sisters.

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