Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Labor Unions Get Behind Health Care Reform

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which represents 10 million workers, sponsored a 90-minute forum yesterday at Chicago's Soldier Field for the 2008 Presidential candidates.

Only 7 out of 8 Democratic candidates participated in the AFL-CIO Presidential Candidates Forum. "Labor leaders said the Republican presidential candidates were invited to take part in the Chicago debate, but none of them filled out a labor questionnaire sent them -- a precondition for participating in the debate" [The New York Times Caucus Blog]. Democratic candidate and former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska was also not invited to participate, as he too failed to submit the questionnaire.

The AFL-CIO blog summarizes the candidates' positions on health care reform issues:

Every Democratic candidate talks about expanding health care access—yet every one of these 10 Republicans is talking about reducing government’s role in providing coverage. As former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) debate about which of them can best move the country toward universal coverage, the Republican candidates spent nearly all of their time in this debate advocating a smaller federal role, leaving coverage to the market and to private insurers.

[The AFL-CIO] "said in 2006 that it knocked on 8.25 million doors for union candidates, made 30 million telephone calls, distributed 14 million fliers and sent out 20 million pieces of mail in its successful efforts to help Democrats take the House and Senate" [Chicago Tribune].

The AFL-CIO is jumping into the health care reform arena. Per an August 8, 2007, AFL-CIO Executive Council statement, published online by Political Affairs:
Working families are deeply concerned about their health care coverage, especially the health care costs that are major contributors to the eroding standard of living for middle-class Americans.

Labor Day 2008 will mark the beginning of a renewed effort by the AFL-CIO to win reform at the national level that protects existing hard-won union benefits and extends coverage to all Americans.

The goal of this effort will be to win universal, quality health care for all of America by making the 2008 elections a mandate on health care reform and electing a president and Congress pledged to that end.

The AFL-CIO website includes a page dedicated to health care issues and health care reform petitions

The AFL-CIO's executive council will meet today to decide whether or not to begin the labor federation's endorsement process immediately. Two-thirds of the AFL-CIO's 55 individual unions must agree on a candidate before an endorsement.

Other Sources: Baltimore Sun
photo courtesy of Guy-Claude Portmann

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