AFL-CIO Won’t Budge on Healthcare Reform ‘Absolute Musts’

Lindsay Beyerstein

John Sweeney, outgoing president of the AFL-CIO, addresses a rally in support of carwash workers in Los Angeles on August 19, 2009.

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Organized labor backed President Obama when he was campaigning for election with the promise of a public health insurance option. Union workers flocked to town hall meetings, and unions invested significant resources to support the president’s healthcare reform agenda. (See photos of last night’s vigil for healthcare reform in Central Park, co-sponsored by SEIU.)

Now, the likely next president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, is increasing the pressure on the president to keep his campaign promises on healthcare.

Trumka laid out the AFL-CIO’s three absolute musts” for healthcare reform in an interview on NBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports” Tuesday (video below): i) a public health insurance option, ii) an employer mandate, and iii) no taxes on health benefits.

The AFL-CIO is prepared to fight for all three, Trumka said. Mitchell scoffed at the idea that Senate Democrats would go along with all three. I think we’re going to help them,” Trumka said.

The fate of healthcare reform is hanging in the balance. Yesterday, we learned that the president would lay out his healthcare agenda to Congress on September 9. His advisers admitted to Politico that the White House hadn’t exactly decided what the president was going to say. That’s a window of opportunity to help Obama renew his commitment to the public option.

If a health bill is to become law, it has to pass both houses of Congress. So far, the conservative Blue Dog Democrats of the Senate Finance Committee have no intention of writing a public option into their bill.

But Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that she can’t pass a bill without a public option and progressive House Democrats say they’ll scuttle a bill that doesn’t include one.

The American public and the American worker want to break the stranglehold of insurance companies,” Trumka told Mitchell, And you won’t do that by wishing and hoping.”

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Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://​www​.hill​man​foun​da​tion​.org/​h​i​l​l​m​a​nblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.
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