Original source: AFL-CIO Now
The nation’s health care system is broken and now is the time to act to gain real health care reform. With a vote on health care reform coming soon to Congress, delegates to the AFL-CIO Convention today passed two strong resolutions to provide quality affordable health care and another to ensure safe and healthy workplaces.

They also took immediate action on the floor to mobilize against the insurance industry that is profiting by denying health care to patients who need it and raising premiums.

Both AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) told the convention the Senate will vote on a health care bill in the next few weeks. After passing the resolutions, delegates signed pledges to work for real health care reform when they get back home. Many used their cell phones to call their locals to march on the major health insurers between Sept. 22 and Oct. 2. AFT President Randi Weingarten, who was presiding over the debate, called the chief lobbyist for the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, her home local, while on the podium, and with the entire convention listening, convinced him to hold an action.

The mobilization is part of an AFL-CIO campaign to hold insurers accountable, Trumka said,
for denying care and shutting people out and using our members’ premium dollars.
The skyrocketing cost of health care is bankrupting our economy and stealing the American Dream from working families, Trumka said. Unless we are able to increase coverage for the uninsured and lower the cost of health care insurance, one day health care will be out of reach of only the rich, he said.

One resolution set a goal of a single payer health care system and the second supported a program of immediate health care reform. During the debate, Greg Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), said now is the time to put the AFL-CIO on the top of the health care debate. When workers leave the convention, they know that health care cuts will be on the negotiating table.

We will not rest until we get necessary health care for all Americans. It’s the right thing to do.
Health care is a civil right not a privilege, said delegate Alan Lubin of AFT. It’s wrong in America for people to have to make the decision between paying for health care or food.

Delegate Sol Luciano of AFSCME put it on the line, saying:
We live in a country where people are afraid to go to the doctor not because they are afraid they have cancer, but because they are afraid of losing their homes or their children’s college fund. We’ve been trying so long to reform health care that if the health care system were a person, it would be eligible for Medicare.

AFSCME President Gerald McEntee said President Obama gets the connection between the cost of health care and the economic mess we’re in.
Working families know the health of the family budget and the federal budget depend on health care reform.

North Carolina State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan added:
Working families have paid their dues, played by the rules and the insurance companies have not. The issue is fundamental fairness. It’s time to stand up, speak out and mobilize to tell members of Congress to listen to the people, not the insurance industry.

Health in the workplace was also on the delegates’ minds as they debated a resolution to strengthen the nation’s workplace safety laws. In 2008, some 5,071 workers were killed on the job and an estimated 50,000 more lost their lives due to occupational illnesses. Between 9 and 12 million workplace injuries and illnesses occur every year.

In two poignant statements, Mine Workers (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts and New York State AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes reminded the audience why health and safety is so important.

Roberts recounted the deaths of 12 coal miners at the Sago Mine in 2006 and others at the Jim Walter No. 5 Mine:
We are here to give voice to [the dead miners]. As a labor movement we have to make sure that this doesn’t happen to another miner. We have to let them know that the best hope they have of coming home to their families is a union.

Hughes reminded the convention that eight years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, there is no mechanism in place to provide long-term health care to the first responders who risked their lives to save the survivors and recover the victims.

 

 

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