Union presidents are meeting with President Obama in the White House today where they are discussing the urgent need for health care reform with a public option, according to Gregory King, special assistant to Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

They are also mapping plans, King said, for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier to unionize.

The Communications Workers of America said this afternoon that 10 of the union leaders at the White House gathering are members of the National Labor Coordinating Committee, a group committed to reuniting the labor movement which currently consists of unions that belong to two federations, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, and unions that are independent.

“They are talking to the president about health care and about what the labor movement can do to help in the passage of reform legislation,’ according to King. ‘They are stressing the importance of the public option in which a government-run entity would compete with private insurers and they are emphasizing their opposition to a tax on employee-provided health benefits to help finance that reform.”

Such a tax would be particularly painful for union members because many receive health benefits from their employers.

While health care is at the top of the agenda King said he expected that the Employee Free Choice Act would be discussed.

Labor has been waging a strong campaign to convince several senators who are sitting on the fence to come out in full support of the bill. Sixty votes will be needed to stop a planned Republican filibuster against it.

Besides McEntee, the list of labor leaders meeting with the president includes John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union and Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. Also at the meeting are the presidents of the steelworkers, communications workers, Teamsters and food and commercial workers.

An AFL-CIO source says that many in the group are also anxious to discuss the issue of trade. The labor movement is opposed to so-called free trade agreements that result in exploitation of labor in developing countries while U.S. jobs are exported by companies chasing after cheap labor.

The source said that there is also “concern about the need to develop an entirely new approach to, a planned approach to developing a manufacturing policy in America. We have to create good paying manufacturing jobs if we are really going to restore this economy.”

Unemployment, is of course, also expected to be discussed. Labor leaders are supporting a second stimulus package in the wake of widespread expectations that the official unemployment rate will surge into double digit territory.

Comments

comments

MOST POPULAR