March 4, 2018

West Virginia Teachers Are Showing How Unions Can Win Power Even If They Lose Janus

by Lois Weiner
This article is reprinted from In These Times magazine, © 2018, and is available at

Today’s Worker's Day of Action, organized by AFL-CIO affiliates and labor groups, aimed to show the labor movement’s opposition to a verdict for the plaintiffs in Janus v. AFSCME, which begins oral arguments before the Supreme Court on Monday. Unions fear their power will be diminished if the Court rules against AFSCME, as it is expected to do, and restricts public-sector unions from collecting fees from non-members to pay for collective bargaining. The Right intends to use Janus to gut public employee unions, weakening what is the strongest constituency in organized labor. This in turn will greatly diminish labor’s strength as a progressive force.

Public employee unions are right to be worried, and yet, as today’s demonstrations evidenced, on the eve of oral arguments labor is still grappling with how to protect workers’ rights. The protest’s slogan, “It’s about freedom,” mimics the Right’s own language when it argues that unions shouldn’t be able to collect fees from workers who don’t want to pay. In fact, it's about social justice: The struggle to protect collective bargaining is a fight for the dignity of work and working people.

How then can public employee unions and the labor movement transition from defense... (read more)

March 3, 2018

Blue Cross Pressures Employees to Donate to Opponent of Single-Payer Candidates

by Michael Corcoran
Copyright, Reprinted with permission. Originally published on

Often, the structural problems that keep Democrats from embracing Medicare for All are hidden beneath the political surface. This week, however, Democratic candidate for governor in Michigan Gretchen Whitmer and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan offered no such subtlety. Their very public collaboration is a case study in how industry money influences campaigns and elections.

Whitmer does not support single-payer health care. She is, however, being challenged by two candidates who do: Abdul El-Sayed, and Shri Thanedar. This appears to have Blue Cross (the state's largest insurer) nervous enough to request that its 8,100 employees support Whitmer for Governor. In a letter signed by Blue Cross executives but paid for by the Whitmer campaign, Blue Cross employees were invited to a fundraiser on March 7 and were given suggested donation amounts based on job title. Significantly, the candidate's father, Richard Whitmer, was president of Blue Cross of Michigan for 18 years and even has a building named after him on Blue Cross's campus.

"This is a perfect example of how corporate politicians hold Democrats back, even as other party leaders, like Senators Cory Booker and [Kristen] Gillibrand, are calling for Medicare for All and no corporate money corrupting our... (read more)

March 2, 2018

From Demand to Reality: YDSA Workshop on Medicare for All

by Dustin Guastella

The following remarks were delivered at the 2018 YDSA Winter Conference.

I want to open with a brief explanation of what Medicare for All actually is. Medicare for All is simple –– it means socializing health insurance –– making the Federal Government the insurer of all residents.

It means the establishment of a single, public, universal health insurance system where everyone, regardless of their employment or immigration status will have insurance. It means comprehensive care: all services provided by a medical professional will be covered. It means free, on-demand, unlimited care at the point of service paid for not on the backs of the sick but through taxes on the rich. That means no fees, no co-pays and no deductibles. And it means the establishment of a jobs program to provide jobs for those who currently work in the health insurance industry and would lose their jobs if the private health insurance system were abolished.

And while all of this is attractive to workers, it’s worrisome for our political and economic elite.

Of course insurance companies directly benefit from the high costs of health care, but other major employers will stomach rising premiums so long as it gives... (read more)

March 1, 2018

The Very Bad Politics of 'Putting Health Care Over Politics'

by Tim Faust
Originally published on

On Tuesday, former CMS administrator under Obama Andy Slavitt announced United States of Care, a “non-partisan non-profit” with undisclosed funding that plans on “building and mobilizing a movement to achieve long-lasting solutions that make health care better for everyone.”

“We can’t just wait for politicians in DC to come together solve our health care challenges,” it declared in its inaugural tweet. “Let’s put #health careoverpolitics and build a movement for quality, affordable health care for every American.”

I will admit I was quick to scoff at what I consider toothless mushmouthed nothingspeak. After all, what’s the point of a health care initiative that claims to recognize the massive inequality in American health but is unable to demand even “universal coverage,” a figurative watermelon on a tee-ball-tee among American policy goals, as a desired outcome?

Scrolling through United States of Care’s list of members, it’s easy to feel that kneejerk reaction: that USC is by and large a collaboration of insurance executives, superpowerful health care providers, Republican lawmakers, and figures included mainly to lend it some veneer of credibility, like chronicler of American health Atul Gawande, led by ostensibly well-meaning Democrats who had banked on positions in a Clinton administration and... (read more)

February 28, 2018

Amazon’s Health Care Plans Are Driven By Its Bottom Line, Not Its People

by Benjamin Y. Fong
Originally published on Huffington Post.

DSA member Benjamin Fong wrote for Huffington Post about the corporate powerhouses Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway exploring a “disruptive” health care strategy for its own US-based employees, which would provide (ostensibly low-quality) care at a low cost, supposedly free of profit motives. Fong isn’t having it.

And indeed, in spite of the seemingly progressive rhetoric (“improving employee satisfaction,” “free from profit-making incentives,” etc.), every commentator on this proposal saw it quite clearly as a business decision. The New York Times even compared it to “classic disruption,” where a company enters “a market with a product that is lower in value than that of market incumbents, but much lower in cost.” That a proposed nonprofit health care company would be immediately and so easily compared to “classic disrupters, like Southwest Airlines, MP3s or Japanese carmakers,” is a good indication that most people doubt that health is really the goal here.

Read the rest at Huffington Post.

February 27, 2018

Austin DSA Helps Win Paid Sick Days

by Austin DSA

Austin DSA recently participated in a successful local campaign for a local paid sick day ordinance, which we conceived of as part of our work for Medicare for All. On February 15th, 2018, Austin became the first city in the South to mandate that employers provide their employees with paid sick leave, with the ordinance passing 9-2 at City Council. Austin DSA believes this is a huge win, and can be a model for other chapters having difficulty getting their Medicare for All campaigns off the ground. We think this is especially true for other southern chapters, where state legislatures are hostile to any business regulations passed on a municipal level.

When Denton, TX banned fracking, the legislature passed a law making it impossible for Texas towns to regulate fracking and Texas municipalities are prohibited by the state constitution from raising the minimum wage. State legislators are already making noise about preempting the paid sick days ordinance. Austin's City Council believes that if other cities pass similar ordinances, it will be more difficult for the state legislature to take away the rights of Texas workers. Austin DSA is excited about helping other DSA chapters in Texas pass similar ordinances and... (read more)