September 12, 2019

ALL IN - SEPTEMBER: He Wrote the Damn Bill!

by DSA M4A

Sen. Bernie Sanders and his team released several exciting new platforms this month, and we’re especially excited about one in particular when it comes to Medicare for All: The Workplace Democracy Plan.

Sanders’s Workplace Democracy Plan is unprecedented in scale and scope, and Liza Featherstone writes in Jacobin that it’s “the most pro-union platform of any major presidential candidate in decades.” Sanders’s plan would make it easier for employees to form unions, eliminate state-level right-to-work laws, give federal workers the right to strike, eliminate “at-will” firing, and more.

As Featherstone writes, this doesn’t necessarily mean unionizing every workplace will magically become a breeze, but it will significantly lower the barriers to forming a union while balancing the scales of power between workers and their employers. Sanders even includes a specific M4A provision. Directly from the platform (emphasis ours):

“Bernie will require that resulting healthcare savings from union-negotiated plans result in wage increases and additional benefits for workers during the transition to Medicare for All. When Medicare for All is signed into law, companies with union negotiated health care plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Under this plan, all company... (read more)

September 9, 2019

Chapter Spotlight: NYC DSA Pushes Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to Cosponsor Medicare for All

by NYC DSA Healthcare Working Group

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, joined by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Congressman George Miller, in April, 2014. (House Democrats/Flickr)

On Wednesday, September 4th, House Democratic Caucus chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8) announced his support for Medicare for All. Not only does this historic announcement bring the total number of cosponsors in the House of Representatives up to 119 (including the majority of the Democratic caucus), but as one of the highest-ranking Democratic lawmakers in Congress, Rep. Jeffries's support will give this legislation an especially large boost. Since Jeffries is Democratic Party leadership, the early success of this local pressure campaign speaks to the growing power of DSA's field organizing in the region and to the particular approach we are taking in the NYC Healthcare Working Group.

Since NYC DSA members first met with him in February of this year, Rep. Jeffries has continually expressed his unwillingness to take a clear position on Medicare for All. In the months that followed that initial meeting NYC DSA members collected hundreds of constituent signatures on our petition seeking his support, made thousands of phone calls to his legislative office, raised the issue with him at town halls, co-hosted... (read more)

September 7, 2019

Austerity By Paperwork

by Meagan Day

Originally appeared at Jacobin, on Oct. 1, 2018.

Unemployment rates of US counties, March 2017. (Wikipedia)

Conservatives love negative incentives. Many will tell you flat-out that the best way to solve pervasive poverty is to make being poor as unmanageable as possible.

“The more you make people comfortable in their poverty, the more you strip them of the reasons of standing up on their own again,” says right-wing media personality Glenn Beck.

Celebrity neurosurgeon-turned-HUD-director Ben Carson warns against making public housing too livable because “a comfortable setting” would “make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’”

In order to get poor people off their asses — ass-sitting being the number one cause of poverty — the state needs to restrict handouts and pare down cushy social benefits, like providing people with housing that doesn’t resemble prison, or giving them health insurance even when they can’t afford the exorbitant and arbitrary costs imposed by the private insurance industry.

It was in this spirit that the Republican Party floated the idea of mandatory work requirements for beneficiaries of Medicaid. They made a weak attempt to frame it as a positive incentive rather than a negative one. “We don’t want to throw people out... (read more)

August 30, 2019

Chapter Spotlight: BuxMont Pushes Norristown Council to Demand M4A

by BuxMont DSA

BuxMont DSA and Norristown Municipal Council made history on Tuesday, August 20. Through the organizing efforts of the suburban branch of Philly DSA, Norristown has become the first municipality in Montgomery County, only the second in Pennsylvania, and one of just over a dozen cities and towns in the United States to pass a resolution in support of Medicare for All. 

By a unanimous vote, the council recognized what the language of the resolution articulated: that enacting Medicare for All legislation is a vital step in establishing healthcare as a human right in this country. And it’s no wonder. Norristown is a working class town with large communities of Black residents and Latinx immigrants, a town where 15% of its residents (over 5,000 people) have no health insurance at all, let alone the many who are underinsured in expensive, inadequate plans. As council member Hakim Jones said before voting, Norristown isn’t “interested in waiting until the next election cycle to see what the people at the top believe in, and [we’re] not interested in following a trend[...]We are a community that suffers from not having access to healthcare.” Norristown’s enthusiastic embrace of single-payer, universal health care comes from a deep-seated... (read more)

August 26, 2019

The US Health System Is a Nightmare Where 50 Million Go Uninsured Every Single Year

by Matt Bruenig

Originally appeared at Jacobin on July 2, 2019.

A dentist cleans an uninsured patient's teeth pro bono at a free clinic. (Neon Tommy/Flickr)

Everyone knows the American health-care system is a disaster, but surprisingly few realize just how much of a disaster it really is. One reason for this is that the statistics we use to measure it completely miss how much anguish is caused by people constantly cycling in and out of insurance plans. In prior posts, I have tried to produce some figures that help illuminate the immense degree of “churn” in our system. In this post, I do the same thing, but with a new data source. What this source reveals is that, in a given twelve-month period, one in four adults between the ages of eighteen and sixty-four — 50 million people — face a spell of uninsurance.

Normal estimates of uninsurance miss this fact because those estimates are either annual surveys that ask individuals if they were uninsured for the entire year (Census) or point-in-time surveys that ask people if they are currently uninsured (Gallup). These are useful statistics to have, but they do not really capture how prevalent uninsurance is. To capture that, you... (read more)

August 22, 2019

Texas State AFL-CIO Demands Medicare for All

by Ryan Haney

Texas AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention in San Antonio, Texas, July 26, 2019. (TX AFL-CIO)

The battle to win union support for single-payer healthcare didn't start yesterday, or even with Bernie Sanders' 2016 run. It has come a long way, motivated at first by coalitions of progressive unionists like Labor Campaign for Single Payer, and eventually boosted by the leadership of National Nurses United. Due to their work (and Bernie's championing of Medicare For All), hundreds of resolutions in support of Medicare For All have been passed by union locals, central labor councils, state federations, and even the national AFL-CIO in 2017.

The Texas State AFL-CIO joined them just a few weeks ago. While it was a late adopter of Medicare For All, the resolution they passed was stronger than many others, including one passed by the national AFL-CIO in 2017. That resolution seemed to take an “all of the above approach” on healthcare, lumping in Medicare For All as a goal alongside others like “supporting individual [insurance] marketplace stabilization.” The Texas resolution, in its own words, “enthusiastically supports Medicare for All and calls on the Texas federal legislative delegation to work toward assuring appropriate and efficient health care for all... (read more)

August 19, 2019

How a Telephone Workers’ Strike Thirty Years Ago Aided the Fight for Single Payer

by Steve Early & Rand Wilson

Originally appeared in Jacobin on July 13, 2019.

Mass rally and march for telephone workers' strike, Boston, 1989. (Courtesy of authors)

Thirty years ago this summer, 60,000 telephone workers walked off the job in New York and New England — and stayed out for seventeen weeks. Their struggle against NYNEX, a telecom giant, became one of labor’s few big strike victories, during a decade that began with the disastrous defeat of PATCO, the national air traffic controllers union.

Within the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the model of membership mobilization and workplace militancy developed in 1989 has been used, to varying degrees, in every regional contract campaign they’ve conducted since then.

Telephone workers in the northeast, employed at successor firms of NYNEX (including Verizon) or AT&T, have struck seven times during that period, over a variety of regional and national issues. (For more on their recent disputes, see Dan DiMaggio, at New Labor Forum).

Three decades of joint bargaining and strike activity by more than thirty local affiliates of IBEW and CWA represents a major accomplishment by itself. In the rest of organized labor, workers represented by different unions which deal... (read more)

August 15, 2019

ALL IN - AUGUST: Democratic Debates Reveal Who's On Our Side; M4A Success at DSA National Convention

by DSA M4A

Recently, more than a thousand elected DSA delegates from across the country met in Atlanta for the biennial national convention. There, we deliberated on dozens of organizational and political priorities for the coming two years, including Medicare for All.

In the time since our campaign was adopted at the last convention in 2017,we’ve been working nonstop with all of you to build a mass movement for a truly single-payer Medicare for All program. It has been both challenging and successful.

In line with other priority campaigns, our national committee collaborated on a report that was delivered to the national convention. The report detailed these challenges, successes, and the overall arch of our campaign. Additionally, our report listed several recommendations to guide our strategy and bolster our resources for the next two years. The overwhelming support from delegates for our report gives us the momentum we need to ramp up our efforts and mobilize even more working-class people to fight for Medicare for All.

The convention was also a time for us to bring Medicare for All activists together in more focused settings. We hosted a star-studded panel with longtime healthcare activist Michael Lighty, journalist Natalie Shure, Physicians for a... (read more)

August 11, 2019

Time For Unions To Step Up On Medicare For All

by Mark Dudzic

Originally appeared at Jacobin on June 1, 2018.

Members of National Nurses United (Labor Campaign for Single Payer/Twitter).

There are still those in the labor movement who believe that unionists should oppose single-payer Medicare for All because good, union-negotiated benefits strengthen member loyalty and help to organize new members. This misunderstanding persists because the provision of health care is deeply embedded in the employment relationship. More than 150 million people in the United States receive employer-provided health care insurance. This accident of history is a result of the post–WWII defeat of the Left in the US and the subsequent constraints on militant trade unionism. Unions and their allies had to construct “second-best solutions” in the face of unchallenged corporate power.

While unions throughout the industrialized world led the fight to make health care a right for all, unions in the United States were instrumental in setting the terms for a “private welfare state” that organized the provision of public goods through private employers. Health care became a benefit rather than a right.

Today, bargaining for health care has become unsustainable. Rather than being a positive perk of union membership, health care has become the biggest cause of strikes, lockouts, and concession bargaining as... (read more)

August 1, 2019

Stop Trying to Redefine Medicare for All

by Michael Lighty

Originally appeared in Jacobin on Jan. 8, 2019.

Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at the introduction of the Medicare for All Act of 2017 on Sept. 13, 2017. (Public Citizen/Flickr)

A strange phenomenon has appeared in the US debate over universal health care: a big majority favors a well-known reform—Medicare for All — as the pundits, insurance and pharma lobbyists, and political insiders denied it (since 1992!), then since 2016 opposed it and all of sudden want to redefine it.

The appearance of Medicare for All in the New York Times just before the New Year — as the subject of an in-depth Robert Pear story on December 29, the type of work he consistently devotes to the hottest health care issues in Washington, but rarely has done so about MfA — and in a letters to the editor special on December 30, featuring readers’ remedies for the health care system, “not surprisingly,” said the Times, Medicare for All “topped the list.”

The Pear story presented the first mainstream journalist examination of Medicare for All in relation to Medicare Advantage, the commercial insurance plans sold as Part C of Medicare, which are the latest hugely profitable windfall carve out of traditional Medicare for insurers, who... (read more)