Universal Health Care and Unions in 2006
by Matt Stoller, Mon Dec 26, 2005 at 07:00:46 AM EST
In today's New York Times, yet another piece of evidence for the case for national health insurance (or, better understood, Medicare For All). The New York Times has a front-page story on the massive increase in health care costs that New York will face in the near future because of health care coverage for government workers. New York City government will see its health care costs quintuple to at least $5 billion and perhaps $10 billion, according to the story.
The issue is framed in light of the recent transit strike. And this is an obvious warning, intended or not, to public employee unions--your health care coverage is at risk. What we saw happening in the transit strike will happen to firefighters, teachers and other public workers--your employers will demand health care concessions and, if you go out on strike, the mayor or the governor will call you greedy or, perhaps, "thuggish" (the billionaire mayor's favorite phrase). Those politicians will pit you against the rest of the public, most of which will not enjoy the kind of health care coverage public employees have. It will be ugly.
So, start now, I say: the labor movement must put an immediate revolution in health care on the agenda in 2006. It's as important as new organizing because (a) if unions are seen as a key component in bringing real health care to the uninsured it can only help organizing and (b) it's not going to be a big step forward if unions can organize new workers but not deliver decent health care coverage.
Universal health care. $8/hour minimum wage. These are the issues that not only are good for society, but help Democrats. Power is accretive, and we must constantly seek to change the playing field. That's why pushing on health care, crushing the insurance companies in the process, is the right strategy.