Convention delegates overwhelmingly approved resolutions on Independent Rank-and-File Political Action and Medicare for All, recognizing, as the resolution on independent political action states, that “We need to continue to fight and organize independently from both major political parties and unite all workers around our class interests as workers.” Both resolutions embody long-standing UE policy.
Marie Lausch, Local 222, urged other delegates to “Get to know your politicians early. Look them up, get to know what the pluses and minuses are as far as your local and what they're doing.” Antwon Gibson, Local 610, pointed out that “It's important to educate our members as well as contacting our politicians.”
Dominic Harris, Local 150, agreed that “Voter education is very important. It's not only knowing who these politicians are but how to separate them from their rhetoric.” While many politicians claim to support the working class, Harris said, “You look at who they're getting the money from, and it turns out to be a bunch of corporate millionaires and billionaires who just want them to do their bidding.”
Christine Brown, Local 208, added that “We definitely need to put healthcare to the front of our lobbying efforts.”
Medicare for All
On the issue of healthcare, the Medicare for All resolution demands that Congress enact H.R. 1976, the Medicare for All Act, which “would establish a national health insurance program for all U.S. residents from birth or residency; cover all medically necessary services; eliminate all premiums, deductibles, copays and coinsurance; abolish obscene profit-making from our health care system; reduce classism, sexism and racism by eliminating a means-tested program for the poor; save over 68,000 lives every year; eradicate medical bankruptcy; and save $458 billion every year.”
Dominic Harris, Local 150, pointed out that, “During the pandemic we saw how a universal type of system could help people, because the vaccine is free.” Instead of that kind of universal system, he said, we currently have “Basically a mafia middleman that decides what care you should have and how much that you should pay for, on top of paying them deductibles every week every other week or every month.”
“It's just a shame,” he continued, that in “one of the wealthiest nations in the world, we still have to put people in bankruptcy in order to pay their medical bills.”
Victoria Hilton, Local 808 shared that she was twice forced into medical bankruptcy because “I had no insurance — I couldn't afford it.”
“We deserve health care,” she asserted. “If we're not healthy, we can't work, we can't take care of each other, and we can't take care of our families.”
Eastern Region President George Waksmunski pointed out that with Medicare for All, “We can improve our right to strike, because if we are in a strike situation we don't have to worry about our medical care anymore — that's off the table if we have Medicare for All.”
Fred Hatef, Local 1008, said “The reason I support Medicare for All, and this expansion, is because I recognize the fundamental humanity of all people. All people have a fundamental right to health care, by virtue of being human, this country has a lot of resources that as workers, we created with our labor. It's time we stop using those resources on profits for the healthcare industrial complex and start using them to provide health care and a better life for everyone.”
Sekia Royall, Local 150, shared how her oldest daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of sickle cell at the age of 23. Since children can only stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26, “we had to start looking for health care for her ... [but] we had a hard time finding her insurance because of her pre-existing condition. When they finally did give her some medical coverage, it was only for her sickle cell; she couldn't go to the doctor and use it for anything else.” Royall concluded, “It's very important that we all fight for Medicare for All because it affects us, our families, our cousins, our grandmothers all in the same way.”
Marie Lausch, Local 222, described the hardships suffered by a retired member of her sublocal, who retired before she was 65 but ended up paying 100 percent of her pension to health care because her husband lost his job. “They were sharing their diabetes insulin because they couldn't afford it.”
Margaret Dabrowski, Local 222, told delegates that “I'm almost ready to retire; I could retire in two years [but] unfortunately I can't because at the age of 60 I can't get insurance or Medicare, so this is a very important resolution to me.”
The Medicare for All resolution points out that “While we fight to enact Medicare for All that this country desperately needs, we should also push for the expansion of Medicare, including coverage of dental, hearing, and vision, negotiation of drug prices, and lowering the eligibility age” — and during their Friday break, delegates took action of this issue by calling their senators.
Fred Hatef, Local 1008, introduced the action by telling delegates, “We have an opportunity for a once-in-a-generation transformation of the Medicare program that will benefit tens of millions of our country's senior citizens including many of our older members who are nearing retirement.
“In order to win these improvements it's going to take a fight like when we take on our boss to win improvements during our contract negotiations or any issue when our workplaces. On the other side is Big Pharma, the for-profit insurance industry and the rest of the healthcare industrial complex.”
As the session concluded and delegates got ready for the break, Sekia Royall, Local 150 asked them “Are we ready for the fight?” and delegates responded enthusiastically in the Zoom chat: “Lets Go. Blow those phones up.” (Leslie Riddle, Local 170), “Yes!!! Direct action gets the goods!!” (Elizabeth Jesdale, Local 255), and “We will flood the office phones!!!! This is a great action!!!” (Victoria Hilton, Local 808).