Why did AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka diss Medicare for All over the Labor Day weekend?

Labor Fightback Network, September 12, 2019

According to Reuters, Trumka stressed a preference for the so-called public option, a tax-subsidized plan in competition with all the current private health insurance plans in an enhanced marketplace.

He quotes former Vice-President Joe Biden, who asserts that this marketplace is necessary to maintain existing union-negotiated plans and that an improved Medicare for All would likely deliver poorer benefits to union members than those private plans.

Trouble is, the AFL-CIO membership, through their convention delegates, affirmed their preference for the social insurance model, Medicare for All, at the federation’s 2009 Pittsburgh convention, and even more clearly in 2017 in Saint Louis.

The fact of the matter is that the expanded and improved Medicare for All bills in the US House and US Senate, and in many state legislatures, provide benefits that far exceed the best of the negotiated union plans (including long term disability) with no co-pays, deductibles or out of pockets, with the right to choose your own healthcare providers, guaranteed lifetime coverage with no break in coverage, and no more trading off wages and benefits for basic healthcare at the bargaining table.

Furthermore, Labor’s taking the lead in winning a truly universal health plan, one that establishes a single high standard of care for all of us, constitutes a profound act of solidarity. We’ve seen the evil that’s generated in society by those who glory in their own successes and have nothing but distain for those lacking those benefits.

The members have a clear preference for Medicare for All, as reflected in Resolution #34 of the 2009 AFL-CIO Convention and in Resolution #6 of 2017. The federation’s officers are mandated to follow the will of the members so expressed rather than the concerns of corporate Democrats and their allied medical-industrial complex.

Trump will not be defeated and this country will not be turned around by such antics. We must continue to raise such a clamor for healthcare justice that such leaders will not be able to turn a deaf ear. Unite around a plan of action, not of retreat!

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Hands off Venezuela! All Out March 16 and March 30!

Statement by the Labor Fightback Network

The Labor Fightback Network firmly opposes attempts by the U.S. government and its allies to overthrow the elected government of Venezuela. Support for the aborted coup in 2002, economic embargo since, covert support for opposition forces and outright sabotage are acts of warfare against a sovereign nation. Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution continues to inspire millions throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. For that reason, and for its vast oil reserves, Venezuela sits in the crosshairs.

Successive U.S. administrations have sought to overthrow regimes throughout this hemisphere and around the globe that it found noncompliant with its drive for global hegemony and unsupportive of its economic interests. Never have any of these interventions led to true democracy or improved conditions for the vast majority of the people affected.

Venezuela is bordered by Colombia and Brazil, whose governments are closely aligned with the Trump Administration and present a military threat to that country. Colombia, the first NATO partner in Latin America, is one of the world’s worst repressors of workers’ and peasants’ movements. Brazil’s 17-member cabinet now has 13 generals, and its new president is widely described as a fascist.

The Canada Labour Congress, with 3 million members, has denounced Prime Minister Trudeau’s support for intervention in Venezuela, proclaiming: “The CLC vehemently rejects a militarized solution to this crisis; the people of Latin America have not forgotten the brutal history of military rule in the region.”

The San Francisco Labor Council has again denounced the U.S. campaign of regime change in Venezuela as “against the interests of the people of Venezuela, Latin America or the people of the United States,” and has endorsed the March 16 National March on the White House to say “Hands Off Venezuela, No War, No Sanctions, No Coup,” and the Hands Off Venezuela National Action on March 30 in DC and in the Bay Area on March 31.

We join with the San Francisco Labor Council in urging strong labor participation in these two antiwar actions. To help in this effort, we are including below an important statement issued by US Labor Against the War, a union-based coalition that has been instrumental in opposing the U.S. war against the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan and in pushing for labor rights in the region.

  • Hands off Venezuela!
  • Unite in opposition to U.S. government aims in Venezuela and globally!
  • Stand up for the people of Venezuela on March 16 and March 30!

Hands Off Venezuela

US Labor Against the War Statement on US Intervention in Venezuela, January 27, 2019

US Labor Against the War opposes the Trump Administration intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

The US has no legitimate claim to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries, to take sides in internal political disputes, or to undermine governments elected by the people. We have seen the disastrous consequences of recent US interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and, through its alliance with Saudi Arabia, in Yemen. US intervention in Venezuela can only bring further hardship and suffering, as followed US support for the 2009 coup in Honduras that overthrew the elected government there and contributed to the stream of asylum-seekers now on our southern border seeking relief from that disaster.

It reveals the deep cynicism of US policy makers that they denounce what they call a dictatorial regime in Venezuela while providing unlimited support to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its murderous absolute dictatorship of the royal family. The US also supports a host of other autocrats, authoritarians, absolute monarchs and dictators in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, to name a few. There is no case in which US intervention in the internal affairs of other countries has led to greater democracy and better conditions of life for the people.

In the case of Venezuela, the economic distress has been precipitated largely by the decline in world oil prices. Oil is the most important revenue source for the Venezuelan government. But Venezuela’s economic difficulties have been greatly compounded by economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the United States, beginning in March 2015 under Barack Obama. These have been explicitly designed to choke off Venezuela’s access to international markets and resources for the purpose of destabilizing the Maduro government and, before that, the government of Hugo Chavez. The economic chaos the US now points to in Venezuela as a justification for intervention is in large part a consequence of US policy, which is designed to provoke popular unrest, sow divisions and precipitate an uprising against the government.

We strongly condemn the tacit support given to President Trump’s intervention by leaders of the Democratic Party. Whether articulated by Republicans or Democrats, US intervention to destabilize other countries violates the UN Charter and international law. This interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs serves the interests of wealthy elites and multinational corporations, not the interests of the Venezuelan or American people. It is always the people who end up paying for these interventions in suffering, blood and treasure.

Real international solidarity calls upon us to demand of our government:

“Hands off Venezuela!”

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No War! No Coup! U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

On February 6, the National Steering Committee of the Labor Fightback Network discussed the imminent threat of direct U.S.-led military intervention against the sovereign nation of Venezuela. The Trump administration’s goal, openly stated, is to impose regime-change and take control of Venezuela’s vast oil resources. This military operation, coordinated with the governments of Brazil and Colombia, is being carried out in the name of opening a “humanitarian-aid corridor” into Venezuela from the Colombian border town of Cúcuta.

The LFN has learned that three calls have been issued by antiwar coalitions in the United States to protest U.S. intervention in Venezuela and to stay the hands of the U.S. war-makers the world over: February 23, March 16 and March 30.

The LFN has advocated consistently for a united antiwar movement capable of building broadly sponsored mass actions in the streets. We would have preferred to see a unified mass action around a common date and set of demands; this is what is needed, more than ever. Having said that, we welcome and support the Calls to Action below, and we urge all labor and antiwar activists to (1) participate in them and (2) enlist support from your unions and community organizations.

U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!

In solidarity,
National Steering Committee,Labor Fightback Network


U.S. Labor Against the War
Statement on U.S. Intervention in Venezuela
January 27, 2019

“Hands Off Venezuela!”

U.S. Labor Against the War opposes the Trump Administration intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

The U.S. has no legitimate claim to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries, to take sides in internal political disputes, or to undermine governments elected by the people.  We have seen the disastrous consequences of recent U.S. interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and, through its alliance with Saudi Arabia, in Yemen. U.S. intervention in Venezuela can only bring further hardship and suffering, as followed U.S. support for the 2009 coup in Honduras that overthrew the elected government there and contributed to the stream of asylum-seekers now on our southern border seeking relief from that disaster.

It reveals the deep cynicism of U.S. policy makers that they denounce what they call a dictatorial regime in Venezuela while providing unlimited support to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its murderous absolute dictatorship of the royal family.  The U.S. also supports a host of other autocrats, authoritarians, absolute monarchs and dictators in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, to name a few. There is no case in which U.S. intervention in the internal affairs of other countries has led to greater democracy and better conditions of life for the people.

In the case of Venezuela, the economic distress has been precipitated largely by the decline in world oil prices.  Oil is the most important revenue source for the Venezuelan government. But Venezuela’s economic difficulties have been greatly compounded by economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the United States, beginning in March 2015 under Barack Obama.  These have been explicitly designed to choke off Venezuela’s access to international markets and resources for the purpose of destabilizing the Maduro government and, before that, the government of Hugo Chávez. The economic chaos the U.S. now points to in Venezuela as a justification for intervention is in large part a consequence of U.S. policy, which is designed to provoke popular unrest, sow divisions and precipitate an uprising against the government.

We strongly condemn the tacit support given to President Trump’s intervention by leaders of the Democratic Party.  Whether articulated by Republicans or Democrats, U.S. intervention to destabilize other countries violates the U.N. Charter and international law.  This interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs serves the interests of wealthy elites and multinational corporations, not the interests of the Venezuelan or American people. It is always the people who end up paying for these interventions in suffering, blood and treasure.

Real international solidarity calls upon us to demand of our government:

“Hands off Venezuela!”


UNAC Emergency Call to Action
U.S. Hands Off Venezuela! No to the U.S. Coup!
All out on February 23 and March 30!

The U.S. imperial colossus is poised once again to launch a regime change invasion and war on Venezuela.

The United National Antiwar Coalition, (UNAC), in alliance with hundreds of antiwar and social justice organizations across the country is supporting, February 23 for nationally-coordinated antiwar protests in cities across the country.

We demand:
U.S. Out Now!
Stop the Planned Coup Against Venezuela!

The Trump administration and its top officials, from National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, invoking the heinous Monroe Doctrine of 1823, no less, and backed to the hilt with bi-partisan congressional support, has proclaimed Venezuela to be in the U.S. imperial “backyard.” Working people in the U.S. are faced once again with an open bi-partisan promoted imperialist war, with the Trump administration stating that its objective is to obliterate once and for the sovereign governments of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua that President Trump has designated the “troika of terror.” There is good reason to consider that should this comes to pass, this policy of war and intervention in Latin America, we can fully expect a major associated increase in government-promoted repression of basic civil and democratic rights.

In the name of delivering  “humanitarian aid” to the U.S.-appointed and CIA-trained puppet “president,” Juan Guaidó, the U.S. and its Colombian military allies are literally heading toward a Colombian border town preparing to cross into Venezuela via a militarily-established corridor. In the name of the spurious proposition that the U.S. is bound to deliver medical and related supplies to “save the lives of 250,000 to 500,000 starving and dying Venezuelans,” the U.S. government, with its corporate media in tow, seeks to justify yet another regime change war.

If the U.S. delivers anything it will be death and destruction to the people of Venezuela. And this on top of the current illegal sanctions coupled with the overt stealing of $tens of millions of funds generated from the sale of Venezuelan/CITCO oil in the U.S. and placed in accounts earmarked for the U.S.-appointed “president.” The U.S. virtual blockade/embargo of Venezuela and its associated banning of loan funds from international lending agencies, is expected to cost that nation some $11 billion over the coming year.

Today’s U.S.-orchestrated pretext, based on the incredible proposition that it has the right to appoint and militarily impose as president of a sovereign nation, a creature of its own manufacture, is little different from the now repudiated  “weapons of mass destruction” inventions that the Bush administration employed to destroy vast sections of Iraq, oust its President Saddam Hussein, proceed to hold “elections” overseen by U.S. occupiers that imposed a government that turned over major portions of Iraq oil to U.S. corporations. Akin to the lie employed in Libya, to wit, that the Muammar Gadhafi government was preparing to slaughter 50,000 people in Benghazi, the U.S. and its NATO allies destroyed the vast infrastructure of that nation and imposed its own government. Today’s not even thinly-veiled pretext differs little from the U.S. pretext employed to begin the ten-year slaughter of 4 million mostly civilian Vietnamese wherein a tiny Vietnamese boat was said to have attacked a U.S. destroyer in the Vietnamese waters at Tonkin Bay.

Today’s crudely-orchestrated and blatantly prepared U.S. war scenario is publicly aimed at, among other objectives, splitting the Venezuelan Army, ousting the democratically-elected President Maduro, inserting a reactionary U.S. puppet government and laying hold of Venezuela’s vast oil reserves — the largest on earth today.

UNAC has taken the lead in initiating the broadest possible united front-type mobilizations against the impending U.S. intervention. In alliance with the Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases and many others it has established a coalition endorsed by some 200 antiwar and social justice organizations. Originally established for a March 30 Washington, D.C. mobilization against NATO, against all U.S. wars at home and abroad, as well as to honor Dr. King’s famous speech against the Vietnam war, the UNAC-initiated March 30 Spring Antiwar Action Coalition has stepped forward and unanimously voted to prioritize the organization of nation-wide local protests on Saturday, February 23 in cities across the country.

UNAC’s decision to complement its original focus on the above critical demands by also highlighting “U.S. Hands Off Venezuela! and No to the U.S. Coup!” was seen by all as a critical prelude to the March 30 bi-coastal actions set for D.C. and Oakland.

UNAC has also endorsed all other Hands Off Venezuela! actions, including the March 16 ANSWER-called demonstration in Washington, D.C.

Join us in mobilizing for February 23 and March 30.

In solidarity,

Joe Lombardo and Marilyn Levin, Co-coordinators, UNAC for the UNAC Administrative Committee

February 5, 2019


March 16 National Day of Action
(Issued by ANSWER coalition and others)

On Saturday, March 16, thousands of people will march in Washington, D.C. against the Trump administration’s effort to engineer a coup in Venezuela and a new devastating war there. The aggressive policy against Venezuela repeats the ugly pattern of wars for regime change in the oil-rich countries of Iraq and Libya. National Security Advisor John Bolton is reading from the same script, declaring a “troika of tyranny” in Latin America (like the “axis of evil”) as a precursor for regime change first in Venezuela, and then Cuba and Nicaragua. Trump has always said that the “mistake” of the Middle East wars was that the U.S. didn’t “take the oil.”

It is time to stand up and with a clear voice say NO to the newest example of the “Monroe Doctrine,” which the U.S. government has used for over two centuries to repeatedly invade Latin America and Caribbean, control its politics and extract its resources.

The White House aims to overthrow the government of President Nicolás Maduro and replace him with Juan Guaidó. Guaidó is a U.S.-trained operative who was unknown to the vast majority of Venezuelans before he proclaimed himself president — at Vice President Mike Pence’s urging. Although Guaidó has the backing of Trump, the CIA, and the Republican and Democratic Party leaderships alike, huge numbers of Venezuelans have marched to reject this coup and defend their independence.

On March 16, the people of the United States will come together to say:

  • U.S. hands off Venezuela! 
  • NO to the coup — the U.S. does not have the right to select other country’s leaders!
  • NO to the sanctions, oil embargo and economic war on Venezuela that aims to cause suffering for ordinary people in the country.
  • NO to intervention and war from the U.S. and their proxies in the region.
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Hands Off Venezuela

U.S. Labor Against the War
Statement on U.S. Intervention in Venezuela
January 27, 2019

U.S. Labor Against the War opposes the Trump Administration intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

The U.S. has no legitimate claim to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries, to take sides in internal political disputes, or to undermine governments elected by the people.  We have seen the disastrous consequences of recent U.S. interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and, through its alliance with Saudi Arabia, in Yemen. U.S. intervention in Venezuela can only bring further hardship and suffering, as followed U.S. support for the 2009 coup in Honduras that overthrew the elected government there and contributed to the stream of asylum-seekers now on our southern border seeking relief from that disaster.

It reveals the deep cynicism of U.S. policy makers that they denounce what they call a dictatorial regime in Venezuela while providing unlimited support to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its murderous absolute dictatorship of the royal family.  The U.S. also supports a host of other autocrats, authoritarians, absolute monarchs and dictators in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, to name a few. There is no case in which U.S. intervention in the internal affairs of other countries has led to greater democracy and better conditions of life for the people.

In the case of Venezuela, the economic distress has been precipitated largely by the decline in world oil prices.  Oil is the most important revenue source for the Venezuelan government. But Venezuela’s economic difficulties have been greatly compounded by economic sanctions imposed on Venezuela by the United States, beginning in March 2015 under Barack Obama.  These have been explicitly designed to choke off Venezuela’s access to international markets and resources for the purpose of destabilizing the Maduro government and, before that, the government of Hugo Chavez. The economic chaos the U.S. now points to in Venezuela as a justification for intervention is in large part a consequence of U.S. policy, which is designed to provoke popular unrest, sow divisions and precipitate an uprising against the government.

We strongly condemn the tacit support given to President Trump’s intervention by leaders of the Democratic Party.  Whether articulated by Republicans or Democrats, U.S. intervention to destabilize other countries violates the U.N. Charter and international law.  This interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs serves the interests of wealthy elites and multinational corporations, not the interests of the Venezuelan or American people. It is always the people who end up paying for these interventions in suffering, blood and treasure.

Real international solidarity calls upon us to demand of our government:

“Hands off Venezuela!”

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Defend Undocumented Workers! End the Government Shutdown!

The Trump administration continues to claim that the Central American migrant caravan is invading California. More than 7,000 Central Americans have come to the U.S. southern border, not to invade or even to enter the US outside of legal means, but to seek political asylum to escape violence and extreme poverty in Guatemala and Honduras. Trump’s claim of a “national emergency” is baseless in terms of any danger to the U.S. Policies that criminalize migrants for acting on their internationally recognized right of asylum and result in the deaths children in custody are the real national emergency. Asylum is an internationally recognized right precisely to protect people fleeing desperate circumstances; it is not an act of war.

As 2018 national elections approached, Trump used the caravan issue to frighten and mobilize his base. When the caravan reached the U.S. border, the migrants were tear-gassed by the U.S. military and border crossings were shut down. Currently, the migrants are staying in two main encampments and about 30 shelters around Tijuana. When thousands arrived in mid-November, they were initially put at the Benito Juarez sports arena near the border. This open-air encampment lacked adequate shelter and resources, and rainstorms soon exacerbated these conditions, with raw sewage spilling over into the camp from the latrines. Adequate fresh drinking water was never provided at this site, creating a public health crisis.

Then, in New Mexico, seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquín died of dehydration while in custody of U.S. Border Patrol. She and her father were traveling from Guatemala to seek asylum when they were apprehended on December 6, 2018. A second Guatemalan child whose father was seeking asylum, Felipe Gomez Alonzo, age eight, died in Border Patrol custody on December 25, 2018.

Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy of criminalizing asylum seekers has caused extreme overcrowding at migrant detention facilities with an average daily population of 45,200 single adult and family units. This number includes 13,000 children, as reported by CNN in October 2018. This, too, has created a public health crisis, which is likely to lead to more deaths of children.

U.S. government attacks on immigrants were ratcheted up after the Department of Homeland Security, under President George W. Bush, replaced the Immigration and Naturalization Services with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Government resources were poured into the enforcement end of immigration while the services sector was depleted, which excessively increased the wait times for those attempting to immigrate legally or to gain asylum. These anti-immigrant policies were continued by the Democratic administration of President Obama. President Trump and his administration have sunk to unlawful and even more inhumane depths in their attacks on immigrants and asylum seekers.

This immoral war on migrants must end. Any working person struggling to support and protect their family should be able to empathize with the many reasons people choose to take the difficult journey to the U.S. These include political persecution; gang, domestic, and sexual violence; environmental disasters; poverty and unemployment; racial, gender, and religious discrimination; exploitation by transnational corporations; human trafficking; and governmental complicity toward paramilitaries. It is difficult to build a case for legal asylum because it requires proving targeted persecution as part of a recognized group. Also, anyone who has been previously deported may be turned down for asylum in the U.S. As hard as the process already is, the current administration wants to make it impossible.

In coordination with other organizations and volunteers, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) has sent lawyers, legal workers, and law students from its Bay Area, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, and New York City chapters to Tijuana to provide legal support, training, and observation. The NLG describes problems as “including unnecessary and illegal delays in the asylum application process, the dangerous conditions at the camps where some migrants are staying, the inadequate and uneven response of international relief organizations, and the constant threat of violence to migrants from law enforcement, far right protesters, and some local community members.”

The situation is getting worse every day according to NLG legal observers. Charity groups such as UNICEF, World Relief, and other UN organizations and humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are not bringing basic resources like food and water to the camp (although they did show up with hula hoops and other toys for the children). The NLG repeatedly brought the lack of clean drinking water and food to the attention of the UN and other organizations to no avail.

A Positive Response from Organized Labor

Many unions have been stepping up to support asylum seekers and other migrants. The Service Employees International Union—United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW) actions on behalf of migrants have been true to the union’s official mission statement: “to lead the way to a more just and humane society; building power for all service workers by developing member leadership and activism, winning strong contracts, organizing unorganized service workers, building political and community power, and engaging in direct action…” In May 2017, the USWW organized for the Caravan Against Fear, traveling across California and the southern border states. The Caravan led massive protests at federal detention facilities across California and visited congressional offices along the way urging them to stand with immigrants. Led by dozens of workers and activists, the labor Caravan built a movement to defend immigrants’ rights and keep families together. Eventually that momentum led to the passage of AB 450, which protects workers from Federal immigration raids in the workplace, and SB 54, which makes California a Sanctuary State.

When Trump originally threatened the government shutdown in late November 2018 if he didn’t get border wall funds from Congress, the USWW organized the National Call-in Day to #DefundHate! to demand that Congressional representatives deny funds for the southern border wall, ICE and CPB (Border Patrol).

Now, four weeks into a partial government shutdown, CNN and ABC polls indicate that the majority of U.S. Americans oppose additional funding for the border wall and view Trump as the cause of this collective punishment. Some 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed or forced to work without pay and missed their first paycheck last Friday, January 11, 2019. Government employee unions staged rallies outside federal buildings across the U.S. the day before that no-pay day occurred.

In early December, educators and union members from across the nation mobilized to send this statement: “As educators, we serve every student who enters our class, regardless of immigration status or nation of origin. Social justice education means that our classrooms recognize no borders, and we open our doors to the children of the migrant caravan. We the undersigned demand that any child of school age who enters the U.S. be immediately welcomed into a public school, and not held in a detention center, or separated from their families.” Organizational endorsements include CA Educators Rising; Social Equity Educators, Seattle; Baltimore Movement of Rank-and-File Educators, Baltimore; International Socialist Organization Teachers Working Group MORE; the Social Justice Caucus of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), New York City; Teach Dream, New York City; and the Seattle Education Association.

The Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York (CUNY) sent a strong statement to affirm unconditional support for the workers and families of the migrant caravan, and opposition to the xenophobic response of the US administration and the right-wing militias that have threatened their safety. “The teachers and employees of the City University of New York (the largest and most diverse urban university in the country), are aware of the challenges and struggles faced by migrant children and their families. Many of their students are from South and Central America and “like the members of the caravan, have fled violence, persecution, and poverty, (often direct products of US policy and intervention) only to sometimes encounter more of the same.”

The AFL-CIO released a statement of support for migrant caravans on May 3, 2018: “Ten things working people should know about the migrant caravan…” Number one, “Staying home simply is not an option,” stating that migrants embark on such hazardous journeys because of extreme conditions of crime, violence, and crushing poverty. Secondly, “address the root causes of this displacement,” citing flawed U.S. foreign and trade policies that exacerbated dangerous conditions in these countries, breeding violence and desperation. Addressing “Workers’ rights violations…,” the AFL-CIO reports that labor repression has increased, especially in the expanding maquiladora sector. In Guatemala and Honduras, employers have been refusing to engage in collective bargaining and avoiding fair payments and benefits. Workers who are associated with union organizing are fired or even killed. Government neglect to enforce and account for the abuses is leaving working families isolated.

However, calling for demilitarization of the southern border and for abiding by existing U.S. law that requires a fair hearing for asylum seekers, is still just words. It’s time to push on to the next level to drive home these statements and press releases.

We must build a stronger, inclusive labor movement to organize for better working conditions and to unite U.S. born workers with immigrants. Mexican and Filipino immigrant workers organized the United Farmworkers Union (UFW) in California led by César Chávez and Delores Huerta in the 1960s and 70s and struck big agriculture for better wages and safer working conditions. Broad public support for the UFW grape boycott pressured growers to recognize the union. (California has the strongest labor movement in the US with 22 percent of the workforce unionized while the national average is only 11 percent).

Labor must support immigrants on the job, such as opposing “reverification” actions where ICE can demand to see the immigration status of employees. Many unions have represented workers caught by this policy and lobbied against it in California.

Let human rights and legal accountability be a rallying and organizing cry for the nation’s workforce, not a time to run for our own tents and wait until the tear gas and closed doors are turned against us.

The need for legal professionals on the ground is dire and hundreds have already applied to come and assist with legal support. There will also be a continuing need for people to travel to the border for the next several months, especially those who can stay weekdays, speak Spanish, are trained as NLG Legal Observers, or have experience with immigration and asylum law.

Those interested in volunteering in a legal capacity can sign up through volunteer@alotrolado.org or bordersupport@nlg.org.

For those who cannot travel to the border, please consider assisting in other ways:

Please read and share demands by migrants https://www.nlg.org/press-release-demands-by-central-american-exodus-we-do-not-want-to-return-to-violence/.

DONATE to legal support efforts through https://www.nlg.org/donate/massdefense/ or http://alotrolado.org/take-action/donate/.

Ask your representative to co-sponsor or your organization to endorse the Berta Cáceres Act to stop U.S. funding of the Honduran military. http://witnessforpeace.org/current-co-sponsors-of-the-berta-caceres-act/.

Sponsor one of the LGBTQ asylum seekers. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfYCFQFq5NxgnR6Cn6v8Ez13bpTDU598RuyY23Ji-uQvr9Asg/viewform/.

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Single Payer Universal Health Care: Building a Pathway to Victory

by Sandy Eaton, RN, Dialogue & Initiative, August 2018

This year is pivotal for shifting the balance of forces in the United States away from the proponents of austerity, racism, war and fascism. People are coming together not only to resist Trump and the Republicans but to fight for economic and social survival. Health care in the U.S. is a raging cauldron of struggle to win justice as millions campaign for access, affordability, quality and equality. Single-payer financing is increasingly recognized as essential for a just healthcare system.

The drive toward “Building a Pathway to Victory” has begun and was the focus of this year’s national single-payer strategy conference. The Minnesota Nurses Association hosted this historic meeting in Minneapolis June 22–24. Initially funded by National Nurses United, this campaign seeks to make healthcare justice, including the enactment of expanded and improved Medicare for all, an essential ingredient in the 2018 and 2020 elections. Support for improved Medicare for all has already shown itself to be a winner in Democratic Party primaries across the country, North and South. Organizers have been hired to work in key presidential primary states. Regional meetings to launch this campaign have so far drawn hundreds more activists into the fray.

Single-payer universal health care was beyond the range of acceptable political discourse within the two-party system until the Bernie Sanders campaign of 2016, which offered a social-democratic platform in defiance of neoliberal marketplace dogma. Ironically, Donald Trump, supposedly the contrarian, has been pushing a domestic neoliberal agenda with all the stops pulled out. Finance capital is extending its tentacles ever further into what passes as the U.S. healthcare system. Make no mistake: we’re making a direct assault on a major funding stream of finance capital. We’re confronting and refuting its neoliberal practitioners and ideologues.

In January 2017, 500 activists assembled at AFSCME District Council 37 in New York City, convened by the Labor Campaign for Single Payer (LCSP) and Healthcare NOW!, the national umbrella of active single-payer organizations. (See the report in the 2017 D&I.) One week before the Trump inauguration, they came together under the theme of “going on offense while playing defense.” That strategy has been unfolding nicely.

Two-and-a-half attempts to “repeal and replace” the ACA failed due to Republican Congressional factionalism and massive grassroots opposition. Predictably, death by a thousand cuts was the alternative approach: cutting insurance-company subsidies, which a federal court in California ruled to be legal since states are supposedly filling the funding gap. The annual window for signing up for plans on the exchanges was shortened and outreach funds cut. The 2018 budget began the planned $1.5 trillion cut from Medicare and Medicaid. CHIP was allowed to sunset. The 28,000,000 lacking health insurance (CDC 2015) are being joined now by growing numbers falling through the widening cracks. Gallup reported that 12.3% are now uninsured, with the change greatest among Black and Latinex residents. Four million people are estimated to have lost coverage in the last two years.

The LCSP was founded in Saint Louis in January 2009, a week before Barack Obama’s first inauguration. Its first goal was putting the AFL-CIO back on track with the social insurance model of health care, something lost with McCarthyism, the Cold War and the development of Taft-Hartley and other union-sponsored health plans. Seventy unions submitted single-payer resolutions to the Pittsburgh AFL-CIO convention that September, and that effort proved successful. The Los Angeles AFL-CIO convention of 2013 continued that support, avoiding a blanket condemnation of the ACA that some demanded.

On October 24, 2017, the AFL-CIO passed Resolution 6, Making Health Care a Right. The Labor Campaign for Single Payer had a short window between assessing the final draft of Sanders’ Senate single-payer bill and the deadline for submitting convention resolutions. Nevertheless, the draft resolution was submitted by eighteen union bodies. Although the resultant resolution lacked the specific injunction to work for the Senate or House single-payer bill, it did call for active struggle for Medicare-for-all enactment. Both HR.676 and the Sanders bill, S.1804, are there for such active support, while defending a role for union health plans and maintaining the fightback.

With ever-growing inequality, communities with disproportionate numbers of well-heeled privately-insured people are far less likely to lose necessary facilities and services. Where the dollar value of individuals is least, insured with public programs with lower reimbursements, working-class communities, particularly communities of color, are far more likely to experience medical redlining, losing community hospitals, community health centers and such family-centered services as maternity, pediatrics and mental health. Single-payer financing will not automatically end this disparity between the haves and the have-nots, but it will provide a matrix wherein the struggle for equality will be strengthened. The struggle against racism and elitism will still need to be central.

The Maine People’s Alliance and allies won a ballot question last Fall to force Medicaid expansion, which Tea Party Governor Paul LePage is fighting tooth and nail. Movements in other states are working to win the ACA’s Medicaid expansion through the ballot box as well. Healthcare expansion is becoming an explosive election issue as November approaches. Virginia is enacting the expansion, but with the cruel work requirement attached.

Early drafts of Bernie Sanders’s Senate Medicare for All bill included co-pays and other undesirable features. His staff was pressured not to include any concessions to neoliberal influence and the resultant bill complied. Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the Medicare-for-All Act of 2017, S.1804, on September 13, 2017 with sixteen cosponsors, including likely presidential candidates. John Conyers’ HR.676, the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act, now has 122 cosponsors. Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, former co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has taken over lead sponsorship of the House Medicare for All Act after John Conyers’s resignation. A single-payer caucus will be reemerging in the House following the expected shift in November.

Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington is also preparing to introduce the “State Based Universal Healthcare Act” based on a version introduced by now-retired Representative Jim McDermott in 2016. The bill would make it easier for states to implement a single-payer-style state health plan by explicitly authorizing ACA Section 1332 waivers and adding an ERISA waiver, while allowing states to consolidate all federal funding streams from Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, TriCare and the federal employee health benefits fund into a single stream, provided that the state establishes a universal healthcare system that covers everyone at levels higher than the current levels mandated by the various federal programs. Unlike the earlier McDermott version, this plan would avoid “race to the bottom” problems by making these waivers only available for universal healthcare programs.

Some Corporate Democrats have proposed a Medicare X, a variation of the so-called public option, the DP equivalent of Republicans’ high-risk pool. On April 18, Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Chris Murphy of Connecticut introduced the Choose Medicare Act. The bill closely follows the recommendations made by Jacob Hacker and the Center for American Progress (CAP). Both Hacker and the CAP were leading advocates of the public option during the debates that led to the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Senator Diane Feinstein of California is now running for reelection on a pledge to support lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to fifty five. These efforts, including an offer to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with the drug cartel (something prohibited both under the Bush Medicare Part D and the Obama ACA), would look like steps forward if it weren’t for the fact that it’s single-payer universal health care that’s the growing demand and rallying point of the opposition to the current marketplace madness and wave of cutbacks.

In addition to vastly heightened activity on the national scene, state health-reform movements are burgeoning. Encouraged by the provision of the Affordable Care Act that permitted states to experiment with expanded coverage starting in 2017, Vermont enacted a path to Green Mountain Care, signed into law by Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin, who had run for election in 2010 as the single-payer champion and reelected in November 2014, only to pull the rug out from under this initiative that December, thoroughly infuriating the activists of the Vermont Workers Center and the members of the union coalition committed to healthcare justice, those who had built a vibrant grassroots single-payer movement starting in 2008.

In Colorado, a state senator and physician grew frustrated with the inability to get progressive healthcare reforms through the legislature, initiated a binding ballot question to get it enacted. Although both the Right and the Left used the short-hand term “single payer” to describe its content, the retention of some copays weakened its appeal. The building trades unions actively opposed it, arguing that its benefits would be less than those currently offered its members through their multi-employer plans. Without the backing of the Colorado AFL-CIO and the Democratic Party, it went down in flames in November 2016.

Activists in Washington are now pursuing a statewide single-payer ballot question. Without a strong enough organizational and funding base, many fear it will go the way of similar prior ballot attempts in California and Colorado.

Rightly or wrongly, such losses are used by defenders of the status quo to try to blunt independent initiatives. Wonks and politicians opposed to single payer have been making the rounds.

The New York Health Act (A4738/S4840) passed the Assembly in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Support in the Senate is back to thirty-one cosponsors, with thirty two votes needed to pass. Unfortunately, Republican leadership in the Senate refuses to bring the bill to a vote and advance it to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk. Even though Cuomo now claims to support single payer, allies in the Senate may spare him the pain of actually having to enact it or the embarrassment of vetoing it.

In California, the single-payer bill SB.562 passed the Senate but was taken off the table by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, who claimed it was unfinished. The Campaign for a Healthy California argues that the missing pieces were to be added while it was going through the appropriate Assembly committees. The fight-back has been intense, with canvassing and confrontation ongoing. Two of the Democratic Party’s four gubernatorial candidates this year support single payer, including the leading candidate, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. Observers feel that Governor Jerry Brown, like New York Governor Cuomo, does not want a single-payer bill to cross his desk.

Health care is now 17.8% of the GDP. Healthcare workers are largely women and people of color, and have become a major force fighting for healthcare justice. So now we have PDA, DSA, Our Revolution, the AFL-CIO, and such independent unions as NEA, SEIU, UE and ILWU on record in support, many seeing single payer universal health care as a top-tier priority. CCDS has joined this list. Unleashing the rank-and-file and grassroots activists is essential to realize the potential promised by all the resolutions that have been passed. The “Building a Pathway to Victory” campaign offers the hope of our doing just that!

Addendum: This report was submitted for publication in June 2018. So fast have events been moving that some specifics discussed here are already outdated.

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Walking Away from the Democratic Party—One Person’s Story

by Thomas Bias, National Secretary, Labor Fightback Network
August 28, 2018

Fifty years ago today I turned my back and walked away from the Democratic party. From that day to this I have never looked back.

Like so many college freshmen in New England, I put on my high-top boots and a warm cap and went up to New Hampshire during the early weeks of 1968. I rang doorbells campaigning for Senator Eugene McCarthy for President in small towns and was impressed by how much the people that I met were dissatisfied with President Johnson and wanted change. And they weren’t happy with the Vietnam war, either. For myself, I was giving the system “one more chance,” and after the results of the New Hampshire primary, I was optimistic.

On August 28, 1968, at the Democratic convention, the platform committee debated a plank concerning the Vietnam war. Both were compromises, but it was understood that the majority report stood for a pro-war position, and the minority report for an anti-war position. After speeches for each position, ending with Senator Wayne Morse’s passionate speech for the minority report, the voting began. The votes came in, back and forth, for the different positions until Gov. John Connally of Texas, still a Democrat, brought his delegation in lockstep behind the majority report. The minority report was defeated. I said to all who had been listening to the radio in the Baltimore City Hospitals lab where I had a summer job, “I gave the system one more chance. That’s it!”

I had a date with a student nurse that night. I told her my thought that I had given the system one more chance, and it had proved itself not to work. I was concluding that revolution was necessary. She didn’t agree with me, but we had a good time that evening anyway. I took her home to Hampton House, the student nurses’ residence hall at Johns Hopkins Hospital (I was a good boy) and went home to find my mother pacing the floor—not about me. She said, “Do you know what’s going on in Chicago right now?” I didn’t. She told me what Mayor Daley’s cops were doing to kids who looked a lot like me in Grant Park. She was furious. She swore that she would never vote for Humphrey after this. She was a Republican, but she was against the war and didn’t much like Nixon.

That solidified it. I understood what the Democratic party was in its heart of hearts, and that it was not a party of peace and justice. Nothing I have seen in the half century since has convinced me that the Democratic party can make the change that our country—and our world—needs. We need to mean it when we sing Ralph Chaplin’s words from 103 years ago:

“In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old,
For the Union makes us strong.”

Yes. Think about what those words mean. Act on them!

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