Wisconsin union members are out in force, making sure our elected officials know that health care reform cannot wait, and must not be watered-down.
On Friday, September 18th about 200 people showed up to Senator Russ Feingold’s Milwaukee area listening session. Approximately 60 of the participants were union members representing AFM, AFT, BAC, CWA, DALU, IAMAW, OPEIU, UAW and UFCW.
The majority of audience members who asked questions urged swift and strong action to reform health insurance, and Senator Feingold reiterated his support for a bill with a strong public insurance option.
“The public option is needed by both the uninsured and the insured because it is the best way to reduce health care costs. My members and others who currently have employer provided insurance face rapidly rising costs that threaten our continued coverage,” said Michael Rosen, President of AFT Local 212. “Without a public option, most labor negotiations will continue to center around escalating health care costs, making it more and more difficult to make other needed improvements in wages and working conditions.”
“In terms of getting the economy back on track for working people, we believe that health insurance reform and the Employee Free Choice Act are essential,” said Brian Reid, Business Agent for OPEIU Local 35. “We know that there is plenty of public focus on health insurance right now, so we attended the listening session to make sure that Employee Free Choice stays on the agenda.”
When asked about the Employee Free Choice Act, which will strengthen the rights of workers who choose to form or join unions, Senator Feingold said that he believes a modified version of the legislation will pass this year. The audience reacted with thunderous applause.
Union members from AFT, CWA, Ironworkers, and UFCW joined other community members in a counter protest near an anti-government "tea party" in Milwaukee on Saturday, September 19th. Jim Carpenter, MATC Economics Instructor and member of AFT Local 212, was interviewed by CBS radio based out of Chicago.
“The majority of Americans support compassion, fairness, and the wise use of our resources. In the richest country in the world, no one should go broke just because they get sick,” said Carpenter. “We attended this tea-bag rally, at which we knew we would be out numbered, in order to inject a voice of reason into the debate. The only way to make sure that the truth about needed health insurance reforms gets out is to engage with our neighbors. There is a lot of fiction floating around in the media. It’s up to us to demand quality affordable health care for all.”
On Monday, September 21, coalition partners including AFSCME, APWU, Citizen Action, DALU, Health Care for America Now, IBEW, Ironworkers, LIUNA, NALC, UAW, UFCW, and USW delivered over 20,000 signatures on petitions, letters and postcards to Representative Steve Kagen’s Green Bay office in support of a robust public health insurance option.
On Tuesday, September 22, about 80 protesters from AFSCME, AFT, Citizen Action, CWA, Health Care for America Now, IAMAW, OPEIU, SEIU, UFCW and student groups rallied outside of a speech given by WellPoint CEO Angela Braly on the campus of Marquette University.
Braly has been a vocal opponent of a public health insurance option, and it isn’t hard to figure out why. WellPoint’s near monopoly in many insurance markets netted the company 2.5 billion dollars in profits last year.The Milwaukee WellPoint rally was part of a National Day of Action in support of health insurance reform: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-dreier/wellpoint-poster-child-fo_b_294343.html
Our next National Day of Action is coming up on Wednesday, Oct. 7. We must make it clear to Congress that Wisconsin workers need health insurance reform that includes a strong public option. No matter where you live in the state, you can call your elected officials on this number:
(Photos from top to bottom, left to right. Photo 1: Rep. Steve Kagen, receiving over 20,000 signatures in support of a public insurance option. Front row: Julie Huen, AFSCME; Elaine Capelle, AFSCME; John Dillion, NALC; Congressman Kagen; Mark Linszmeier, LIUNA; Steve Childress, USW; Pat Vesser, UAW. Back Row: Greg Hinds, DALU; Jack Krueger, AFSCME; Dan Cole, Iron; Tony Vanderbloemen, Greater Green Bay Area Labor Council President; Mike Cole, IRON; Jim Ridderbush, UFCW; Greg Whitcomb, USW; Dan Vandenbush, USW. Photo Credit: Jorna Taylor. Photo 2: Members of UFCW Local 1473 outside of Sen. Russ Feingold's Milwaukee listening session. Photo Credit: Justin Geiger. Photo 3: Members of OPEIU Local 35 outside of Sen. Russ Feingold's Milwaukee listening session. Photo Credit: Justin Geiger. Photo 4: WFNHP-AFT member at health care rally in response to the Milwaukee tea party. Photo Credit: Justin Geiger. Photo 5: Crowd delivering petitions in support of a public health insurance option to Rep. Steve Kagen in Green Bay. Photo Credit: Greg Hinds. Photo 6: IAMAW members protest WellPoint. Photo Credit: Justin Geiger.)