Our SEIU 1021 Medicare for All Committee made a strong showing at the triennial Localwide Convention in Oakland on September 26-27. Our information table provided a rare chance to meet activist members from the Central Valley to the Oregon border. Many attendees learned about Single Payer and signed up for information updates or to book a speaker or film for their groups. (We’re available to speak or show The Health Care Movie to your group, too. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.) “Passport” cards were stamped at information tables and served as raffle tickets. Although our name wasn’t on the cards, they incentivized lots of people to speak to us under our “big and bold” purple and white Medicare for All banner.
Two workshops had healthcare themes. In “Healthcare Justice,” Affordable Care Act legal expert Bill Sokol reviewed the strengths and shortcomings of Obama’s complex law, unfavorably contrasting it to truly universal, equal, full, cost-saving government coverage: Single Payer aka Medicare for All. In the comment period, members of our group underscored the contrast, elicited more sign-ups from the attendees in the room, and briefly explained the self-insuring/open access alternative that is being explored within our union to bring healthcare costs down.
In “From the Workplace to the Community: Our Fight for Healthcare,” member leaders Karen Joubert (1021 Vice President for Membership), Mary Sandberg (Santa Rosa Junior College), and Gerry LaLonde-Berg (Sonoma County Human Services) described strategies that brought victories to their healthcare bargaining. Karen explained the successful campaign in San Francisco to force Kaiser to keep premiums from rising, partly by demanding that Kaiser be transparent about the reasons for their price increases. Members from Sonoma County described their campaign to push for a self-insuring/open access healthcare alternative that they have been working on with union healthcare expert Sally Covington. That innovative program cuts out the private insurance company middleman, negotiates directly with providers using a Medicare-like schedule of fair fees, and is a step in the Medicare for All direction that will demonstrate the savings possible.
The centerpiece of each triennial convention is a broad “vision plan” for the local that delegates vote up or down. It is composed by Executive Board members from member input from regional meetings, surveys, and other sources. In the pre-vote comment period, members of 1021 Medicare for All praised this Convention document, “Our Vision for Power,” but criticized its failure to embrace Medicare for All specifically. Healthcare costs and gaps were named across the local as a number one societal and bargaining concern. Local 1021 and the International have formally resolved to support and actively work for Medicare for All. We felt that campaigning for government single payer should have appeared more explicitly and prominently in the plan because it is the best endpoint solution to healthcare inequity and unaffordability. Although the document couldn’t be revised on-site before the vote, our comments once more planted Medicare for All in the hearts and minds of Convention attendees. Now we must work with members and leadership across the Local to have those newly educated attendees spread the word and the work back at their chapters and regions.