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article imageAFL-CIO leader threatens legislators over health care support

By Michael Krebs     Aug 31, 2009 in Politics
The question of a public option in the health care proposals supported by the Democratic Party appeared is of key importance to the AFL-CIO, and now one of their key leaders is warning legislators who do not support that option.
The AFL-CIO's incoming president, Richard Trumka - who currently serves as the secretary-treasurer of the organization - sees the Democrats' government-sponsored health care option as something that cannot face compromise or that can be made in any way to remove public underwriting from the health care bill.
Mr. Trumka feels strongly enough about the issue that he used a speaking engagement at the Center for American Progress to remind those legislators who appeared to be wavering on the issue that they need to be on the proper side of the labor union confederacy.
“Today, more than ever, we need to be a labor movement that stands by our friends, punishes its enemies, and challenges those who, well, can’t seem to decide which side they’re on,” Mr. Trumka said. "I’m talking about the politicians who always want us to turn out our members to vote for them, but who somehow, always seem to forget workers after the votes are counted. For example, legislators who don’t understand that their job isn’t to make insurance companies happy; it’s to keep Americans healthy! Legislators who say they’re are all for health care reform, but refuse to stand up for a public system that puts people before profits!"
The AFL-CIO has been a strong supporter of President Obama's health care initiative and has backed the idea of universal health coverage for a long time. However, Obama's direction is not entirely clear. There are several versions of health care reform bills circulating in Congress - and none of them are President Obama's bill.
Mr. Trumka's speech covered broader labor issues, but his comments on the health care bill reflect a general frustration among labor leaders with what they see as waffling in the Obama administration and in the Democratic Congress.
"The warning is consistent with comments that Trumka has made in several recent public appearances. Union support for Democrats is often taken for granted, but Trumka has said the nation's largest labor federation would do more to hold elected officials accountable if they fail to back labor's causes," The Associated Press reported on Monday.
Ties between the AFL-CIO and President Obama appeared to be strong, with a White House confirmation on Monday that President Obama will be addressing the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh on September 15.
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