The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, July 07, 2017

Labor turns up the heat on lawmakers to oppose health care replacement plans

By The Building Tradesman

By Mark Gruenberg
PAI Staff Writer

Organized labor’s massive campaign against the Senate Republicans’ health care bill, a measure which would repeal the Affordable Care Act, will continue through the congressional Independence Day recess and beyond, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says.

In a June 28 telephone press conference, Trumka pledged labor’s campaign would run “as long as it takes to make sure this horrible bill never sees the light of day.”

The campaign includes radio ads, Twitter and Facebook feeds, airport billboards, “website takeovers,” and mobilization of senators’ constituents at their home offices, in D.C., and through local press conferences and town hall meetings and a “patch-in” telephone tree with a toll-free number (888) 865-8089 that links callers with their senators, of both parties.

“This campaign may be the easiest we’ve ever run,” Trumka wryly commented. “It’s a rather easy mobilization for us,” as “it will escalate as more and more people are outraged and want to take action” against the Republican health care legislation.

The Senate plan would dump the seven-year-old Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). McConnell claims his legislation would replace it, too, but Trumka disputes that. He cited several reasons. One is the GOP’s planned huge cuts in Medicaid, which pays for half of all births in the U.S. Another aspect of the GOP plans are their repeal of all but one of the taxes and levies the ACA enacted to pay for expanding health care to millions of people. The money instead would go to tax cuts for the rich. 

“The Senate’s bill follows the same failed approach as the House-passed bill,” said American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox. “It would deny health care coverage to millions of Americans in order to lavish huge tax cuts on corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent.
“The Senate bill would cut Medicaid even deeper than the House bill, and both bills could leave millions of veterans unable to afford health insurance because they would no longer qualify for tax credits,” Cox noted.

Unions are not the only force campaigning against the GOP health care bill. Other progressive groups, including the labor-backed Alliance for Retired Americans, have been bombarding senators’ offices with phone calls or taking to the streets in daily protests. The latest opinion polls show only 17 percent of those contacted – including only one-third of Republicans surveyed – support the Senate GOP’s legislation.

Of key interest to building trades unions: plans from both the House and Senate retain the hated “Cadillac Tax” imposed on customers of allegedly high-cost health care plans, like those in the trades and other unions. Retaining the Cadillac Tax means “about 42 percent of large employers will be impacted and it’ll result in them dropping coverage altogether,” Trumka predicted.

Organized labor won a bit of a reprieve on the Cadillac Tax in 2015, when Congress delayed imposing the levy until 2020. Obama put the Cadillac Tax into the Affordable Care Act in last-minute bargaining over the law in 2010, over unions’ and workers’ heated objections. The tax would be 40 percent on the value, above $10,200 yearly for an individual and $27,500 for a family, of each health care plan. Its revenues are key to helping pay for expanding health care to low-income people.

Unions are especially targeting senators in five key states to dump the Republican plans. They include Ohio, Maine and West Virginia, where Republicans Rob Portman, Susan Collins and Shelley Moore Capito have been on the fence about the GOP legislation, resisting pressure from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He planned a vote on the bill by June 30, but had to pull it. 

Campaigners are also contacting Senate Democrats, urging them to hold fast against the GOP measure. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office calculates the Senate GOP legislation would throw 22 million people off of health care rolls, 15 million of them next year.