The LieberCare health care bill is an absolutely catastrophe for labor unions, and it looks like the unions are finally waking up to that fact.
Both the AFL-CIO labor federation and SEIU, one of the country’s largest unions are holding emergency meetings today to decide what to do about the Senate bill. While the unions won’t make a final decision on the bill without the actual language to evaluate, these meetings are critical to deciding if they’ll pour their considerable resources into supporting, blocking, or sitting out the bill.
Sam Stein reports:
Though there’s no official word yet, early indications based on talks with various officials are that the groups will either formally oppose the legislation or, less dramatically, just not fight very hard to ensure its passage.
Labor leaders are fuming at the concessions that Democratic leadership made in the last few days to win the support of the caucus’s most conservative members, notably Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.). A bill that already included one highly objectionable provision (a tax on so-called Cadillac insurance plans) was stripped of a provision beloved by labor: a public alternative to private insurance coverage. Frustration boiled over even further after the leadership succumbed to Lieberman’s demand to jettison even the compromise to the public option — a proposal to expand Medicare to those as young as 55.
SEIU’s Dennis Rivera – former leader of healthcare local 1199 and current lead on the union’s healthcare campaign – backed out of an event with allied groups today to promote the Senate bill.
“That decision has to be made by our leaders and our members,” [spokeswoman Lori] Lodes said. The event with the AARP and the other groups was scheduled before Reid made changes to the bill.
The SEIU executive board will hold what Lodes described as an “emergency” meeting Wednesday night to decide how to move forward. “Right now, they don’t have the information they need to make this decision,” said Lodes, who added that the SEIU informed the other organizations on Tuesday they would not be joining the press conference.
The groups, including AARP, Families USA, and American Cancer Society, have worked closely with SEIU throughout the campaign for health care reform. For SEIU to buck this coalition now is significant, though the true test will be what happens at tonight’s emergency meeting of leadership.
The AFL-CIO still hasn’t backed off its demand for a public option in health care reform. While it’s tough to see the federation spiking reform over the public option, the Chevy tax currently in the bill is of such detriment to unions that complete opposition to the bill is possible. Remember, according to Jon Walker, it’s a real possibility that “unless we do health care right, every private sector union could be dead in 9 years.” These are the stakes, and finally the unions are waking up.
UPDATE: Ben Smith talks to Randi Weingarten and other sources from the AFL-CIO:
The meeting of leading AFL’s presidents meeting just concluded at the organization’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, and an AFL staffer also said the timing of the legislation prevented a final decision.
“Labor is looking to make the bill better,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told me in a brief interview after the meeting. […]
Another labor official warned that while labor leaders will likely grudgingly support the legislation, some may be bitter enough to sit out the midterm elections, dealing a blow to Democrats.
Still, the conventional wisdom on the White House and Capitol Hill remains that labor has too much at stake, and is too closely tied to the Democratic leaders, not to support health care reform.
“They won’t oppose it,” said an official involved in conversations with top labor leaders. “But they will definitely say tough things in the press.”
If the strategy to kill LieberCare is to “say tough things in the press,” don’t look for this to have too much impact. If unions wants to spike LieberCare, they could do it in a minute. But it looks like they won’t. They still want the Employee Free Choice Act.