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Rahm: Passing Health Care Will Be Just Like Passing NAFTA

Rahm's noseIn case you had any doubts the passage of the health care bill will be just as disastrous for Democrats and the labor movement as the rout of 1994, Rahm Emanuel is here to reassure you.  It will be just like NAFTA!  And Rahm thinks that’s a good thing.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been telling Democrats a win on the health issue will reverse the slide in public opinion, just as passage of another controversial proposal, the North American Free Trade Agreement, lifted President Bill Clinton in the polls.

Gulp.

If the unions aren’t listening, they better now.  Rahm has been pushing through this health care bill for Obama and has had unions at his side, or at least neutralized.  SEIU has been with the White House from the beginning on health care, and continues to support the legislation.  And while the AFL-CIO has continually critiqued the bill and held its demand for a public option, the federation hasn’t opposed the bill or the White House.

The Senate bill will be, for all intents and purposes, the final health care bill.  That means a Chevy tax on middle class health insurance, no public option, no employer mandate.   This bill is so disastrous for unions that Jon Walker has warned “every private sector union will be dead in nine years,” once the Chevy tax kicks in to full gear.  (First to go?  AFL-CIO unions like CWA, which have given up wage increases for benefits for years.  Last to go?  Low wage workers like those represented by SEIU.)

While unions have been with the Democratic Party in calling for universal health care and reform for decades, they must recognize that where we are now is not acceptable.   Indeed, by supporting this bill, unions are digging their own graves.  So why aren’t they fighting?  Unions feel they need to stay on the good side of Rahm and the White House in order to hang on to the last strands of labor law reform, which they hope and pray will come up (and pass) in the new year.

So we have a labor movement stuck in mud, knowing that reform as it exists is far from what the country needs, and even self destructive.  Yet they’re fearful of opposing this terrible idea of reform in order to hold on to promises of future reforms to save themselves.

Sound familiar?  Business Week, December 1993.

Likewise, labor will embark on a suicide mission if it withholds support [of NAFTA]. Clinton is probably as good a friend as labor can get. Indeed, a senior White House official says, the Administration will “redouble efforts” to push for worker-retraining legislation and a bill to bar the replacement of striking workers. And Clinton’s help in ending the flight attendants’ strike against American Airlines Inc. is a far cry from Ronald Reagan’s firing of air-traffic controllers.

But for labor and the Clintonites to reach an accommodation, union leaders must abandon efforts to stop immutable economic forces. Instead, they must take the lead in preparing workers to face upheaval. Labor and Democrats share an ambitious agenda that includes health care, job training, improved schools, and worker-safety initiatives. “We had an intense squabble, but it’s time to move on,” says Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich. After the passions of NAFTA have cooled, unions may discover they agree.

If unions want to save health care reform – and themselves – they must oppose this bill.  Or else it’s NAFTA redux for everyone involved.

CommunityFDL Main Blog

Rahm: Passing Health Care Will Be Just Like Passing NAFTA

Rahm's noseIn case you had any doubts the passage of the health care bill will be just as disastrous for Democrats and the labor movement as the rout of 1994, Rahm Emanuel is here to reassure you. It will be just like NAFTA! And Rahm thinks that’s a good thing.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been telling Democrats a win on the health issue will reverse the slide in public opinion, just as passage of another controversial proposal, the North American Free Trade Agreement, lifted President Bill Clinton in the polls.

Gulp.

If the unions aren’t listening, they better now. (more…)

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Michael Whitney

Michael Whitney

My name is Michael Whitney. I'm a progressive online organizer working with FDL Action. Rush Limbaugh called me "clueless" once. He went into rehab two days later.

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