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Neil Conan interviews Andy Stern, caller calls Stern out on health care defeatism

DCblogger's picture

Walter calls in to NPR

WALTER (Caller): Yeah. Mr. Stern, I’d like to ask you why and before Congress at the present moment, there is a bill sponsored or co-sponsored by no less than 90 representatives, HR 676, which calls for universal single-payer national health insurance, which is the only solution, the only viable solution to the current health care crisis, and the only solution that your rank and file employees including myself that endorsed, while you reject HR 676 in favor of some nebulous plan put together by Barack Obama, somewhat similar to Hillary Clinton’s, that essentially guarantees every American the right to pay for their own health insurance at a very premium rate through companies that will cap that form – the form of care that…

Mr. STERN: I pretty – I understand. You know, A, we were the first union in America to endorse HR 676.

WALTER: Not you, though.


WALTER: I’m not talking about (unintelligible)…

Mr. STERN: So, yes, we were - under my direction and leadership, we endorsed HR 676, one. Two is this is not an academic debate. For a hundred years, America has been the only nation on earth that has not found an American solution to the health-care crisis. And we are on the verge today for the first time in my lifetime under Barack Obama’s leadership as a result of this election of making sure every man, woman, and child has quality affordable health care. And the two things we know about health care is the longer you wait, the worse it gets. And that if you let the perfect be the enemy of the good, nothing will happen. We have a chance to solve this problem once and for all. It’ll improve America’s competitiveness. It will get America started on the road to a health-care system we all can be proud of, and I don’t think we should miss the moment.

CONAN: You’re basically saying single-payer would be a better system, but can’t pass right now?

Mr. STERN: I would say single payer has been around a long time. It has obviously lots of advantages. It’s never been tried in the United States. It’s just an academic argument at this point in time that is not going to happen. Pete Stark acknowledges it, and many of the supporters in Congress acknowledge it. Let’s get something done in America because people are dying every day, or suffering every day, or insecure because they don’t have health care.

Some how we have to communicate to our union leadership that they are not hired to promote health care defeatism. Three cheers for Walter.

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Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

If the SEIU has endorsed single-payer, why is Stern trying so very badly to personally run-away from it in that conversation? It doesn't make any sense at all. What does Stern gain from being ambiguous. If I had to bet money, I'd be that he's for it. It's not as if he has to remain neutral because his union has backed it. They have. So, why is he running away from it? I really like Stern, but this is just weird.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

the members want it, they endorsed it at their national convention. So, Stern is saying that the union endorsed it, but he isn't going to fight for it, in fact, he is going to undermine it. If SEIU members keep calling him on this it will change.

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

What I'd like to know is why? And, the question was more rhetorical out of expasperation. Given how incredibly mainstream this has gotten, why would any so-called liberal dinstance himself from something so good after an election that has at least in appearance given libeals all kinds of room to work with? Seriously, whether Obama is liberal or not (and he's not), he tricked and turned out a hell of a lot of liberals, many who are expecting things. Given that, what does someone like Stern gain from walking back single-payer? The only thing that this can be chalked up to is Stern being a total fraud.

Rangoon 78's picture
Submitted by Rangoon 78 on

Andy Stern is in my opinion a judis goat for capitalism; in the same way Barack Obama pulls the focus away from those calling for meaningful liberal change with empty rhetoric. They are both the corporations wet dream.
The more I find out about Andy Stern and the SEIU the more it stinks. This interview with a bright young man who is a professor of labor and officer of a California healthcare worker's union which is under attack is worth listening to if you have time.

Submitted by ohio on

I don't know how compensation packages are structured in labor agreements, but aren't unions hot to get their hands on pensions and other benefit package money? Don't some of them control those funds? And don't some of them use the fact that a company may owe their membership money as leverage?

If we have single payer, any money that may now go for private insurance goes to Uncle Sam. There can be no borrowing or putting off because Uncle Sam likes his money and the IRS is chock full o'---well, I was going to use a bad word, but hell, the folks at the IRS are people, too, so I won't.

My point: Any time money moves, someone is always trying to get a piece. Union leadership is no different.

I'm like Damon, I want to know why. So what's in it for Andy Stern? Power over memebership or industry leaders, advantage in negotiation, or money. Private insurance means fellows like Andy Stern will have a shot at redirecting benefits in the form of cash into union coffers---and that's a lot of money.

And again with the "American solution" bs. Funny that he missed his talking point, though: Uniquely American Solution.TM Without the "uniquely," it just ain't fancy-sounding enough.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I hate to say Stern is on the take just because he disagrees with me. I would sort of want evidence for that.

Stern is not doing right by the membership. We don't know why he isn't doing right by the membership, we just know that he isn't.

Submitted by ohio on

This is control of funds. Sorta like what Jimmy Hoffa wanted to do with the Teamster pension funds---get union control of the money for private health insurance, as opposed to how it works now, which is companies promise to pay for pensions and healthcare for retirees with future earnings instead of socking it away.

For example, there is no vault where all the SEIU pension money goes. It is, essentially, held as securities in the entities that they work for---those entities promise to be in business whenn an SEIU member retires and starts drawing from his or her pension. But I don't think it's regulated the way securites are---or at least, are supposed to be. The problem with any such plan is that your pension fund is invested narrowly, so you're taking greater risk that you will see no return (or even lose principle) if the company performs poorly or goes out of business, or should a state government default on its obligations ("Hello, State of California? This is the XYZ Collections Agency and a bunch of people who worked for state government their whole lives would like to know where their pension checks are. Hello? Hello? Arnold? Are you there?"

Amazing isn't it? What workers earn (benefits and pensions) is withheld from them by the employers with a promise that they'll get theirs you know, later. Meanwhile, the employers invests money that is not theirs and keep any return, or worse, invest in things like CDOs.

Anyway, Mr. Stern has a much better chance of seizing benefits funds if employers are paying private insurers, as opposed to health insurance that is being covered by the federal government. No way the government would let Stern or any other union leader near that money. But private insurers may even broker a deal with some unions to push for the Obama scheme.

And that's what I'm wondering.

Also, isn't there bad blood between some of the nurses unions and the SEIU? Haven't some of the AFL-CIO locals endorses single payer. Yes, they have---and I remember PNHP had a thing about Pres.-Elect Obama's 2003 support for single payer and uh, change of heart. (I know, google is my friend. But that involves, you know, looking for facts. And I rely on you for that---heh.)

You know, that union hate each other is enough to explain the difference in policy positions here. Labor history is replete with examples of this very thing.

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

This is about Stern not backing the endorsement of his own damned union! What is that all about? If a leader fails to back the policy of his own organization, the only thing that could mean is that Stern's not for single-payer.

But, the more I look over the SEIU's position, it seems to be that they are nominally for HR 676, and that would explain his reluctance, and make it even wose.