The American labor movement has a long history of fighting for the rights of not only union members, but for all workers. The eight-hour workday, safer work conditions and the elimination of child labor are just a few of the rights we take for granted that were gained through the sweat and blood of rank and file union members over the last century.
Unions are still on the front line fighting for the rights of all Americans in a battle between what's best for corporate America and what's right for all of us. Passing universal health care is an issue that will not only transform the lives of millions but will be remembered as the moment when this country lived up to its ideal of equality and declared that access to health care is a right for all of its citizens, not just for those who can afford it.
If not now, when?
The struggle for health care reform has lasted for more than 60 years and each attempt at reform has been met with insurance lobby propaganda campaigns fraught with exaggerations and misinformation that have stifled true debate among the public and intimidated lawmakers in Washington. Scaring the elderly and outright lying are the big corporations and their right-wing media hucksters' latest tactic, inciting the misinformed into angry protest and demonstration.
"If reform has not been passed, this country will still have a major health care crisis that is bleeding the financial resources of the entire nation."
But when the dust settles, if reform has not been passed, this country will still have a major health care crisis that is bleeding the financial resources of the entire nation while infusing the bottom lines of a few. When all the screaming stops, if reform has not been passed, we will still bear the burden of 46 million Americans who have no insurance because they had no voice.
In 1893, the great labor leader Samuel Gompers posed the question, "What does Labor want?" For more than a century, America's unions have answered that time and again, through organizing and mobilizing our members to demand the means of a better life. Union members have won health care benefits for themselves and their families and once again stand ready to fight for you and the rights of all Americans. We believe that lack of access should not be a pre-existing condition. We believe that all citizens of this great country, regardless of economic status, deserve health care benefits.
What does Labor want? As you celebrate this Labor Day Holiday, the Laborers' International Union of North America wants you to join with our more than 500,000 members nationwide in the fight for the rights of all Americans. Now is the time.
John F. Penn is LIUNA Vice President & Midwest Regional Manager. He can be reached via Tim Roseberry at firstname.lastname@example.org.