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Unions Can Lead the Struggle for Single-Payer Health Care

12:21 pm in Uncategorized by Kay Tillow

Despite passage of the 2010 health care reform bill, employers continue to push for cuts in benefits and to shift costs to workers in higher monthly payments, co-pays, and deductibles.

Wage increases are always trumped by this costly health care monster. Some employers, in anticipation of the $2,000 annual fine for not offering health insurance, are threatening to drop coverage and instead pay the cheaper fine.

Many companies are dropping benefits for spouses, retirees, and part-timers. Current law does not stop them. Multiemployer plans are disadvantaged by the preferable treatment available to the plans of non-union employers. The 2018 excise tax will cap the ability to bargain better health benefits. Insurance companies continue to decide what doctors and hospitals workers can use.

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Unions are playing in a ball park where the odds are stacked against them, a field dominated by private health insurance companies. Unions need a new arena where they can win the battle, improve coverage, and secure it once and for all.

Unions Have a Big Stake in Winning Single-Payer

  • Currently, nonunion employers undercut union ones by avoiding health care coverage. Ending this unfair advantage will be, like prevailing wage law, a crucial step for progress.
  • With single payer, unions’ ability to win contract struggles will be enhanced.  Now, for many unions, health coverage ends within 30 days of a work stoppage or lockout, placing outrageous pressure on workers to settle for less. With single payer, health coverage never ends.
  • With single payer in effect, unions, including those with multiemployer plans, can use their health care bargaining power to improve pensions, sick pay, and other benefits as well as wages.
  • Some union retirees currently have health benefits through VEBA’s. Many of these retirees are in jeopardy of benefit cuts due to rising health costs and limited VEBA funding.  With single payer the problem is solved.
  • Currently, many workers are fearful of organizing because they are afraid to risk losing health insurance coverage.  That risk will be gone with single payer.
  • Labor can win respect and gain support from those who are not in unions by defending not only its own members but by leading the fight for health care for all.
  • In countries that have a form of single payer universal care, a higher percentage of the workers are in unions. In 2011, rates of unionization were: Sweden  67.5%, Canada 26.8%, United Kingdom 25.6%, U. S. 11.3%. 

The Whole Country Wins with Single Payer

Union members are not the only ones in jeopardy now. Our states and cities are strapped by the health insurance burden that siphons public funds from education, jobs, and all the beneficial programs we need.

There’s nothing inevitable about the costly health insurance system we have in the U.S. where private insurance companies dictate what physicians workers can see and what claims to deny.

In fact, the U. S. is the only major industrialized nation that doesn’t have some type of national, universal health care.

Did You Know?

  • According to President Bill Clinton, the U.S. could save $1 trillion per year by adopting the health system of any other advanced country
  • The U.S. spends about twice as much per person on health care as other industrialized nations, yet our life expectancy, infant mortality, and other outcomes fall short.
  • 16% to 20% of the big private insurance companies’ premiums are wasted on marketing, CEO salaries, profits, paperwork and bureaucracy rather than health care services.
  • Drug prices in countries with national health systems are a third to a half lower than in the U.S.
  • Over 30 million will remain without health insurance even when the health reform bill (ACA) is fully implemented.
  • About 31% of U.S. health spending is on administration, most of it waste.
  • Tens of thousands of Americans die every year because of no health care coverage, and millions more, including those with insurance, forego care because of the cost.
  • Studies show a single-payer health care system would save $400 billion annually, enough to cover all the uninsured and to upgrade everyone’s coverage.
  • Under our employer-based system, if you lose your job, you lose your health insurance too — just when you need it the most!
  • More than half of personal bankruptcies are attributable to illness and medical bills.
  • With single payer, each person chooses their physicians, other caregivers, and hospitals.

The “Expanded & Improved Medicare for all Act,” H.R. 676

Congressman John Conyers Jr.(D-Mich.) has introduced H.R. 676 into every Congress since 2003.

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Happy 49th Medicare, Improve It, Expand It to All, HR 676

10:13 pm in Uncategorized by Kay Tillow

Louisville Celebrated Medicare’s Birthday

Lighting Up the Night from the Big Four Bridge

Thousands attending a riverside concert on July 30, 2014, saw the message curving across the city skyline.  Louisville joined dozens of cities in celebration of our nation’s best health program.

We must protect Medicare for it has lifted generations of seniors from poverty, made the hospitals of the South integrate because Medicare could not be collected by those who segregated, brought dialysis to all with kidney failure, and shown that this public program works efficiently and saves money.

Yet we must improve Medicare for even with it some cannot afford care–it does not cover dental, nor hearing aids, nor nursing homes, co-pays and deductibles are growing, many drugs are very expensive, and there is growing privatization through for-profit Medicare Advantage plans.

And we must expand Medicare so that every person, regardless of age, has health care.  By passing HR 676, national single payer health care, we will protect and secure Medicare, save billions annually, and bring improved care to all making health care a human right.

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Looking under the ramp of the Big Four Bridge towards downtown Louisville.

On July 30, 2014, as part of the nationwide celebration of Medicare’s Birthday, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) spoke about HR 676, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, on the floor of the Congress.

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Lawrence Winburn, Jr. and his daughter holding the lighted letters high up on the ramp.

Two additional representatives signed on to HR 676 in July, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Congresswoman Katherine M. Clark (D-MA) bringing the total of co-sponsors to 60.

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A view to the east with Louisville’s latest attraction, the Big Four Bridge for walkers and bicyclists.

The people have to place the issue on the nation’s agenda. The demand must become so overwhelming that there is a seismic change in what is possible. Earthquakes happen after a build up of pressure. Call your congressperson and ask her or him to sign on to HR 676. This is the switchboard. Ask for your rep by name. 1-202-224-3121

Scotty Pulliam, Dr. Garrett Adams, Keith Rouda, and Mark McKinley carry the big lighted boards.

There are additional photos of this event here.

The lighted signs were made and carried by the members and friends of Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Care.
Find us and like us on Facebook. Thanks to the OverpassLightBrigade and to Leslie Harris of the North Texas Light Brigade for sharing their ideas and experience.

Vicco, Ky, Stays in Spotlight, Endorses Single Payer, HR 676

4:48 pm in Uncategorized by Kay Tillow

After 22 years in the coal mines, Jimmy Slone is still working—now as a City Commissioner for Vicco, Kentucky. His black lung disease does not stop him from getting up in the middle of the night to assure that the city’s water system is safe. He and his fellow commissioners volunteer their time to better their town. They show the courage of their convictions in other ways. They voted to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and have called on the nation to pass Single Payer Health Care, HR 676, Congressman John Conyers’ Improved Medicare for All bill.

Jimmy Slone, City Commissioner, Vicco, Kentucky


Press Release, Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Care

January 30, 2014

VICCO, Ky—This little Appalachian community that made national news a year ago by passing a Fairness Ordinance did it again tonight. It voted to endorse Single Payer Healthcare, HR 676, joining 54 other American cities, including Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore.

The struggling coal town of 334 people unanimously endorsed Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, HR 676, national single payer legislation sponsored by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI). Vicco—established by the Virginia Iron Coal and Coke Company—is now the fourth Kentucky local government to favor Single Payer Healthcare. The others are Metro Louisville, Boyle County, and the City of Morehead. In 2007, the Kentucky House legislators also endorsed the bill.

Vicco was put on the map early last year when the New York Times, USA Today, the LA Times and other national media covered the passage of the town’s new law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It was the smallest city in America to pass such a law.

Vicco gained further fame last August when Mayor Johnny Cummings and City Commissioners were featured on the Colbert Show on cable television. The Colbert Segment went viral with almost three quarters of a million views.

Since then, Vicco Mayor Johnny Cummings and the city commissioners have won further state and national praise. At an event that featured Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan last September, University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto referred to Vicco when he described Kentucky as a place “deep in values that show up in unexpected ways and in unexpected places.”

Vicco’s new-found reputation as a progressive and humane community led to a presentation Monday night on health care by Dr. Garrett Adams, past president of Physicians for a National Health Program, and three Louisville colleagues, all representing Kentuckians for Single Payer Healthcare (KSPH).

The KSPH members pointed out that every person in Vicco—and everywhere else in the United States—would be covered by a plan similar to but better than the Medicare system that now serves those over 65 years of age. The HR 676 bill would expand Medicare to all ages and would improve it to include dental, vision, mental health–all medically necessary care. Patients would choose their own doctors and hospitals and there would be no co-pays or deductibles. HR 676 would annually save over $400 billion by ending the profits and waste caused by private insurance companies. The savings would then be used to expand an improved care to everyone in the country.

Kay Tillow, Chair of KSPH, said, “It’s a moral issue. We believe that health care should not depend on ability to pay. We invite other cities to join our grassroots movement.”

The Vicco city commissioners decided to throw the weight of the town government behind this movement.


Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Care
(502) 636 1551

Quilt on the wall at the Vicco City Hall

Text of the Resolution under the seal of the City of Vicco

Whereas: Barriers to quality medical care infringe on the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and access to health care is a fundamental human right, and;

Whereas a bill has been introduced in Congress, HR 676, aka The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, that will provide all medically necessary care, including dental and prescription drugs, to everyone in the country from birth to death. There will be no co-pays nor deductibles so that inability to pay will be removed as an impediment to care.

Whereas with HR 676 each person will choose their own physicians, hospitals, and other providers.

Therefore be it resolved that the City of Vicco wholeheartedly endorses HR 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act; and

Be it further resolved that we call on our representative in Congress, Representative Harold Rogers, to formally co-sponsor HR 676 so that the people of our city, our state, and our nation can move forward toward the excellent health care we deserve.

Mayor Johnny Cummings
Claude Branson, Commissioner
Lula Regina Gibson, Commissioner
Jimmy Slone, Commissioner


The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)

9:29 pm in Uncategorized by Kay Tillow

“Of all the forms of inequality,

injustice in healthcare is the

most shocking and inhuman.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., March 25, 1966


Yet 48 years after Dr. King spoke those words, our country still suffers over 83,000 excess deaths each year among African Americans–deaths that would not happen if there were equality.

Our country’s health system leaves tens of millions of all colors without health insurance or with insurance so skimpy they cannot afford to use it.

Now, under the guise of solving the deficit problem, there is a relentless attack on Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, the programs our nation won through the struggles of the 30s and of the civil rights era.


The Solution: Improved Medicare for All, HR 676

The good news is that there is a solution. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D MI), the sponsor of the bill that made Dr. King’s Birthday a national holiday, has introduced into the Congress HR 676, The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.

This single payer legislation would divert hundreds of billions of dollars annually from profits and waste generated by the private health insurance industry into good care for everyone. Care would be expanded to all and costs brought under control.

Doctors would be freed from insurance industry interference with care. Patients would be freed to choose their physicians. Dental, eyeglasses, hearing aids, prescription drugs, long term care, doctors, hospitals, home health, mental health—all medically necessary care would be included.

Co-pays and deductibles would be banned ending today’s growing problem that health insurance policies are so miserly that even the insured forgo care because they can’t afford it. All of us would be respected as “covered” patients, ending the flight of hospitals and physicians from our neighborhoods to wealthy areas.

Medicare is not the problem. It operates with less than two percent overhead. The healthcare crisis actually stems from the bloated costs of the private world of insurance companies. Under HR 676, those for-profit companies would be removed, allowing us to improve care and include everyone.

In 2011, Bill Clinton said that we could save $1 trillion a year if we adopted the health care system of any of the other developed countries in the world. All of those countries have universal health care under a single payer type of publicly funded program. No more stewing over the deficit!

The passage of HR 676 would save Medicare, end the uncontrolled, gargantuan rise in health care costs, ease the deficit pressure, and actually bring universal health care to the nation.

So why are we even debating cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid when the solution is at hand that would bring us both better care and cost controls? HR 676, an improved Medicare for All, is sitting in the Congress, awaiting the rising of a movement that will insist upon its passage.

As Dr. King said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Care (502) 636-1551,,

Discretionary Deeming: How One Town Got Improved Medicare

9:03 pm in Uncategorized by Kay Tillow

Buried deep in the health reform law is Section 10323. It amends the Social Security Act to extend Medicare coverage to individuals exposed to environmental health hazards in the region defined by the Emergency Declaration of June 17, 2009. That declaration limits this benefit to the area around Libby, Montana.

Downtown Libby, Montana

Asbestos victims in Libby, Montana deserve single payer healthcare. But don’t we all?

Section 10323 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) calls it “deeming of Individuals as eligible for Medicare benefits.” People do not have to be age 65, or wait two years following disability, or to have paid into the Medicare system. The victims of asbestos in Libby were simply “deemed” to be eligible for Medicare. It was described as “discretionary deeming.”

Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, who hired insurance executive Liz Fowler to write the health reform act, slipped Section 10323 into the law assuring that all those with asbestos-related conditions in the community around Libby, Montana get into Medicare, our single payer program for all those over 65. Further, for this designated group of Montanans, Baucus arranged additional special benefits not normally available to Medicare patients.

Baucus “deemed” single payer off the table

It’s true. Senator Baucus “deemed” single payer off the table during the 2009 health care debate. He had physicians and others arrested for insisting that single payer be included in the nation’s discussion. Baucus effectively locked out any consideration of such a plan. But he gave our country’s single payer program, Medicare, to the people of Libby.  And they got free drugs, too.

The victims of asbestos exposure in Libby, regardless of age, are eligible for traditional Medicare, plus, under an additional program that Baucus included in the ACA, the government also pays for services not included under Medicare, such as home care, medical equipment, counseling, help with travel, and medications not covered by Medicare prescription plans.

Insurance companies use co-pays to exclude the sick

Coverage of drugs can be crucial. Outrageous drug prices continue to threaten all who depend on costly medications.  While the ACA bars health insurance plans from refusing to cover those who are sick, insurance companies have found ways to keep patients with cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, AIDS, and other conditions out of their plans. Some insurance companies have made the co-pays on the drugs needed by such patients as high as $1,000 to $6,000 a month, effectively excluding those with pre-existing conditions.

Goodness knows the people of Libby deserve to have Medicare—with free drugs and home care and medical equipment and help with travel and much more. After all, the W. R. Grace company whose vermiculite mine poisoned their entire region left thousands, not just the miners, suffering and dying.

But the senator who helped Libby also made certain that all the rest of us would be left out—that the nation could not even consider the merits of HR 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, that would free our country from the health insurance companies that continue to hold us hostage.

The Libby solution, single payer

As health reform rolls into a new stage where some who have been left out find help but millions more, both insured and uninsured, find the costs of care still beyond their means, let us look to the Libby solution, publicly-funded single payer, for the answer.

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Some unions protest Obamacare’s impact on Multiemployer Health Plans

10:28 pm in Uncategorized by Kay Tillow

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, also known as Obamacare, presents challenges to the multiemployer plans through which some unions bargain collectively to provide health care insurance for their members.  These plans, often called Taft Hartley Plans, currently cover about 26 million workers, families, and retirees.  Unless there is a major regulatory change made by Health and Human Services, these union negotiated plans will be struck a harsh blow once the exchanges go into effect in 2014.

A quiet effort by many unions to persuade the Obama administration to make this change is now becoming very public.

In an Op Ed published in The Hill, Joseph T. Hansen, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), said,

But as currently interpreted, the ACA would block these plans from the law’s benefits (such as the subsidy for lower-income individuals and families) while subjecting them to the law’s penalties (like the $63 per insured person to subsidize Big Insurance). This creates unstoppable incentives for employers to reduce weekly hours for workers currently on our plans and push them onto the exchanges where many will pay higher costs for poorer insurance with a more limited network of providers. In other words, they will be forced to change their coverage and quite possibly their doctor. Others will be channeled into Medicaid, where taxpayers must pick up the tab.

In addition, the ACA includes a fine for failing to cover full-time workers but includes no such penalty for part-timers (defined as working less than 30 hours a week). As a result, many employers are either reducing hours below 30 or discontinuing part-time health coverage altogether. This is a cut in pay and benefits workers simply cannot afford. For example, a worker making $10 an hour that has his or her schedule cut by six hours a week would lose $3,100 a year in income. With millions of workers impacted, this would have a devastating effect on our economy.


Alaska UFCW

The effort of unions to persuade the Obama administration to change the regulations in order to resolve the problems was reported in the January 30, 2013, Wall St. Journal.

“Top officers at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, theAFL-CIO and other large labor groups plan to keep pressing the Obama administration to expand the federal subsidies to these jointly run plans, warning that unionized employers may otherwise drop coverage.”

“We are going back to the administration to say that this is not acceptable,” said Ken Hall, general secretary-treasurer for the Teamsters, according to the WSJ article.

Many unions have been working through the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP) to find a solution.  In a memorandum to the Department of Health and Human Services, the NCCMP stated:

If subsidies are available only for plans purchased through Exchanges, employers contributing to multiemployer plans will face tremendous economic pressure to stop contributing to multiemployer plans…. Many employers will feel the need to drop coverage and access the subsidies to remain competitive.

On April 16, 2013, the United Union of roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers International President Kinsey M. Robinson issued a statement calling for a repeal or complete reform of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA).  He stated that the union has supported President Obama for both terms in office but that the union’s concerns “over certain provisions in the ACA have not been addressed, or in some instances, totally ignored.”

“In the rush to achieve its passage, many of the Act’s provisions were not fully conceived, resulting in unintended consequences that are inconsistent with the promise that those who were satisfied with their employer sponsored coverage could keep it.  These provisions jeopardize our multi-employer health plans, have the potential to cause a loss of work for our members, create an unfair bidding advantage for those contractors who do not provide health coverage to their workers, and in the worst case, may cause our members and their families to lose the benefits they currently enjoy as participants in multi-employer health plans,” Robinson stated.

The Cornell University Industrial and Labor Relations School recently held a special workshop on The Affordable Care Act:  Impact on Multiemployer Plans.  The materials from that educational event are available here.

So far there is no adequate answer from the Obama administation to the efforts of unions to resolve the issues.  The state exchanges must be in place by October of 2013 so that they are ready to go byJanuary 1, 2014.

Many of the unions involved contend that regulations for the ACA could be written to allow the employers that pay into these union negotiated plans to receive the same subsidies that employers will receive in the exchanges.  So far, that has not happened.

This is one of many conundrums that face unions as the costs of health care in our corporate-controlled, profit-oriented system make the maintenance of health benefits increasingly difficult to achieve.
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Over 7,000 March to Demand Return of Stolen Health Benefits

9:43 am in Uncategorized by Kay Tillow


 16 arrested in Charleston, WV

Charleston,West Virginia. April 1, 2013.  They boarded buses and cars before dawn, some the night before, coming from the coalfields of Illinois,Pennsylvania,Kentucky,Virginia,Ohio,Indiana, and all acrossWest Virginia.  By10:00 AM over 7,000 had packed into the giant Charleston Civic Center to voice their support for the 23,000 miners and their families who face the loss of their lifetime health benefits in a bankruptcy scam.


In a series of mergers and deals, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal transferred their contractual health benefit obligations to Patriot Coal.  InSt. Louis,Missouri, in March, 2013, Patriot Coal filed in bankruptcy court seeking to terminate the United Mine Workers (UMWA) contract and set up instead a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) for the retirees and families. 


Patriot seeks to put only a pittance into the VEBA, vastly underfunding it.  UMWA President Cecil E. Roberts has said this plan would “put thousands of retired coal miners, their dependents or their widows on the path to financial ruin, worsening health conditions or even death.”


The UMWA pioneered in healthcare benefits and pensions when they battled coal operators and the American Medical Association to establish the UMWA Health & Welfare Fund.  John L. Lewis and the union defied accusations of socialized medicine to set up miners’ clinics and built the miners’ hospitals that serve today as the backbone of health care in Appalachia.  The UMWA won early retirement with family coverage for miners who retired before they were 65.  These achievements of the miners’ struggles are under attack by Patriot, Peabody, and Arch.  Most unions, following the lead of the UMWA, have negotiated early retirement with employers picking up the cost of health care until Medicare kicks in.  The attack on UMWA retirees is a snapshot of what employers have in store for union negotiated early retirement plans.

The miners’ fight is winning political support.  The West Virginia state Senate and House of Delegates have passed resolutions calling on Patriot Coal to meet its commitment to provide pension and health benefits to miners.  Elected leaders are feeling some heat, judging by the number of the powerful who appeared at the Civic Centerto express their support. 

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin greeted the crowd.  “I’m fromLogan County the heart of coal mining…I’m honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with you for the benefits of our retired miners.”


Dan Kane, UMWA Secretary Treasurer spoke.  “To cast aside those who earned benefits through decades of back breaking labor is like taking money—it’s theft.” 


Kane called for a Congressional investigation.  “Who’s looking into this conspiracy?  We will fight to protect our health care no matter what it takes.  We will follow these robber barons and we will shine the light of truth on these evil deeds.  We are on the right side of history.”

West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller appeared through a video.   ”We must hold Peabody, Arch and Patriot to the promises they have made,” Rockefeller said.  He spoke of the introduction of the Coal Accountability and Retired Employee Act.

Representative Nick Rahall of West Virginia declared that “In 1912 Mother Jones said that the labor movement was a command from God Almighty.”  He said that the promise to the miners must be kept.  “No white flag…this is an uphill battle, but everyone here knows how to walk uphill.”

West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant described herself as a union member and said that this is an attack on all American workers.  “It happened at Century Aluminum to steelworkers.”  Tomorrow, she said it will happen to many more until we stop “these fraudulent transactions.”

“We can’t let this stand.  This is an attempt to take away the health care that was won on your broken backs, on your black lungs and on the memories of your fellow miners who took their last breaths in the coal mines,” Tennant said. “What’s worrisome is that tomorrow it can be an attack on construction workers, nurses, secretaries, teachers; who knows where it stops?”

West Virginia’s Junior Senator, Joe Manchin spoke against Patriot’s attempt to have retirement obligations dismissed in bankruptcy but also condemnedPeabodyand Arch for shifting their liabilities.

Manchin said he knows and talks to the owners of these companies.  “I’ve told them, where I come from, you can’t make wrong right. You can’t, no matter how hard you try.  You can’t shine crap, and by God, this is crap. You can’t make this stuff look good, you can’t make it smell good and you sure as hell can’t make it taste good.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka brought support from 12.5 million members of theAFL-CIO.  He said that when they dumped all the legacy costs onto one little company they knew it would fail.  He said that we’ve been “living and working under the threat of vulture capitalism.”  He addressed Patriot,Peabody, and Arch, “You can’t use the courts to steal because we won’t let you.”

UMWA President Cecil Roberts concluded the indoor rally.  He said that 42 have already been arrested inSt. Louiswhere the bankruptcy court is convened.  That includes all of the members of the International Executive Board of the UMWA.  He spoke of the broadening of this movement with faith leaders from the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, and the Catholic Church who would be joining today in non-violent civil disobedience and arrest in protest against this moral outrage.  He recognized the Teachers, CWA, USW, UAW, and the many unions that were in the hall.

Roberts said “We know who did this –they are wearing $10,000 suits and Gucci shoes.  We know where they are.  We are going to be like Jesus who threw the money changers out of the temple.”

At the conclusion of his speech people moved in orderly fashion to march to the headquarters of Patriot at Laidley Towers.  When the front of the march arrived, the streets were still packed all the way back to theCivic Center.  Many workers cheered from the steps of their office buildings.

Moms and dads sheltered the babies from the light rain and kept walking.  The camouflage UMWA shirts read “We are Everywhere” and “No Health Care, No Coal.” 

A brief rally continued across from Patriot.  Doris Crouse-Mays, President of the VirginiaAFL-CIO, said that this will be the “first time that I’ve ever gone to jail in my life and I can’t think of a better reason.”  She was joined in being arrested by KentuckyAFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan and West Virginia AFL-CIO President Ken Perdue.

Three religious leaders were among the 16 arrested, Father John Rausch, Director of the Catholic Committee on Appalachia,  Rev. James Lewis, Episcopal priest, and Rev. Donald Prange, St. James United Church of Christ, Lovettsville, VA. 

Before leading the group to sit down on the steps of the Laidley Towers, Cecil Roberts paid tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King who taught non-violent resistance to unjust laws.  Roberts said we must build a movement that is more powerful than all of their money.  “We are over 7,000 today and we will be back with 20,000 and then 30,000.  If we can’t get justice in the court house, we will take it to the state house.  If we don’t get justice there, we must take it to the streets.” 

The powerful march and rally made the news not only inWest Virginia but also in the Wall St. Journal, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and across the country.    

Throughout hours of speeches about health care, neither politicians nor labors leaders mentioned the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as Obamacare, the health care reform that was passed in 2010.  Clearly the ACA provides no remedy for the health care crises that workers and retirees face. 

Only a national single payer plan, HR 676, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All, can provide the needed care.  By removing the private for-profit health insurance companies and hospitals through HR 676, the nation can save $400 billion a year yet expand care to all.

HR 676 makes the wealthy pay a larger share and stops non-union employers from being able to underbid unionized companies.  With HR 676 there will be no more profiting from the denial of care. 

Until we can build the movement that can pass HR 676, everyone should join the battle to preserve the health care won through union contracts.  So do something to help the miners.  Ask your senators and congressperson to support the UMWA demands.

Sign the petition for the UMWA.  Check out the UMWA on facebook.  Watch for more demonstrations to come.

Distributed by:

All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care–HR 676
c/o Nurses Professional Organization (NPO)
1169 Eastern Parkway, Suite 2218
Louisville, KY 40217



Miners arrested in fight to end Peabody’s stealing of health benefits

3:20 pm in Uncategorized by Kay Tillow

Coal execs deserve “a cell next to Bernie Madoff” 

Peabody Coal Mine

Peabody Coal Mine

St. Louis,MO. February 13, 2013.  Shirley Inman was arrested for peaceful, civil disobedience as she protested at the Peabody Energy headquarters against the corporate threat to rob miners and their families of the health benefits they have earned.  Inman, a member of United Mine Workers of America Local 2286 in Madison,West Virginia, spent 18 years driving a coal truck.  Head held high, Inman faced arrest with a determination much greater than her petite stature.  She is serious about this fight.

If I can’t get my medication for my heart disease, I won’t be around much longer,” said Inman. “I’m a breast cancer survivor and I have coronary artery disease. Health care isn’t an option for me; it’s what I need to survive. I’ll do whatever it takes to make these corporate executives keep the promises they made – and if that means going to jail, so be it.”

Inman was arrested with nine of her union brothers, including UMWA Secretary Treasurer Dan Kane.  This was the second set of arrests at Peabody Energy, and it looks like there will be more to come.  On January 29 UMWA President Cecil Roberts was arrested with the first group, but he was not present for this rally because of negotiations.

In 2007, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal spun off a large chunk of their health care and retirement obligations to a new entity called Patriot Coal.  In a financial and bankruptcy transaction that UMWA Vice President from Alabama, Daryl Dewberry, described as “nickel slick”, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal are trying to wash their hands of responsibility for the health benefits for which they had signed contracts.

There was an air of militancy as more than 1,000 miners and supporters marched to the park and rallied between the St. Louis arch and the Peabody headquarters prior to the arrests.  There was emotion also.  Health care hits close to the heart.  The union has challenged the theft of benefits in court, and the case has been moved to St. Louis.  Concerned that bankruptcy law may not be adequate to protect these benefits, the miners say they will win this battle by appealing to a higher moral law.

Dan Kane, UMWA Secretary Treasurer explained.  “They intentionally put Patriot in the position for bankruptcy.  They want this in the bankruptcy court—they don’t want it in the court of public opinion.  This is about every man and woman who works for a living.  Health care and pension are not gifts.  You paid for it.  But these companies are using bankruptcy more and more.  Lawyers will get paid.  Million dollar bonuses will go to executives.  The heads of Patriot won’t suffer.  Those who did the work walk out with nothing.  That has to stop.  We don’t want their sympathy.  What we want is justice.”

“We want what we’ve earned,” said Kane.  “They want to go to their palatial homes—but they deserve a cell next to Bernie Madoff.  I’m tired of an economy that walks all over the workers.  I look for a day when we win the fight so every person who wants to can be in a union without interference.  And next, I look for a day when each and every one drops their tools and sits down for a day and tells the executives here’s what it’s like without us.”  The protesters roared approval.

Dewberry said the UMWA was founded in 1890 “when it was not popular to have all creeds and colors together, but we did it and we’ve been doing it for over 100 years.”  He said that miners are “used to adversity and we are all our brothers’ keepers. Peabodyleft scars in Alabama.  Arch left scars in Alabama.  They left black lung.  Miners took less benefits to assure health care.”
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Only an uprising can save us from Social Security Cuts

4:24 pm in Uncategorized by Kay Tillow

 In his recent proposal, President Obama included a change in the cost of living adjustment (COLA) that will make cuts in Social Security benefits.  Ugly, hurtful cuts. 

This COLA cut is called Chained CPI.  It would do real damage by changing the formula used to calculate the COLA. 

It’s a real and harmful cut to the Social Security benefits you have earned.

The Chained CPI COLA cuts benefits more every year.  After 10 years, your benefits would be cut by about $500 a year for the average retiree.  After 20 years, your benefits would be cut by about $1,000 a year. 

Switching to the Chained CPIwould hurt both current and future beneficiaries.

Social Security should not be part of any such deal anyway.  By law, it can’t contribute to the budget deficit.  It’s only permitted to spend money from the Social Security trust fund, as affirmed by Clinton’s Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.   

Speaker Boehner and President Obama are tussling over a deal that would save around $1 trillion over 10 years.  Yet Bill Clinton has admitted that the U. S.could save that amount, $1 trillion,–in one year and each and every year, not 10 years–by adopting the health care system of any other advanced nation.   

Astounding, but true.  To end the deficit and bring care to all, Congress could simply pass Congressman John Conyers’ bill, HR 676, national single payer health care.  No cuts, no agonizing, no problem. 

In the meantime, only an uprising can persuade President Obama and Congress that we will not stand for these social security cuts—nor any other cuts to Medicare or Medicaid—the programs won through generations of struggles for a better life.

Tell President Obama that the Chained CPI is unacceptable. 

Call the White House (202) 456-1111. 

Call your Senators and representative with the same message:  202-224-3121.  

You can put in your zip code and find them here

“I’m telling you this so that everyone is very clear:  if you want to save Social Security from serious benefit cuts that will cause seniors to go hungry and have their utilities shut off, you have to act. You have to rise up and raise hell, because otherwise this train is going down the tracks — it won’t be stopped unless a lot of people get in the way NOW,” said Mike Lux, author of “The Progressive revolution:  How the Best in America Came to be.”  

He asks everyone to make the calls, then adds:

“But it is going to take people doing more. Make sure your parents, grandparents, and everyone else you know does something. Talk to people at work and at church and everywhere you go….  Show up at your congressperson’s office and let them know what you think. Organize a picket outside that congressional office.

“Do not hold anything back if you care about this issue. And maybe, just maybe, if enough of us raise some hell, this train headed down the track to cutting Social Security benefits, to taking money out of the hands of vulnerable innocents who had nothing to do with the deficits, will be forced to stop.”   

This message is brought to you by:

All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care–HR 676
c/o Nurses Professional Organization (NPO)
1169 Eastern Parkway, Suite 2218
Louisville, KY 40217


Solution to a Busted VEBA: Single Payer Health Care, HR 676

11:03 am in Uncategorized by Kay Tillow

Detroit Diesel has been around since April 1937, a few months after the Flint sit down strike that won union recognition. 

This year, 1,100 retired auto workers at Detroit Diesel suffered a giant cut in company provision of health benefits because their Voluntary Employees Benefits Association, VEBA, went belly up.  Workers who retired between 1993 and 2004 will have to pick up an increasing share of the premiums that were once fully covered by the company.  Some retirees will have to pay as much as $4,000 per year, or even higher, just to keep their health coverage.

VEBAs are spreading.  Many companies seek to shift their liability for future health costs to the workers or the union through establishment of a VEBA.

So how do unions and workers, who are in danger of losing health benefits for which they worked for decades, fight back?  Educate and organize for national single payer health care, HR 676, an improved Medicare for all.  Build a movement that demands it.  Spread the word.  March for it. 

With HR 676 what happens to locked out workers?  Health coverage continues.  To workers on strike?  Coverage continues.  To early retirees?  Coverage continues.  To laid off workers?  Coverage continues.   

“Our struggle is not for more or better VEBAs.  That was the condition we faced in the last decade.  In this decade, we only have one choice, National Health Care (HR 676),” says Al Gladyck of the UAW Local 7 Retirees Chapter and former Chief Steward at Chrysler’s Jefferson Assembly Plant.

“HR 676 would make this situation a thing of the past” Gladyck said, referring to the Detroit Diesel retirees’ loss.

Gladyck is one of the leaders of Retirees for Single Payer Health Care which meets regularly at UAW Local 22, 4300 Michigan Avenue in Detroit.  He has written three articles on Detroit Diesel, VEBAs, and the solution.  They are well worth reading.

Detroit Diesel:  The Death of a VEBA and the Cost to Retirees

Part I 

Part II

Part III

To find the ongoing activities of Retirees for Single Payer Health Care in Detroit, click here.


Kay Tillow

All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care—HR 676