NO ADVERTISING, GOVERNMENT OR CORPORATE FUNDING

  • Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • USW president supports single-payer health care


    Leo Gerard: I think we should fight for single-payer health care, fight for a principled position -   July 8, 2009
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here

    Share to Facebook Share to Twitter



    I support this network as contributors are allowed the time to develop their arguments - CM
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN

    Bio

    Leo W. Gerard is a steelworker and president of the United Steelworkers (USW). He was involved in the formation of the Industrial Union Council of the AFL-CIO, and in February 2003, was appointed to serve on the AFL-CIO's Executive Committee, as well as serving on its Executive Council. He was named Chair of the AFL-CIO's Public Policy Committee in March 2005.

    Precis

    Paul Jay speaks to Leo Gerard, President of the United Steelworkers' union about his fight for single-payer health care reform and the unionization legislation. Gerard says that, "the unions are first and foremost going to be very active in the fight to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and the fight for health care reform." Speaking on the proposals of the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Gerard says, "I think Senator [Max] Baucus (D-MT) is off the mark," because the Senator's proposal to tax employer provided health care will, "drive more people out of the health care system."

    Transcript

    USW president supports single-payer health careGERALDINE CAHILL, TRNN: Hi. I'm Geraldine Cahill with The Real News Network. This health-care story is part of a series we are doing to help Americans make better-informed decisions about health-care reform. But we can only do this work with your financial support. The economic crisis has hit us hard. Please become a member today so that we can continue bringing you stories like this.

    ~~~

    PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay, coming to you today from Pittsburgh. I'm with Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers. Thanks for joining us, Leo.

    LEO GERARD, PRESIDENT, UNITED STEELWORKERS: My pleasure to be here.

    JAY: So when President Obama was elected, the American union movement had two—maybe more, but two critical objectives. One was real health-care reform, and the Employee Free Choice Act. So let's start with health-care reform. Senator Baucus in the Finance Committee has been saying, well, we're going to please the insurance company and we're going to have some kind of public component, but everyone's going to wind up happy here. But the more we get into this, the more not everyone can be happy here, 'cause the insurance companies have made it very clear, with the Republican Party: they don't want any public component at all. So where are we at, and what are the unions going to do about all this?

    GERARD: Well, obviously, the unions are first and foremost going to be very active in the fight to pass the Employee Free Choice Act and the fight for health-care reform. The health-care system in America is broken, absolutely completely broken. It's the most expensive health-care system in the world, and close to 50 million people have no health care, and almost another 50 [million] have what would be termed inadequate health care. So we're going to be fighting for that. I think Senator Baucus is off the mark. He's talking about things like taxing employer-provided health care. Well, all that will do is drive more people out of the health-care system. And clearly the insurance industry isn't in the business of providing health care; the insurance industry is in the business of making profits.

    JAY: So president Obama has come out to some extent saying there has to be a public component. But many of the people all around him—his chief adviser, [David] Axelrod, was on Stephanopoulos's show on Sunday—a little bit of hedging on the issue of public component coming from the White House. And you guys, there wouldn't be a President Obama right now if there wasn't for the trade unions.

    GERARD: Look it, it's clear, and I take a lot of pride: it wouldn't only be for the trade union movement; he wouldn't have won Pennsylvania and Ohio if it wasn't for the steelworkers and other unions, and so that without winning Pennsylvania and Ohio, he probably wouldn't have become president. Having said that, we need to have health-care reform in this country. I guess I could quote Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill said you can always count on America doing the right thing after they've done everything else. That's what we've been trying to do with health care, right? They went to HMOs and they went to different kinds of models. Now they're saying, "Well, we can't go to a single-payer," yet we all know that a huge part of the expenditures in health care are administrative expenditures. Huge amount of money gets spent. We know that there's way more fragmentation. We know that there's way more testing being done so that doctors are trying to do what they think will generate revenue. And so we need a system that generates health care, not one that generates profits.

    JAY: So are you in support of the single-payer system?

    GERARD: Personally, the Steelworkers Union and myself have been in support of single-payer. This accent's from Canada.

    JAY: So that's—I was going to ask you that next. There's always all this vilification of the Canadian health-care system here, and it seems to go in the media virtually unquestioned, as if it's a given there's something wrong with the Canadian health-care system. Yet when you ask Canadians, by far the majority of Canadians would never choose an American system. But what do you make of the way this plays down here?

    GERARD: I want to correct you as a Canadian. It's not the overwhelming majority; it's almost unanimous that Canadians wouldn't give up their health-care system for the American system. And the fact of the matter is that the Canadian system has a lower infant mortality rate and a higher life expectancy rate. Rich folks don't like it in Canada 'cause they don't get to jump to the front of the queue—everyone's treated the same. Now, having said that, I can also say that the Canadian health-care system has been under attack since the day we got it. Every time there's an election, one of the right-wing governments, whether it's in the province or nationally, cuts expenditures, tries to delist some of the stuff, and they want to try to weaken it. And every election we fight to protect it. And no one would ever dare in Canada run on a campaign that they'll eliminate the Canadian health-care system.

    JAY: It would be suicide.

    GERARD: It would be political suicide. Now, having said that, America spends, depending which economist you're talking to, between 16 and 16.5 percent of its gross domestic product on health care. Driving in this morning to work, I listened to NPR, and there was a person there saying that by 2025, unless we do something, America could be spending 25 percent of its gross domestic product on health care. That is unheard of. No other civilized society in the world could ever think like that.

    JAY: Now, what about within the trade union movement? There's quite a difference of opinion about, quote-unquote, what's "politically possible". And there's a whole section of trade unions—in fact, I think majority of the leadership of most of the unions and the AFL-CIO—who have said: we're going to support the Obama public plan in competition with private insurance companies because, quote-unquote, single-payer's not "politically possible". What do you make of the argument?

    GERARD: Look it, I think that that's the political reality that we're living in at the moment. And I think one of the things we need to be able to do is talk about public plans. In America, the most successful health-care program in the country is Medicare. The other successful government programs in America are Medicaid and the medical care given for vets, vets care. In every one of those three circumstances, if you ask those people if they're happy within that system, it's almost as popular as it is in Canada, so that government-provided, government-sponsored health care in America is already very popular. In most states, the state provides health care for state employees. That's government health care. The fact of the matter is the people that are most unhappy are the people that aren't in the system or the people that are getting exorbitant, exorbitant costs from their insurance companies. And so the fact of the matter is that we're dealing with the political reality, and I think we need to have not a very complicated system. Let us opt into the Medicare-Medicaid system. Let us opt into the the VA system. If you were a vet and you work in a plant, opt into the VA system. And then let's have real competition. We live in the myth in this country that insurance companies provide health care. They don't provide health care. They provide a vehicle to make profits for insurance companies. And one of the ways they do that is by either overcharging or excluding people.

    JAY: So in this battle that's coming, do you agree that in the current conditions, single-payer isn't politically possible? And—.

    GERARD: I think we need to fight for single-payer. I think we ought to be fighting for a principled position that lays out that this is the most efficient health care in the world, and single-payer is a euphemism for government-sponsored health care. Every other major OECD country has health care that is sponsored and managed by the government.

    JAY: And what about this euphemism? Why not just say it's a government insurance plan? Isn't it just confusing people?

    GERARD: Look it, I think the problem is that in America there's been, for the last 35 years, the vilification of government by Wall Streeters, by globalists, I guess since the Nixon days. I mean, it was Richard Nixon that gave us EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], you know? Those days have moved on. I think what we need to do is compare. And you never hear any real comparisons between the system in the US at 16.5 percent of GDP and, say, the system in Switzerland or the system in France or the system in Germany or the system in Great Britain or the system in Canada. In real terms, what are the costs and what's provided? What they'll say in America is it's going to drive up your tax. But I'm paying for it now already. I'm paying it in my wage.

    JAY: So let me ask you—.

    GERARD: Let me make this one point about the tax. If you're having health care in a decent health-care plan in America today, the average plan, it's costing $12,000 a year for a family. If you translate that into an hourly rate, that's six dollars an hour. If you gave me to the Canadian health-care plan, it's at roughly $4,000. That's $2 an hour.

    JAY: Except the Canadian plan's already built into your taxes, and you're paying the same amount of taxes in both countries.

    GERARD: And we're paying the same amount of taxes in both countries. Exactly. So one of the failings of our debate is failing to make comparisons of apple to apple, oranges to oranges. We're letting them compare a grape to a banana.

    JAY: Okay, one final question. If the White House starts to vacillate on this public program—it looks now like Obama's committed to some kind of public program, but it might be so watered down as it isn't that meaningful. What kind of clout does the union movement have with the White House now?

    GERARD: Look it, I think that there's two elements to the health-care debate that the labor movement is pretty unified on. One is it's irrational to tax employer-provided health-care benefits, because that will drive people out of the health-care system and drive them into the uninsured category, and that will drive up costs. They start by saying, well, we'll only tax above a certain level. Well, if you tax about $250,000 a year of income, there's not enough money to pay for the changes. So that's the silly part of that debate. But the only way that you can bring meaningful competition is to have a viable public option that people can opt into. I'm not uncomfortable having a debate about opening up Medicare and let us, let me as a negotiator decide if the members of our unit—ABC Electric, I guess, whatever you put out of the air—would rather be with their insurance company or whether they'd rather be in Medicare. Let them make their choice, because in Medicare you get to choose your doctor, you get the doctor to prescribe you. You don't get that choice with the insurance company. The insurance company tells you which doctors are in the HMO, which doctors are in network, out of network. When I came to the US, had to learn all kinds of forms like PPO, preferred provider, or, I mean, HMO. I mean, I learned all these forms, these concepts.

    JAY: Which is one of the myths in America about Canada, that in Canada you also choose your doctor [sic].

    GERARD: Yeah. You know, I carry my health card when I go back to see my kids. And what I tell people: if I get hit by a truck on the side of the border, it's going to cost my union tens of thousands of dollars to fix my broken leg. Once I cross the border in Buffalo, if I get hit by a truck, my kids don't have to pay.

    JAY: Well, let's hope you don't break your leg.

    GERARD: Me too.

    JAY: Thanks for joining us.

    GERARD: My pleasure. Good to be with you.

    JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

    DISCLAIMER:

    Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Comments

    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at contact@therealnews.com

    Comments


    Latest Stories


    South African Platinum Miner's Struggle Challenges ANC Leadership
    Manning Determined to Fight Back After Army Upholds 35-Year Sentence
    Hundredth Anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre
    Important Revelations From New Leaks of CIA Torture Report
    The Bundy Ranch Standoff Demonstrates Values Shared by Corporations and the Far Right
    The Resegregation of American Schools
    The Modern History of Venezuela, Why Still So Much Crime? - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (7/9)
    What Role Has Russia Played in Eastern Ukraine?
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (2/2)
    University Sit-In Targets World's Largest Private Coal Company
    The Modern History of Venezuela and the Need for a Post-Oil Economy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (6/9)
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (1/2)
    One Percent of Environmentalists Killings Lead to Convictions
    Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Ukraine Transitional Gov't Moves Militarily To Reclaim Seized Buildings
    IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    The Modern History of Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (5/9)
    Obama Signs Directives to Reduce the Gender Wage Gap
    Eastern Ukraine Lacks Political Representation in Kiev
    Demystifying the Role of Mitigation in the Most Recent IPCC Report
    Hypersurveillance State Won't Prevent Another Boston Marathon Bombing
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Univ. of Maine Faculty Reinstated After Students Protest Against Cuts
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1908 to 1973 - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (2/9)
    IMF Will Address Global Inequality, Says Managing Director Christine Lagarde
    Raising Big Banks' Leverage Ratio Good, But Not Nearly Enough
    TRNN Replay: Austerity Road to 19th Century
    Has Palestinian Maneuvering Revived Peace Talks?
    Late Jackson Mayor Lumumba's Son Wins Primary to Replace His Father, Runoff Election Ahead
    Quebecers Reject PQ and Elect a Liberal Government Representing Big Business
    TRNN Debate: Decriminalization vs. Legalization
    The Beginning of the Chavez Era - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (4/9)
    "Off With His Head": Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill
    Workers at Nation's Top Hospital Strike For Fair Wages
    From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (1/9)
    Rwanda 20 Years Later: Genocide, Western Plunder of Congo, and President Kagame
    Ukrainian Protesters in the East Demand More Autonomy From Kiev Government
    Hunger Strikers Demand President Obama Halt His Record 2 Million Deportations
    Indian Parliamentary Elections - A Primer With Vijay Prashad
    West Looks to Carve Up Ukraine & Privatize Industries Held by Kleptocrats
    Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed?
    The Multiple Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia (5/5)
    Do the Afghan Presidential Elections Signify Progress?
    Republican Presidential Hopefuls Pay Homage to Billionaire Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson
    Will Extremist Lieberman Become Israel's Next Prime Minister?
    Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran? (4/5)
    Immigrant Advocates and Families Tell President Obama 'Not One More'
    Elections, Pipelines, and Protests - The Canada Panel
    Chris Hedges on "Israel's War on American Universities"
    Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
    Yellen Talks the Talk But Will She Walk the Walk?
    Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"
    Will Venezuela's New Floating Exchange Rate Curb Inflation?
    The European Central Bank's War on Wages is Pushing Europe's Economy to the Brink
    Supreme Court Decision Opens Floodgates for More Campaign Cash
    Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90
    Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster (3/5)
    Maryland Residents Voice Opposition to Natural Gas Fracking Export Facility
    Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
    What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)
    Baltimore's MICA Adjunct Professors Set to Vote on Unionization
    Boycott of Israel Moving to Next Level?
    Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship
    Immigration Reform in the Shadows of Cesar Chavez's Legacy
    Leaked Senate Report Shows Use of Torture As "Ineffective"
    UN Report Says Climate Change Will Threaten Food Production Worldwide
    The Hypocrisy of US Calling for Enforcement of International Law
    How the Ecuadorian Economy Grew in a Global Recession
    'Shadows of Liberty' Trailer
    Kristina Borjesson on Why CBS Shut Down Her investigation into Flight 800 (2/8)
    Glen Ford on Racism in the American Media (3/8)
    Paul Jay on What Drives Corporate Media and What Drive The Real News (4/8)
    Creating a New Media Paradigm After Citizens United (5/8)
    Should The Left Engage with the Mainstream Media? (6/8)
    What Is the Financial Backing For The Real News? (7/8)
    Standing up to Character Assassination (8/8)
    Oligarchs, Fascists and the People's Protest in Ukraine
    TRNN Debate: Is Obamacare In the Interest of Workers?
    Too-Big-To-Fail Advantage Remains Intact For Big Banks
    Obama and the Saudi Agenda
    TRNN Replay: Investigating the Saudi Government's 9/11 Connection and the Path to Disilliusionment - Sen. Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt 1
    The Iraq War's Real Legacy
    Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden's Passport to be Reinstated
    We Need to Harness People Power - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (4/4)
    BC Pipeline Fight and Quebec Elections - The Canada Panel
    Jonathan Schell - 1943-2014: Board Member of TRNN on Why We Need The Real News
    Teachers on Strike from the UK to Argentina
    Connecticut Poised to Become First State with $10.10 Minimum Wage
    Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife and Local Economy
    DC School Test Scores Up, But Poor Black Kids Are Doing Worse - Andy Shallal on RAI (3/4)
    Obama's Proposal To End NSA Bulk Data Collection Won't Protect Privacy
    How Google, Apple & The Biggest Tech Companies Colluded to Fix Workers' Wages
    An American Should be One that Questions Their Government - Andy Shallal on RAI (2/4)
    What's Driving Putin & Obama's Posturing on Ukraine?
    Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed
    Due Process 'Impossible' In Harsh Death Sentencing Of Over 500 Muslim Brotherhood Members
    Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?
    Being the "Other" in America - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (1/4)
    TRNN Debate: Should Baltimore 'Ban The Box'?
    How Fallujah Became the Iraqi Government's New Battleground
    Why I Decided to Blow the Whistle on the NSA
    NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
    Professor Who Teaches Israel-Palestine Conflict Accuses College of Violating His Academic Freedom
    CIA and NSA Wrongdoing Requires Independent Investigation, Says Former Church Committee Staff
    Are Tuition Breaks Enough To Combat High Student Debt And Low Graduation Rates?
    Industries Across the U.S. Are Stealing Wages From Their Lowest Paid Workers
    Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
    NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (2/2)
    BP Gets Green Light to Drill in Gulf, But Has Safety Improved?
    Residents Still Not Drinking Tap Water Two Months After West Virginia Spill (1/2)
    Libya's Descent Into Turmoil Three Years After NATO Intervention
    From Pipelines to Peladeau - Canadian Report
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (1/2)
    Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Strikes Back Against Austerity
    Libya Three Years Later - Chaos and Partition
    Why Was Gaddafi Overthrown?
    Should Ukraine and West Accept De Facto Crimea Joining Russia? (2/2)
    Tony Benn Saw Socialism as the Culmination of Democratization
    Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Attack Iran and Can Obama Make and Sell a Deal? - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi? (2/2)
    Crimea Referendum: Self Determination or Big Power Manipulation? (1/2)
    Sen. Graham: President Must Side with Openness About CIA and 9/11
    Manufacturing a Narrative for War - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage
    Hammer: 'Moral Bankruptcy' Behind Massive GM Recall
    White House Withholds Thousands of Documents from Senate CIA Probe
    I Grew Up Believing in Time Magazine's Version of America - Gareth Porter on RAI (1/3)
    Western European Banks Vulnerable to Ukrainian Sovereign Debt Crisis
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (2/2)
    CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?
    Will Tipped Workers Get Excluded Again From Minimum Wage Hike?
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (1/2)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi?(1/2)
    TRNN Replay: A Look at Who's Poised to Become No.2 at the Fed
    How Right-Wing Nationalism Rose to Influence in Ukraine (2/2)
    Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase
    Moving Towards a Police State - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (7/7)
    Fighting Reagan's Secret, Illegal Wars - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (6/7)
    Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)
    The Butcher of Attica - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (4/7)
    MLK and a Radicalizing Moment in American History - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (3/7)

    RealNewsNetwork.com, Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting