Rally for Affordable & Accessible Healthcare for All!

U of M AFSCME locals 3800, 3801, 3937 and 3260 rallied Thursday 9/26 to tell the University Administration not to shift healthcare costs to employees. We were joined by students, faculty, Teamsters, civil service and P&A coworkers, and union allies from around the Twin Cities calling for affordable and accessible healthcare for all.  We were also honored to have internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter Billy Bragg join us and extend his solidarity to us in our fight. For video and news coverage of the rally, click on the links below.

At the rally, we reiterated our opposition to the $1.8 million in annual cost shifts and also reiterated our demand for a sliding scale premium model plan that bases insurance costs on an employee’s income, and ensures that the brunt of insurance costs doesn't fall on the lowest-paid workers, or those with chronic health problems.  
 
The sliding-scale plan “is not only perfectly reasonable … it the only humane way to enact what amounts to yet another pay cut,” Eden Torres, chair of  the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies told the crowd.

“This is a world-class university that excels in education, that excels in research, that excels in public service,” says Steve Hunter, secretary-treasurer of Minnesota AFL-CIO and former University of Minnesota regent. “But it is time for this university to also become world class in how it treats its employees.”

The University says it needs to make the insurance changes to avoid a possible tax liability later this decade under the national Affordable Care Act. Campus unions say that’s not true. And other speakers say it distorts the very purpose of the new health-insurance law.

“The plan passed in Washington is called the Affordable Care Act,” says state Sen. John Marty, the Minnesota Legislature’s leading proponent of a single-payer, universal health plan. “It shouldn’t be used to make health care unaffordable for people at the university or anywhere else.”
 
Front-line workers making an average of $37,000 a year now pay about 10 percent of their income for family insurance. That will rise dramatically under the administration’s proposed plan. Jody Kaplan, a member of Local 3800’s bargaining team, gave a personal example. She is a three-year survivor of stage-three breast cancer. When she was first diagnosed in 2010, she says, consultations with her oncologists cost her less than $200. Under the University's new plan, Kaplan says, those same consultations will cost “closer to $1,000.” And that doesn’t count the cost of the treatments themselves.
 
Many at the rally carried picket signs comparing the university’s tactics to Walmart’s notorious treatment of its workers. Diana Tastad, an organizer with the OUR Walmart campaign in Minnesota, took the comparison one step further, asking university administrators, “Are you going to bring Walmart values to the U, or are you going to bring Minnesota values to the U?”
 
We believe that healthcare is a fundamental human right, and that we not only need to fight to maintain affordable healthcare at the U, but that we also need to fight for healthcare for all. The healthcare system in the US is broken and that is why we all must join the fight for single-payer / universal healthcare.
 
 “Keep fighting – every single one of you,” Bragg told our rally. “That’s why I’m here today. I’ve been traveling around the world 30 years doing this job and I’ve learned that … labor unions are always standing up for the right thing, for ordinary working people.”
 
He also sent the following message to us after our rally, "Thanks again for helping me to connect with what's real in the world. solidarity, Billy"

NEWS & VIDEO:

'Keep Fighting,' Bragg Tells Campus Rally -  AFSCME Council 5 News

See more photos HERE

VIDEO: Billy Bragg at UMN Healthcare Rally

Bragg lends star power to union rally at U of M - Workday Minnesota.

VIDEO: Affordable Healthcare at the U of M

VIDEO: Rally for Affordable & Accessible Healthcare for All

U employees rally for sliding-scale health care model - Minnesota Daily

Bragg rocks University of Minnesota Labor Rally - Vita.mn

Billy Bragg to lead U employee rally against health care proposal - MPR newscut blog

Union workers rally against health care changes at the U - MPR News

Billy Bragg rocks U of M labor rally - Star Tribune

U of MN workers rally for affordable healthcare - Fight Back! News

Bragg lends star power to AFSCME rally at U of M - Union Advocate

AUDIO: Interview with President Cherrene Horazuk - The Peoples Mic, WI

AUDIO: Theft of the Dial, Interview with Billy Bragg sends a shout out to AFSCME

VIDEO: Billy Bragg performs I Keep the Faith

VIDEO: Billy Bragg performs There is Power in a Union

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