Big labor pushes back in healthcare fray

Aug. 6, 2009 at 9:12 PM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- Big labor jumped into the healthcare fray Thursday, calling on union members to counter "far-right and corporate-backed" opponents of reform.

"In the past several days, loud, shouting and rowdy mobs have been disrupting congressional town hall meetings across the country," the AFL-CIO said in a message to members. "They're organized by far-right and corporate backed anti-healthcare reform and anti-government groups."

John Sweeney, the AFL-CIO president, urged members to attend the town hall meetings and other gatherings on healthcare.

In a union memo first reported in the Huffington Post, Sweeney said the "principal battleground" will be such meetings.

"We want your help to organize major union participation to counter the right-wing 'Tea-Party Patriots' who will try to disrupt those meetings," he wrote.

Sweeney said the healthcare overhaul Obama envisions would reduce healthcare costs, "outlaw insurance company abuses" and offer patients a public health insurance option.

The Service Employees International Union, the nation's largest union of healthcare employees, also urged members to attend the town hall meetings and engage in "civil discourse."

The SEIU said it supports reform that would give families the "peace of mind" of knowing they will have insurance and that it will not be taken away if they switch jobs, lose jobs or get sick.

"That's why health insurance reform is essential," the union said.

Topics: John Sweeney
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