Connecticut Teamsters Organize for Healthcare Reform

April 2, 2007: Healthcare costs are skyrocketing, putting union members on the defensive at the bargaining table. Local 559 Teamsters are doing something about it by joining forces with labor and community allies to fight for affordable, universal healthcare in Connecticut.

They won an important victory last month when the State Legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee approved a bill for single payer healthcare.

The vote surprised both supporters and opponents of healthcare reform. Connecticut is the home base of many powerful insurance companies that oppose healthcare reform because it would threaten their mega-profits.

“Part of the credit for this victory goes to union members and others who were out in the field building public pressure,” says Dan Durso, a Local 559 Teamster who is working as a full-time coordinator of Labor for Universal Healthcare. “We’ve won an important battle but the war goes on.”

Local 559 recently was awarded a grant from the Connecticut-based Universal Healthcare Foundation. Overnight, Durso went from delivering oil for Automatic TLC to organizing public forums to lobby influential legislators.

Before the critical committee vote, Durso helped mobilize Teamsters, other union members and community supporters to tell legislators their “healthcare horror stories” and hear presentations from doctors and professors about how Connecticut could save money and provide better healthcare through a single payer system. The forums were standing room only.

Rallies are scheduled for May 5 to continue building the public pressure that will be needed to pass healthcare reform through the legislature as a whole.

“We need to get some sort of affordable insurance for everybody,” says Dave Basque, a Local 559 Teamster who attended a public forum. “I’m lucky to have good healthcare but I’ve been on both sides of the fence. And I have friends who don’t have health coverage and only go to the emergency room. That drives up the cost for everybody.

“Every American has the right to affordable healthcare insurance,” Basque said. “We’re paying for it now—universal coverage would cost less than what we’re paying now if we do it right.”

Labor Pays Rising Cost
“We’ve had a lot of big fights over healthcare here in Connecticut—including strikes at Coke and Sikorsky Aircraft. Employers are trying to push healthcare costs on to employees,” Durso said. “A single payer system would remove a contentious issue from the bargaining table.”

A single payer system, Durso explains, would cut out the middle man like HMO’s that make huge profits that drive up healthcare costs. Instead, the State of Connecticut would create a single agency that would process and pay medical bills.

“Single payer would remove the excessive profits and administrative costs from the system,” Durso says, lowering healthcare costs and making healthcare universal and affordable.

“Unions could still bargain for supplemental benefits.” Durso says.

The 2006 Teamster Convention unanimously passed a resolution in favor of universal healthcare. Now it’s our job to organize and make it happen.

Teamsters interested in more information can contact Dan Durso at Teamsters Local 559 at (860) 528-9461 ext. 14.

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