The Struggle for Health Care is Indivisible

Nov 15, 2020

By Randy Shannon, Sec’y PDA BOD
Coordinator PA PDA
Treas., PA Steel Valley Chapter
Member, BOD Healthcare4AllPA

PDA is turning the corner on a dynamic and successful campaign to elect more progressives to Congress. The last step in this campaign is now underway in the GA senatorial runoffs.

PDA’s activism to elect progressive candidates and to build a wall of solidarity to block entrenchment of the far right has raised its profile locally and nationally. PDA is working with many organizations now in national coalitions around key issues that form the progressive agenda.

A key to PDA’s future growth and influence will be an organized and coordinated campaign to draw in the net we cast over this past year. The outcome of our work must bear the fruit of new members, new activists, new affiliates, and new alliances. PDA must grow its base among the broad population especially among working families and the precariat.

The campaign for new members and chapters will be most successful by addressing the intimate material conditions of existence regardless of political flavor – and that condition is the inhumane denial of healthcare to our people.

Prof. William I. Robinson (UC Santa Barbara) published an article in Truthout called “Sadistic Capitalism: Six Urgent Matters for Humanity.” When we look at health care in the USA “sadistic capitalism” seems the most appropriate descriptor.

In “Sicko” Michael Moore interviewed Tony Benn, a revered left-wing leader of the Labor Party, and a champion of Britain’s public health system. Benn said: “An educated, healthy, and confident nation is harder to govern…by the 1%.” Moore goes on to illustrate that publicly funded universal health care liberated people to become activists around many other issues.

I believe that PDA must focus on building a grassroots campaign for Medicare for All, while continuing to advocate solutions to other critical problems like climate change, joblessness, and discrimination. A focus on healthcare will relate to every member of society including the poorest disenfranchised majority. It addresses their material conditions and will empower them to address other issues that are priorities for PDA.

We need to organize on two levels: a grass roots campaign along with building out a broad coalition. This campaign would focus on electing a Medicare for All Congress in 2022 and enacting Medicare for All into law by 2024.

We need to understand and frame the struggle for healthcare as indivisible. We advocate the solution that is the most comprehensive and least expensive solution. If we see the struggle for healthcare as indivisible then we don’t separate our campaign for Medicare for All from other healthcare battles – from individual struggles for care, from unions struggling for health care coverage, to state legislators working for local solutions, to health care workers trying to bring a high standard of care to their patients.

Many unions have endorsed Medicare for All, but many union members don’t recognize it as a real alternative to battling for healthcare coverage in their contract negotiations with employers. If we see the struggle for Medicare for All as indivisible, then we recognize that union workers’ struggle for health care is a part of our campaign.

The political enemies of Medicare for All are the Wall Street banks that gain enormous profits from their sadistic system of health care for profit. Union workers who are bargaining, giving up wages, or striking for healthcare confront the same enemy.

When workers strike for health care benefits they risk everything confronting the Wall Street oligarchs, while we confront their political lackeys with much less risk. Right now, our PA Steel Valley Chapter of PDA, founded in 2005, is organizing solidarity with 500 United Steelworkers members on strike to retain their healthcare benefits. NLMK Steel, in Farrell, PA is advancing the global drive of sadistic capital to reduce health care for workers to increase profits. (https://pdamerica.org/the-farrell-steel-strike-and-medicare-for-all/) 

Even if the majority of these workers aren’t politically aware of the broad implications of their confrontation to stop cuts in their healthcare, we are aware that their strike is part of the indivisible struggle for Medicare for All. PDA should raise its profile by supporting any union striking to defend their health care benefits. PDA can form a solidarity fund, mobilize members to the picket lines, and donate food and other necessities that striking workers and their families can no longer afford.

PDA’s message is Medicare for All will remove health care from the bargaining table and remove health care risk from any job.

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