‘Our System is Broken’: Labor Panel Demands Healthcare Justice

By Jacob Bourne

The San Francisco Labor Council, along with Jobs with Justice and the Campaign for a Healthy California, convened a panel on September 24 at the Plumbers UA38 Hall in San Francisco to discuss healthcare justice. Moderator Rudy Gonzalez, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council, commenced the discussion by highlighting the present precarious reality where healthcare is treated as a perk tied to employment versus a basic right. A member of IATSE Local 16 illustrated this by chronicling her struggle to heal from major surgery while fighting for disability coverage to secure time off from a very physical job.

“We know that our system is broken, it’s in crisis and our patients are suffering,” said Maureen Dugan, a registered nurse at UCSF. “The Affordable Care Act helped but it didn’t go far enough as 28 million people are still uninsured and 30 million are underinsured.”

Emphasis was placed on how the current “profit over patients” model doesn’t result in quality care for individuals, optimal public health or reasonable costs. With 70 percent of Americans supportive of Medicare for all, now is the time for labor and other groups to act. Dr. Jeff Gee, clinical professor at UCSF, said that there’s a marked excitement in public sentiment for a single-payer healthcare system and that it’s essential that the momentum be maintained.

Mark Dudzic, national coordinator of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, noted that nationwide support for single payer increased by 20 percent over the past year, heightening the sense of urgency. He said taking healthcare off of the union bargaining table will reduce strikes and lockouts.

“We need to expand Medicare and make it a birthright for everyone in the country,” said Dudzic. “Labor is key to this fight because labor exists to fight entrenched economic power.”

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