The Chattanooga Area Labor Council endorsed HR 676 at its regular monthly meeting March 23, 2015, reports Gary Watlkins, Council President. HR 676 is the national single payer health care legislation sponsored by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI). The bill currently has 48 co-sponsors including Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis,Tennessee.
“If passed, HR 676 would remove a great impediment to contract negotiations,” said Watkins in an interview with the All Unions Committee for Single Payer HR676. “I think employees would realize great improvements in their health and finances and at the same time employers would be the beneficiaries of a better educated and healthier and more productive work force. If everybody had health insurance, everybody would have a better opportunity at education,” Watkins continued.
Earlier in the year, Dr. Laura Helfman of Physicians for a National Health Program, made a single payer health care presentation to an open meeting of the labor council at Local 175 IBEW, President Watkins’ home local. Dr. Helfman practices Emergency Medicine at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger in Chattanooga and lives in Coalmont. Her father and grandfather both were proud members of the IBEW.
In addition to union delegates and allied organizations, State Representative JoAnne Favors attended the meeting. With her background in nursing and her concern for health care, she expressed her thanks for the program and her support for the Conyers bill.
During the lively discussion period following the talk, many council delegates spoke of their current difficulty in bargaining for and maintaining health care for members and families.
President Watkins expressed his thanks “for bringing such a great informational program to us,” and added, “We look forward to working with you and other leaders in bringing this legislation to the forefront.”
Chattanooga is the 5th labor council in Tennessee and the 150th in the nation to endorse HR 676. Other Tennessee councils that have endorsed are located in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville-Oak Ridge, and Jackson.
Dr. Art Sutherland, a Tennessee cardiologist and Board Member of Physicians for a National Health Program, has offered to provide a single payer presentation to any Tennessee union that requests it, and the national PNHP can offer the same to unions across the country.