North Dakota Labor and the Fight for Healthcare

Sisters and Brothers,
As many of you know, the North Dakota AFL-CIO has been part of a larger coalition fighting the GOP “healthcare" bill. Though the fight to protect our healthcare coverage is far from over, we have had some notable victories and our efforts are paying off.

The bill in question goes by two different names: the American Healthcare Act or the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Frankly, both names are plain out lies. The act is not a healthcare act at all. As medical organizations across the state have pointed out, this act does nothing to improve anyone’s healthcare. By dropping 22 to 23 million people off of health coverage and cutting a trillion dollars out of Medicaid funding over the next ten years, it really does quite the opposite.

If there was a truth-in-advertising law in Congress, as there is in the real world, the name would be something along the lines of “Saving the Wealthy Assets By Cutting Care Act” or SWABCCA because that is really what it does. This is not just going to affect the poorest people. Projections show that most out-of-pocket healthcare expenses will rise while the wealthiest of Americans will get a $200,000 tax cut.

The AFL-CIO stands firmly against any such class warfare.

We also stand against such poor procedures of governing that the current congress is demonstrating. They are trying to pass a bill that drastically alters everyone’s ability to get healthcare coverage while not having a single hearing, limiting debate and disregarding all healthcare experts. Congress aims to pass a bill that changes a fifth of our economy without allowing debate! How is this good government?

So what have we done to stop it? Senator Heitkamp is fully with us on this, but Senator Hoeven and Representative Cramer are not. So we have had had hundreds of Union members and others call and write letters in opposition. We had had dozens stop in the Senator Hoeven’s office and express opposition in person. We have been part of the “Where’s Hoeven?” movement and have demanded an open town hall where the citizens can have concerns over healthcare addressed. We have met with the Senator personally and expressed our dismay that he could even consider voting on a healthcare bill that every medical group in the state is opposed to. 

Two weeks ago, we rallied in Fargo in front of Senator Hoeven's office at a rally planned by Indivisible F-M. This last Thursday, we co-sponsored a rally in Bismarck with Bis-Man Indivisible. At both rallies Labor stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our communities to listen to stories of families with special needs children who are having a very difficult time making it now and would be severely effected with big cuts to Medicaid. Senator Heitkamp took time out of her busy schedule to stand with her community and speak out against this hurtfull legislation.

In Bismarck, I saw over a hundred dedicated and caring community members standing in unity for a country that takes care of each other instead of turning our backs on our friends and neighbors. I also saw less than a handful of counter-protesetors who showed just how heartless the opposition can be. I saw these pro-Trump counter-protestors boo a crying mother on stage who had just spent the night in the emergency room with a diabetic son! Really!

Though it all, we have put pressure on the Senator for two months and have not let up, and this has had an effect. Senator Hoeven has now come out against the current version of the bill.  What version he would support is still a mystery, but our efforts are paying off.

Though we are hardly done yet, I want to say thank you to all those who took part, all those who sent letters, all who called his office, all who had courage enough to walk in personally to talk to the staff. I want to especially thank all those who stood with our community in the Hangin’ in the Heat for Healthcare rally on Thursday. We showed this state that Labor cares deeply about others, and we are willing to stand up and show it.

Read More about the rallies here:

Photos From the Bismarck Rally

Thank you brothers and sisters. We will continue in this and other fights as the weeks pass.

In Solidarity,
Waylon Hedegaard
President/Secretary Treasurer
North Dakota AFL-CIO
(701) 595-3334