September 7, 2009

AFL-CIO’s Trumka won’t yield on healthcare

Richard Trumka, who cut his teeth in the rough-and-tumble mineworkers union, vows to stand firm on healthcare reform when he assumes the AFL-CIO presidency.

The federation is watching President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats inch toward healthcare concessions, including scrapping a government-run public health insurance option, despite protests of organized labor, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Trumka, the AFL-CIO's current secretary treasurer who will succeed John Sweeney next week as president, recently said the federation won't support a bill if the public option is absent. He said opposition to such an option demonstrates how entrenched opposition is.

It's Wall Street. We're trying to change the status quo, and they liked the status quo. They've been benefiting from it by getting rich by it, Trumka told the Post. Take health care. They have three lobbyists to every senator down there, that's what they've hired. The Capitol's awash in money. We're fighting that, and we'll continue to fight that, and ultimately we'll prevail.

Trumka, who led the United Mine Workers of America in the 1980s, said the labor movement is the best vehicle available to make broad social change, but shouldering the responsibility is difficult.

It's a big, big task, it's a big, big fight, and all the people that are arrayed against us are going to try to prevent us from changing anything, Trumka said. But with every fiber of my body I look forward to that fight.