October 3, 2011
By Neal Tepel
Meeting in national convention in August 2011, the 340,000 member United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry, or “UA” as it is commonly known, affirmed its support for “further efforts to provide Americans with affordable, quality health care, specifically a true universal health care single-payer system, Medicare for All.” At the 2006 Convention the UA endorsed HR 676, the national single payer bill introduced by Congressman John Conyers.
The health care resolution was presented as supportive of the Affordable Care Act that was passed and signed by President Obama in March 2010. Then Delegate John McKnight of Local 170, Vancouver, British Columbia, was greeted with applause as he rose on the convention floor to speak.
Here’s what John McKnight said about Canada’s single payer system: “Mr. Chairman, fellow delegates, about three conventions ago my local union sent in a resolution to the UA Convention at that time calling for a national health care program similar to Canada.
“Now, let me just tell you something about myself just for the moment, and it’s nonpolitical, Mr. Chairman. In April this year I received a new aortic valve for my heart. I was (in the) hospital for five days in New Westminster. It’s (a) hospital in the lower mainland in Vancouver. And what did it cost me? The word that was used in the voting yesterday, it cost me zero.
“But, as a Canadian citizen, it did cost me through the income tax system of our country. Taxation can be a very good thing, and it gave us health care. And I’m sitting across from Brother Bary Clark in my local, a former Business Manager, and he had a quadruple bypass over two years ago. He was in for five days. What did it cost him? Nothing. The American population is being ripped off by the corporate system.
“The United States of America is the only industrial nation on this planet that does not have a comprehensive health care system for its people, and that is a shame on the leadership of the United States of America.
“So I’m pleased that even this somewhat weakened structure of Medicare here in the United States is being supported by the UA, and I think it’s one that we should all support, but I think it’s one we should realize it’s not the answer. It must be a comprehensive health care system that we should strive for here in the United States…”
The full resolution including the single payer amendment was passed by the Convention.