Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wrapping up Fair Share

From Bertha Lewis, Bob Master and Sam Williams, Working Families Party Co-Chairs, and Dan Cantor, Executive Director of the WFP:

We didn't make it. Wal-Mart and its allies beat us back. But we are not gloomy. Here's why . . .

Over the last 6 months, the Working Families' leaders, members and staff have been hammering away at the Fair Share for Health Care Act.

It was a simple but profound idea: If you're a large employer in New York, then the cost of doing business in our state would include an adequate contribution toward health care coverage for your workers. A simple proposal based on the Golden Rule, really. Unless you're willing to live without health insurance, you shouldn't ask someone else to do so. Nothing more, but nothing less.

Business went nuts. Despite good faith efforts by a few to work with us to refine the legislation, most employers took the low road and just said "No." And we could not overcome their lobbying against the bill.

Fair Share was not a comprehensive solution to the health care crisis in New York state. But it would have done two very important things. First, several hundred thousand people in New York state would have seen their lives improved. The anxiety that comes from living without health coverage - at least for the 450,000 actual human beings who would have been covered - would have been lessened. So, in terms of improving the conditions of everyday life, this was a bill worth passing.

Just as important, the Fair Share bill would have underlined in bold the principle - and it's a crucial one - that corporations exist to serve people and not the other way around. Passage of Fair Share would have said that, in New York at least, large profitable corporations would be allowed to neither rip off the taxpayer nor undercut responsible employers who do provide good benefits.

There are, after all, only three sources of money for the health care system: taxes, individuals and employers. The trend in America is towards a greater individual burden as a way to reduce costs (via rationing, really). Our view is that we should not let Wal-Mart, Home Depot or McDonald's off the hook. That's what the Fair Share battle was about.

So, we couldn't get it through. But we did elevate the issue enormously. People will still be getting sick next year. And the fact that nearly three million New Yorkers don't have health insurance will still be a disgrace. In 2007, the state will release a study showing to the dollar the cost that large low-road employers are shirking. Our task is to make sure that our new Governor understands that it is long past time for a comprehensive approach to health care, and such an approach will necessarily require an end to freeloading by large employers.

"The folks at the Working Families Party should pat themselves on the back for putting the plight of the uninsured on the agenda."
--Daily News, Editorial, 6/19/06

Onto some thank yous. A lot of people worked hard on this campaign. Doors were knocked, letters were written, emails were sent, rallies and press conferences were organized, lobbying and legislative hearings were held, memos and reports and white papers got written, and state legislators got a flood of emails and calls. The struggle for a better society takes work. Chapter leaders, affiliate leaders, online activists and staff put our hearts and souls into this. So while it's disappointing to declare defeat, there is, as a great writer once said, sometimes a "victory in defeat." That's how we feel, and we want to thank everyone who worked on and contributed to this effort. In the end, together, we will prevail.

Meanwhile, we now head towards the electoral season. It's going to be an intense and exciting four months. Our focus will be on Congress. There are races all across the state - upstate and down - and we need your help. The WFP is poised to provide the margin of victory against some really bad Republicans, but only if everyone does their (fair) share.

Look for an update on the Take Back Congress - New York campaign soon. In the meantime, read the Village Voice interview with our "Director of Congressional Repo Operations." (That's right, we've got our own "Repo Man").

We need volunteers, ideas, money and energy. If you already know you're ready to help financially (and why wouldn’t you!), please donate today.

You can make a donation here:

That's it. Read the papers, pay your dues, and . . . organize.


Bertha Lewis, Bob Master and Sam Williams
Working Families Party Co-Chairs

Dan Cantor
Working Families Party Executive Director

1 comment:

Queen Timely said...

Loss notwithstanding, I'm proud to be a Working Families voter in Western Australia.