Getting Past the Finish Line: The Single-Payer Movements in Vermont and New York

Date and Time:
Saturday, October 31, 4:35PM-5:25PM (Boulevard room, Hilton Chicago)

Facilitator: Donna Smith, Health Care for All Colorado

Presenters: Keith Brunner, Vermont Workers Center; David Sterrett, Sterrett Law PLC; Annette Gaudino, PNHP NY Metro; Marva Wade, NYSNA.

Notes from Conference Participants:

DS – Let’s make sure we are asking questions and not testifying. We are going to start with VT

Keith B. – Communication coordinators at VT workers center – I wanted to apologize – I’m not feeling great – loopy – who here was disappointed when gov. Shumlin pulled the plug – everyone disappointed – who was surprised? Organizer as well as communication coordinator – Dec 17th saw press conf. and heard about it – how do we get back the finish line – what lead to governor pulling the plug – just a few things – at workers center – we are not necessarily a HC org – since 1998 fighting for workers right in 2008 – financial crisis – HC as a public good – I think the victory of Act 48 had a lot to do with building power – Shumlin’s pulling plug had a lot to do with power

In 2008 – forces to win HC didn’t exist in VT – our strategy was to base build – building relationships on basis of stories – using public forums to frame HC as a crisis – terrain shifted when Shumlin was elected – passed 248 in 200? – what forces? NESRY – worked with them – helped shepherd HC as Human right collaborative – assessment – political decision not economic decision – (counter to numbers) – question of gov. not willing to raise taxes on wealthy and corporations – problems with working with the democratic party –
Another piece – when we get close – powerful forces mobilize to defeat – 2014 elections – ton of money from out of state – key figures unseated – 2 right wing candidate split vote or Shumlin would have lost – ton of money coming in at the end –
Lessons – workers center angle 2011 – act 48 past – in context of austerity – neoliberalism – in global south – periphery – Europe – in that context in order to move forward – build alliance and work against divide and conquer – campaign around a peoples budget – VT Human Rights council – environment, immigrant, — counter austerity and inequality.

Could have done better – gov. didn’t bring forward financing package – didn’t hold his fee to the fire – let him keep delaying – we wish that we kept their feet to the fire – 2011 – 2014

Not having enough power – in other countries what would have happened – trade unions strike – shut down highway – basically comes down to the balance of forces – he saw a way out. What we are doing next – 2016 – rebuilding that power – survey on HC and workers’ rights – organizing in communities – peoples convention on May 1st – alternative vision for society – James Hasslin – formed a 501 c4 Rights and Democracy – friendly faces in state house. Rebuild power.

Runaway inequality – talking about how following through with HC is key way to address crisis in inequality

Dave Sterrett –Dave Stewart – met when he was working at public citizen – now living in Mt. P.

Dave S. – It’s great to be here – I had a front row seat for what happened in the last year in VT – moved to work full time with Deb Richtor – A newspaper profiled me – now we are engaged – SP can be sexy and a great way to find true love – message SP in VT. Got to work some in the leg in 2014 – worked on a progressive part – thinking about the challenges that we would face – Chess – flip the board – 2 logical place to try to kill SP – 2014 election and 2015 leg season and financing system – won on first step – good with electoral politics – dropped 500000 into VT – defeated ….. brought Gov. Shumlin to brink of defeat – we’ve gotta double down and play the electoral politics. It was tough to find volunteers – so much more energy on the other side. We were right there on the edge – I would agree with her – pick a state, focus on it, and fight like hell for it. When it’s not longer good politics – you can have the best policy – but you’re not gonna get it done. …. Walked away from it when so many …. Alignment of policy and politics.

DS – Short and Sweet (and Sad) a couple of years ago in Nashville I asked when a state got close – would be smart enough of a movement to throw it all in, would we – I think that we didn’t. Perhaps have to be able to talk about it – never able to match the deep pockets, but we need more than we have.

Marva Wade – NYS nurses association

Marva Wade – first VP of NYS Nurses Association – retired nurse – may or may not be jealous that’s fine – 45 .5 years of employment – I decided that I should retire – really loved my job – operating nurse – let job unhappily – when you leave your job be happy to leave – here to talk about the movement not just me – SP – the role of NYSNA — ??? members – always committed to SP – It’s always been in the forefront of what we though we should have – been involved since 1974 – a few years ago leadership decided direction needed to be changed – on how we got the work done – we decided to put our money where our mouth was – gonna really double down on how we were gonna get this work done – since we started controlling – putting up real resources – also can’t just put it out there, but also in house – decided to train our members – many of our 37000 members didn’t have a clue – we are truly diverse in our membership. But it still needed to be – the idea was to train our members as well – leadership can, want the members to do that – been talking a lot about building a movement – so the last part – getting members involved is really key—NYSNA – continuing ed credits – ability to educate – all in union – day of ed – come back with Cont’ ed credits – we decided that we would give them cont. ed. We also have work shops and give our members cont-. ed – in my opinion – every nurse is a leader – identify recruit and develop leaders – that’s what nurses do – decided that part of doing that work – put it in everybody’s face – website – you see SP – Newsletter – always in there what we are doing about SP – every nurse has a family – interacts with some body – build in structure. We decided that we needed to build a movement with other like minded people – coalition building – PNHP, HCN – Campaign for NY Health – put real money out there to set the stage to for other unions giving money – many others have put their money where their mouth is. Worked to conduct a series of hearings across the state – every hearing had a nurse giving testimony —- part of our resources – hired organizers and ran media campaign to support hearings and bill – we knew that if we could get it to the floor that we had a great chance of getting it passed – lobby day, letters, demanding that bill would go to floor – then he sent a letter to us – he’s agreed to put it on the floor – MASS matters. When the vote came – overwhelmingly supported – but we have a senate – not gonna be as easy – make up of current senate – even heavier lift – replacing repubs that don’t see things our way PAC – one of the questions – do you support SP – educate – change your thinking? NY Health Exchange – (additions to HC) – something that works – need to remove inability to pay part – the worse day of your life – someone is telling you we can’t take care of you – unacceptable in this country and in the state of NY

DS – Need 37000 nurses in every state to pass SP – Annette Gardino – campaign coordinator in NY

Annette – issues around social justice and HC are not just around financing – splitting time – NYSNA made (my job) possible – Just getting started – any idea how much work we still have to do – before you start the race – need to identify champions and nurture them (Dick Godfrey – wrote the bill – open to rewrite it – raised I to adulthood – even if you have campions at other levels – need to nurture that relationship – frank and honest dialogue – maintain independence as a movement – nurture relationship – takes a lot of calories – agenda is not just SP – you have to be there for them too – same is true for our labor partners – Safe Staffing Bill – it’s a relationship – build form both ends – passing assembly provides us with an answer – to “sounds great it will never happen” – at party PNHP – “Why would you want to work on something that will never happen” – 20 minutes later – 8 people ready to work for it – can say that what we are fighting for is politically possibly – need resources and engaged activist – true state wide effort – challenging in NY – Focus on NYC – want to know if other parts of NY support it. True statewide effort – Dems in cons. Districts – educating and engaging from the bottom up – I’m starting to realize important aspect of movement building is making support visible – they don’t see you they don’t see the movement – engage the media – war chest – making support visible – social media – street actions – make visible to New Yorkers and elected officials

Where are we vulnerable – owe a lot to labor – NYSA is a model – is that reflected in other unions – if it doesn’t filter down to members it won’t get us there – beyond labor – other groups – immigrant rights, etc.

We want to debate on facts but know that politics is based on emotion and narrative – the flood has come and many have drowned – many still in ocean – life boat is SP, but can’t grasp it because they are afraid they will drown.

Narrative – affect small business – immigrant narrative – opponents not rational – ideological – concrete benefit they are willing to fight for – what do we need in place – frank convos – need to educate on a deep level – give unions a role in new system – unions getting kicked in the teeth – SC getting ready to gut union dues – it is a catastrophe – builds strength of progressive movement – partner with wider progressive movement – ultimately what we need is statewide grassroots movement.

DS – a lot of knowledge on this stage – time for 3 questions – only questions please

K – HC Human Right Co – PENN – Didn’t know – we are using ridiculously similar language – relationship b/t state campaigns and national fight

…. IN NYS we have a saying there are 3 places they go – retire, jail, or national. All the ways that we educate the legs and their aids that has an impact in Washington. Savings in NYS – those numbers really help make the case in Washington.
Miriam T from NY – tools to go from leadership support from not just leadership but rank and file

Marva – any organization – challenge is always how do you build your base – interface with people who are not members – believe that I am influential to tell people – educate at every opportunity – you have to always do that – how do you get people interested – all politics are local – bring it down to the individual.

Bill B. from Chicago – Big obstacle – dem gov. who are not gonna sign SP – NY Andrew Cuomo – Thoughts for getting around that – saw Cuomo move on fracking – in touch with folks upstate – moved by appeals to their ego and to being a champion – he will go where the people go – can’t get anything done with him without a mass movement – cast him as the champion – lead the nation on this – he led on Gay marriage – not so great on medical mar. – he’s a DINO but likes to think fo himself as progressive.

DS – I’ve never seen a parade that a politician doesn’t want to join – Colorado – where pot is legal and SP is sexy. OPS – recreate dinner we did in Oakland.

MD – most important movement of the conference – calling up Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – Lisa and

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