Labor Day Events Focus on Health Care, Express Support for Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage Law
The Alameda County Central Labor Council's annual Labor Day celebration on Monday focused on improving access to health care and emphasizing support for Proposition 72, a referendum on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot that would preserve a new state law (SB 2) that will require some employers to provide health insurance to their employees or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage, the Contra Costa Times reports (Felsenfeld, Contra Costa Times, 9/7).
SB 2, which is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, will require employers with 200 or more employees to provide health insurance to workers and their dependents by 2006 or pay into the fund. By 2007, employers with 50 to 199 employees will have to provide health insurance to workers only. Companies with fewer than 20 workers will not have to comply with the law, and the law also will exempt employers with 20 to 49 workers unless the state provides them with tax credits to offset the cost of health coverage.
A group led by the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Restaurant Association has launched a campaign urging voters to vote no on Proposition 72 (California Healthline, 8/24).
Monday's event at the Oakland Coliseum was attended by a number of state officials including Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (D), Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D), Treasurer Phil Angelides (D) and Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi (D).
Lockyer said that SB 2 is a "great leap" in providing health care for middle-income California residents. Following a short speech, Lockyer said that SB 2 "really creates a fair competitive environment. It ensures that an employer who provides health care isn't burdened by unfair competition from someone who doesn't."
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said, "Health care should be a basic human right. It's not yet, but Prop. 72 gets us to that point" (Contra Costa Times, 9/7).
Bustamante called Proposition 72 "an initiative that will affect generations to come."
Sharon Cornu, political director of the Labor Council, said, "We have folks coming out of the woodwork to defend health care today," adding, "our members are enthusiastic about this issue and ready for the fall election."
Steve Schiesser, president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 771, said, "Health care is the biggest domestic crisis we have going right now in this country. So many workers don't have complete coverage, and yet the politicians aren't really talking about it" (Swarts, Oakland Tribune, 9/7).
The AFL-CIO also participated in events addressing health care during Labor Day weekend. In the South San Francisco Bay area, dozens of churches, temples and synagogues included in their services speeches on health care, this year's "social issue." In one event at St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church in San Jose, Ron Lind, secretary-treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 428 in San Jose, urged congregation members to vote yes on Proposition 72 (Beck, San Jose Mercury News, 9/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.