The Michael Jackson Moment
"We're in the Michael Jackson moment for health-care reform," says Andy Stern, head of the Service Employees International Union. "These town halls are stages that have been set for a show. There's no way any congressman can think this is representative."
At least, Stern hopes not. Before the town halls and the Gang of Six and the cameras and the article on A1, there were just a few players trying to muscle health-care reform to the front of the agenda. The most visible was Stern's SEIU. It held the first Democratic candidate forum entirely devoted to health-care reform. The union made it known that no candidate without a detailed and universal health-care plan would receive its endorsement. It partnered with AHIP and and the Center for American Progress and the Chamber of Commerce. It formed study groups on quality of care and the importance of coverage and the economic necessity of reform. Stern co-authored an op-ed with the CEO of Wal-Mart.
But now it's actually happening. All that work is paying off -- or not. I met with Stern in his glass-walled office overlooking Dupont Circle to talk about what's happened over these past few months. "It's interesting," Stern says, "that the business community has not produced a single Republican vote. If you juxtapose their intensity on the Employee Free Choice Act with health-care reform, they're playing pattycake on this. They know how to get tough."
"I think Congress will sober up and get something done," he says. But the process has been frustrating. "Waiting for bipartisanship has been like waiting for Godot," he continues. "And it won't protect them. No one thought stimulus was a bipartisan bill. Getting Grassley and Snowe isn't going to do it."
"I have no sympathy for the congressmen and senators who say they're taking too many hard votes," he continues. "The worst that can happen to them is they lose their jobs. Workers are taking much harder votes every day."
Photo credit: SEIU
August 14, 2009; 4:42 PM ET
Categories: Health Reform , Interviews
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