Health care a top priority for unions

Sign at the AFL-CIO building in Washington, D.C.

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: President Obama will celebrate Labor Day in Cincinnati today with a speech to one of the country's biggest labor groups, the AFL-CIO. This will not be one of those generic, ceremonial tributes
to the role of the labor in the history of America. No, President Obama will address the hottest political potato in the country right now: health care. Marketplace's Tamara Keith reports for the labor movement, that is topic number one.


Tamara Keith: Health coverage is a real problem for labor unions.

Andy Stern: Every single major strike that's occurred in the United States in recent years has been over the cost of health care.

Andy Stern is president of the Service Employees International Union. He says thousands of his members are rallying today to send lawmakers a message.

Stern: Changing our health care system is what our communities, our families, our companies and our country need to do right now.

Even in union halls, legislation to make it easier for workers to unionize is taking a back seat to health care.

Gary Chaison teaches labor relations at Clark University. He says unions have had to make a lot of concessions in the health arena.

Gary Chaison: The problems that unions have is that it's so expensive, it's so crucial to the members that they'd like to get it off the bargaining table as best they can.

Which might explain why unions are pushing so hard for a public health insurance option.

In Washington, I'm Tamara Keith for Marketplace.

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