Stepping Up the Resistance

August 2, 2018

by George Gresham, 1199SEIU President

GG_PressRelease_fa.jpgLast month, we learned that corporate tax receipts are near a 75-year low as a share of the overall economy and that the federal budget deficit is increasing far faster than the White House and its congressional allies had predicted. The reason for the gaping gap is clear: The Trump-GOP tax cut, which amounted to a massive giveaway to big corporations and the super-wealthy.

That is important not only because it increases the already obscene economic inequality in our nation but also because it provides a pretext for the deficit hawks to take an ax to safety-net programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Toward that end, in June the administration’s Council of Economic Advisers called for imposing even tougher work requirements for those who receive Medicaid, rental housing assistance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, commonly known as food stamps. The GOP leaders in Congress are using the same playbook to institute what they term welfare reform. But their reform amounts to slashing aid to the needy and transferring it to the greedy.

Almost daily we learn of attacks on public health, our environment, public education, civil rights and civil liberties. And an administration that purports to favor family values has ripped children from their parents seeking asylum.

Although the nation’s 45th president and his administration are engulfed in numerous scandals—chief among them growing evidence of campaign collusion with a foreign power and campaign finance violations—these scandals have not impeded his corporate giveaways. He continues to tout his support for working people, but his actions prove otherwise. For example, he denounces offshoring, but his party’s tax bill incentivizes corporations to ship jobs abroad.

To continue on this path, the administration must weaken the opposition. That is the purpose of its countless anti-labor, anti-people and anti-democratic executive orders. What the administration is not able to do through its servants in Congress, it will attempt to achieve through a stacked Supreme Court. The recent Janus decision, which held that public-sector workers no longer have to pay fair-share fees to unions to cover the costs of collective bargaining, represents a serious blow not only to labor but also to the progressive movement. Organized labor is a key contributor of funds and foot soldiers to the Democratic Party.

Crippling the resistance is behind the gerrymandering and voter suppression in many states. But the people are rising up, especially women in the electoral arena. Our goal should be to deepen and broaden that movement to ensure the greatest voter turnout in November. For many of us, the defeat of Trumpism and its enablers is sufficient reason to turn out. But we must also put forward a progressive shared vision that voters can rally around.

Among our many issues, health care is central for our union’s members and their families. We continue to defend the Affordable Care Act against the administration and its congressional partners. But we view the ACA as a first step toward our ultimate goal, Medicare for All, which used to be considered a fringe issue. Today it has entered the political mainstream with the formation of a House Medicare for All Caucus that has already attracted two-thirds of House Democrats. In the Senate, virtually all the Democratic potential 2020 presidential contenders support Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All legislation.

We are fortunate in New York State to have a governor who is running on one of the nation’s most progressive platforms on a ticket with Letitia James, who would become New York’s first African-American attorney general. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s platform includes issues that can galvanize voters around the nation. He has fought with us to defend the ACA and affordable health care. He has stood with working people by securing a $15 minimum wage in the state. He has led the fight against climate change. He has championed women’s equality and the right to choose. He has joined hands with the LGBTQ community. And he is a staunch defender of immigrant rights, civil rights and criminal justice reform.

These are the issues that can drive voters to the poll. Let us work to get them there.

George Gresham is president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest union in New York and the largest healthcare union in the nation.