Labor Ad Campaign Targets Health-Care Overhaul

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By Jacquie Lee

The AFL-CIO launched an ad campaign June 23 targeted at five states where U.S. senators appear on the fence about supporting the GOP-led effort to overhaul the Affordable Care Act.

“If union members act to oppose the proposal, they have the potential to be influential,” Rebecca Kolins Givan, an associate professor of labor studies and employment relations at Rutgers University, told Bloomberg BNA. Givan predicted Nevada union workers would be especially influential because of the large number of culinary union members in Las Vegas.

“It’s become very politically active and highly mobilized,” Givan said.

The ad campaign uses digital billboards, newspaper ads, and social media such as Facebook and Instagram. The campaign is nationwide, but it focuses specifically on reaching constituents in Alaska, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, and West Virginia, the AFL-CIO’s deputy media director, Josh Goldstein, told Bloomberg BNA June 23.

Rules Rigged, AFL-CIO Says

“This bill drastically alters how health insurance works in this country and rigs the rules in favor of wealthy and insurance companies,” Goldstein said.

Some unions were heavily involved in lobbying for the Affordable Care Act. One observer suggests that is ironic because stipulations in the ACA ended up costing union members a pretty penny.

“Unions should be providing quality health-care for their membership, but they shouldn’t be trying to drive up the cost for both their members and everyone else,” said Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center. “And that’s what happened under Obamacare.”

Vernuccio and Matt Patterson, executive director at the Americans for Tax Reform’s Center for Worker Freedom, said they weren’t up-to-speed enough on the new health-care proposal to comment on its implications for unions down the road.

However, Givan said the prognosis for unions if the GOP health-care bill passes isn’t good.

“The reason that the bill is bad for union members is the reason that it’s bad for everyone, and especially all working people,” she said. “It creates poor coverage, allows costs to boom and is a redistribution of money from the poor to the rich.”

Republicans unveiled the bill June 22. The Fourth of July recess looms as Senate leaders push to vote on the measure before then. That could mean intense negotiations as the GOP fights to win over a few Republicans who have publicly pushed back against the bill.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) indicated he won’t vote in favor of the bill “in its current form,” a spokeswoman told Bloomberg BNA June 23. It is unclear whether the ads affected Heller’s decision.

The AFL-CIO wouldn’t specify the cost of its ad campaign. “Six figures is as specific as I can be,” Goldstein said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacquie Lee at jlee1@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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