Chattanooga Area Labor Council is 150th council to endorse H.R. 676

Single Payer News, April 7, 2015

The Chattanooga Area Labor Council endorsed H.R. 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, at its regular monthly meeting March 23, 2015, reports Gary Watkins, Council president. H.R. 676 is the national single-payer health care legislation sponsored by Congressman John Conyers, D-Mich. The bill currently has 48 co-sponsors including Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis, Tenn.

“If passed, H.R. 676 would remove a great impediment to contract negotiations,” said Watkins in an interview with the All Unions Committee for Single Payer HR 676. “I think employees would realize great improvements in their health and finances and at the same time employers would be the beneficiaries of a better-educated and healthier and more productive work force. If everybody had health insurance, everybody would have a better opportunity at education.”

Earlier in the year, Dr. Laura Helfman of Physicians for a National Health Program, made a single-payer health care presentation to an open meeting of the labor council at Local 175 IBEW, President Watkins’ home local. Dr. Helfman practices emergency medicine at Children's Hospital at Erlanger in Chattanooga and lives in Coalmont. Her father and grandfather both were proud members of the IBEW.

In addition to union delegates and allied organizations, state Rep. JoAnne Favors attended the meeting. With her background in nursing and her concern for health care, she expressed her thanks for the program and her support for the Conyers bill.

During the lively discussion period following the talk, many council delegates spoke of their current difficulty in bargaining for and maintaining health care for members and families.

President Watkins expressed his thanks to Dr. Helfman and others “for bringing such a great informational program to us,” and added, “We look forward to working with you and other leaders in bringing this legislation to the forefront.”

Chattanooga is the fifth labor council in Tennessee and the 150th in the nation to endorse H.R. 676. Other Tennessee councils that have endorsed are located in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville-Oak Ridge, and Jackson.

Dr. Art Sutherland, a Tennessee cardiologist and board member of Physicians for a National Health Program, has offered to provide a single-payer presentation to any Tennessee union that requests it, and the national PNHP can offer the same to unions across the country. Requests can be emailed to Kay Tillow at


H.R. 676 would institute a single-payer health care system by expanding a greatly improved Medicare to everyone residing in the U.S. Patients will choose their own physicians and hospitals.

H.R. 676 would cover every person for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental (including oral surgery, periodontics, endodontics), mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care and correction, hearing services including hearing aids, chiropractic, durable medical equipment, palliative care, podiatric care, and long-term care.

H.R. 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. H.R. 676 would save hundreds of billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.

In the current Congress, H.R. 676 has 48 co-sponsors in addition to Congressman Conyers.

H.R. 676 has been endorsed by 618 union organizations including 150 Central Labor Councils/Area Labor Federations and 44 state AFL-CIOs (KY, PA, CT, OH, DE, ND, WA, SC, WY, VT, FL, WI, WV, SD, NC, MO, MN, ME, AR, MD-DC, TX, IA, AZ, TN, OR, GA, OK, KS, CO, IN, AL, CA, AK, MI, MT, NE, NJ, NY, NV, MA, RI, NH, ID & NM).

For further information, a list of union endorsers, or a sample endorsement resolution, contact:

Kay Tillow

All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care--HR 676

c/o Nurses Professional Organization (NPO)

1169 Eastern Parkway, Suite 2218

Louisville, KY 40217

(502) 636 1551