Bernie Sanders Grassroots Spin Off "Our Revolution" SC Conference: Labor & Healthcare Discussed

(Columbia, October) Healthcare and Labor were among the issues discussed during the Our Revolution Fall Conference.

The conference was attended by approximately 150 people, including people affiliated with the SC AFL-CIO as well as candidates who they have endorsed. 

The event drew people from all over South Carolina but primarily from the Midlands.

Our Revolution is a progressive political movement spun out of US Sen. Bernie Sanders 2016 Presidential campaign in an attempt to continue to encourage political involvement and put more progressive candidates into office. 

The group in Columbia also includes some former supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton, who lost her fight against Donald Trump. 

Among the political figures who spoke was SC House member Rep. Wendy Brawley, Hopkins(D Dist.70).  Brawley led a workshop concerning civil rights and social justice, in which labor issues were discussed.  Present was Dr. Hoyt Wheeler, a pro-labor attorney, labor author and a university professor of labor education, who engaged Brawley in a discussion on various labor topics.

Wheeler said that current labor law hampers labor progress and therefore the evolution of a more progressive culture in the United States. Wheeler said that South Carolina is at “the bottom of the barrel” for its labor involvement, with only 1-2% of the state’s workers belonging to unions. 

Wheeler pointed out that the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act(that Pres. Truman called the “slave labor act”) allowed people to be fired for organizing, and set the stage for the replacement of striking workers. That national act opened the door for states to pass their own legislation. Wyoming passed the first “Right-to-Work” Legislation.  South Carolina wasn’t far behind, passing its own union attack in the early 1960’s.   

Wheeler said that he’s currently trying to publish a paper on the National Labor Relations Act.  He said that the current push is for worker ownership, where corporations allow workers to own stock and have influence over company policy.

Concerning the issue of minimum wage, Brawley mentioned that fortunately Walmart has elected to raise its minimum wage.

Columbia CLC Sec.-Treas.William Christopher participated in the conference. He quickly interjected that Walmart finally decided to raise its wage only due to union pressure.  He raised his hand and stood up, immediately speaking. “Yeah I should point out that Walmart decided to raise its wage alright, but only after about a decade of hell from the AFL and union groups, with regular actions at stores across the country including those in South Carolina, and now, finally, they’re raising it a little.”  Christopher received an applause from the audience.

Speaker Thomas Dixon, a former Congressional candidate and current mayoral candidate for N. Charleston, referred to Christopher’s statement again, emphasizing that it takes diligence to bring about change. 


Also at the conference, on the subject of healthcare, Dr. David Keely, President of the SC Chapter of Physicians for a National Healthcare Plan(PNHP) said that many American families are just one illness away from bankruptcy.  He pointed out, amazingly, that 60% of the medical bankruptcy cases already had paid mainstream insurance coverage.  But he said that insurance companies continue to raise premiums and co-pays.

Keely said that a lot of medical specialists in South Carolina refuse to schedule kids who are on Medicaid. He said that access to care was boosted considerably by the American Healthcare Act in 2014. 

On the subject of the proposed Single-Payer Medical Plan, Keely stated that the plan would do away with purely for-profit hospitals in the US.  Currently only 11% of US hospitals are purely for-profit.  The rest use the assistance of various non-profit organizations. 

Keely added that profits from pharmaceutical companies was $67 billion in 2015, and insurance company profits totaled $15 billion. 

Keely added that 42% of Americans have chronic health conditions, a level far ahead of other countries. 

Keely said that the Sanders plan would make drug prices negotiable, and that contrary to common belief, the plan would not “socialize” medicine as has been done in Great Britain, but would create a plan similar to that in Canada which has been very successful. 

Keely said that the number of healthcare administrators(verses doctors) is up 300% since the 1970’s.  He said that medical costs in the US is 5 times those in Canada, which has a public, not socialized, system as Great Britain has.  He says changing to a public system would save 30-40% of healthcare costs and 16% of that would be administrative. 

Keely added that Sander’s healthcare plan would train insurance company workers for employment in other areas. 

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The Our Rev group meets most Sunday afternoons in Columbia, at 4pm, currently at the Assembly St. Branch of the Richland Co. Public Library.