AFL-CIO still backs public option

A meeting at the White House caused some worry among progressives, but the labor group says it's unfounded

Published September 30, 2009 4:16PM (EDT)

The new head of the AFL-CIO, Rich Trumka, met with Rahm Emanuel Wednesday morning at the White House. And as the healthcare reform debate moves along, the very fact that anyone is meeting with Emanuel is enough to cause great consternation among progressives, many of whom are ready to blame Emanuel if the White House winds up siding against a government insurance plan.

The liberal blog FireDogLake predicted that after the meeting, Trumka would announce that the labor group was no longer insisting on a public option as part of the reform plans. Up to now, the AFL-CIO has said it wouldn't support reform without it; a reversal would be a serious blow to hopes of forcing Congress to include a public option in the legislation.

So far, at least, that doesn't seem to be happening. The AFL-CIO says the meeting was scheduled because Trumka just took over the labor group's presidency, and it covered broad topics, not just healthcare. "Trumka reiterated our commitment to creating good paying jobs, passing health care reform with a public option, the importance of passing major labor law reform and re-regulating financial markets," spokesman Eddie Vale says. The new union boss also met with several world leaders last week during the G-20 talks, Vale said, putting the meeting with the White House in a slightly different context. A White House aide also told Salon the meeting wasn't about getting labor to shift on the public option.

Does that mean the AFL-CIO won't eventually flip, if pressured? No, not necessarily. But for now, the labor organization -- and, for that matter, the White House -- still supports the public option.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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