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ND unions rally for 'health care not wealth care'

Dan Jackson, a steel worker from Gwinner, N.D., leads a group of about 50 people in chants during a rally for affordable health care on North State Street and I-94 in Bismarck on Thursday. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK—As part of its annual convention, North Dakota AFL-CIO's members took to a Bismarck street corner to rally for affordable health care.

Chants of "health care not wealth care" and "Where is Hoeven?" rang out from the crowd of roughly 50 people gathered on one side of State Street Wednesday.

The American Health Care Act already passed the House, and some version is going to come through the Senate, according to North Dakota AFL-CIO President Waylon Hedegaard, who said the union is frustrated that Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., has held no town hall.

"He's had roundtables," Hedegaard said, but those events have been poorly publicized and "carefully scripted."

"By the time we find out about them, they've already happened," Hedegaard said. "He needs to open it up for public input so he can be held accountable for the vote he's going to be taking."

Steve Cortina, of Bismarck, a member of Laborers Local 563, held out a sign reading, "Healthcare is a human right."

"Do we need to say anymore?" he asked.

Hedegaard said the union is calling on Congress to improve on the Obama-era Affordable Care Act, not tear it down, go back to the former system or replace it with something worse.

"We want better care, not worse. We want more coverage, not less. We want better coverage for more people — not worse for less," he said.

Miranda Martinez-Fitz, a United Steelworker with Local 550 in Gwinner, said it has always been the mission of AFL-CIO to improve conditions for everyone, so taking on this fight for all of North Dakota fit well with the organization's goals.

"People really want and need health care," said Landis Larson, a machinist with Local 2525 out of Fargo. "It's important to the whole U.S."

He said if people don't have health care, the cost still gets passed on to the public at large.

"Cut out insurance to too many, and it will be devastating to all of us," Larson said.

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