12:45 PM Eastern - Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Top 10 Historical Chamber of Commerce Quotes Against Healthcare

When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed early versions of the healthcare bill Tuesday, we weren't surprised. This is, after all, the same group that colorfully told the Associated Press it was "time to unload the powder and fill the musket" in their fight against health care reform. Call us cynical, but we didn't think they were planning on using that $100 million "campaign to defend the free market" on tea parties and Civil War reenactments.

The fact is, America's healthcare system is broken and all the right-wing continues to do is champion the status quo and purposely distort the reality of what fixing healthcare will mean to millions of American families. The Chamber's assault on the current bill is simply the latest in a string of attacks on common-sense healthcare reforms during the course of their existence. Here's our "Top 10."

Top 10 Historical Chamber Quotes Against Healthcare

10. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Denounced Patients' Bill of Rights As Special Interest Giveaway To Trial Lawyers. Bruce Josten, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said that 2001 of the Patients' Bill of Rights "should be called the Trial Lawyers' Right to Bill...adding new mandates and expanding liability will only serve to increase insurance costs and undermine employers' ability to offer this valuable benefit." [U.S. Chamber of Commerce Press Release, 6/12/01 ]

9. U.S. Chamber Spokesman Said OSHA Is a "Blatant Denial of Fundamental Fairness." When describing the structure of the Labor Department within the Executive Branch rather than the Judicial Branch of the government, Richard Berman, director of labor law for the United States Chamber of Commerce, said "This has a chilling effect on an employer's exercise of his right to appeal and is thus a blatant denial of fundamental fairness." [U.S. News & World Report, 11/24/75]

  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vigorously Opposed Occupational Safety Regulations and "led the fight to defeat the 1968 bill." In an article written between the initial bill supported by President Johnson and the second bill, that passed, supported by President Nixon, the New York Times reported: "The first legislation providing for a comprehensive nationwide system of health and safety standards was proposed last year by President Johnson. Strongly supported by labor, the bill ran into immediate and vigorous opposition from industry, led by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States." [New York Times, 12/10/69; New York Times, 3/19/70]
8. U.S. Chamber President Called OSHA "An Abysmal Failure." In 1980, Richard L. Lesher, President of the U.S. Chamber of Congress, charged, "OSHA at best has been a major disappointment, at worst an abysmal failure." "To date, there has been no solid documentation that OSHA has yielded any gains in safety or health," said Lesher. [AP, 4/1/80]

7. U.S. Chamber Spokesman Compared Employer Mandates to Jumping on a "Runaway Train." In 1989, U.S. Chamber Spokesman Frederick J. Krebs was asked by the Washington Post about employer mandated coverage and said, "Health-care costs are out of control -- so being forced to provide these benefits is like being told to jump on a runaway train." [The Washington Post, 4/13/89]

6. Referring to Mental Health Parity Legislation, Chamber Officials Said Personal Tragedy is a "Poor Way to Make Legislation." Complaining that opposing Republicans on mental health parity legislation put them in an awkward position, Neil Trautwein, manager of health care policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, "It's tremendous to have someone with the stature of Pete Domenici or Alan Simpson get up and describe these personal tragedies, but it's often a poor way to make legislation," says Trautwein. "An emotional argument late in the night is not the way to make policy." [The Washington Post, 6/19/96]

We thought we'd save the best for last, so: be sure to read the "top 5" quotes, after the break.

5. U.S. Chamber VP Said Business Community Would Wage "All-Out War" Against Paid Family Leave. Randel Johnson, vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits at the United States Chamber of Commerce, said the business community will wage "all-out war" against paid family leave for two reasons: First, "someone's got to pay for it," and second, paid leave will give employees an incentive to use it." [Austin Business Journal, 9/10/07]

  • U.S. Chamber VP Said They it Won't "Roll Over" on Family Medical Leave. ''Supporters of legislation like this complain about unfunded mandates in education when it comes to No Child Left Behind, but they don't hesitate to impose unfunded mandates on employers,'' said Randel Johnson, vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits at the United States Chamber of Commerce. ''The employer community is not going to roll over on this issue.'' [New York Times, 12/5/06]
4. U.S. Chamber Opposed Family and Medical Leave Because Government Shouldn't Be "Personnel Administrators." Discussing the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1991, Richard Lesher, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, "We think most Americans don't want the federal government to be their personnel administrators." [Washington Post, 5/15/91]

3. U.S. Chamber Opposed Family and Medical Leave, Saying if Set a "Dangerous Precedent." Discussing the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1987, Virginia B. Lamp of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, "Sometimes an issue is lobbyist-driven or Washington-driven, but this is absolutely grass roots," adding that business sees the bill as creating a "dangerous precedent" of federally mandated employee benefits. [New York Times, 2/3/87]

2. U.S. Chamber President: Universal Coverage is "A Very Unrealistic Goal." Discussing universal health care in 1994, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Richard L. Lesher said, "We have put that on the shelf for now." He added that universal coverage is "a very unrealistic goal." Lesher "said the chamber decided to reverse its policy on universal coverage because it was hard to separate that goal from an employer mandate. Since there was strong disagreement on employer mandates, universal coverage also had to be reconsidered, he said." [Hartford Courant, 3/1/94]

1. U.S. Chamber: Pregnancy Is A "Voluntary" Condition. A 1978 article described the fight against the Pregnancy Discrimination Act as lead by "the Chamber of Commerce of the U.S., the National Association of Manufacturers and other business groups. They argue that pregnancy, as a "voluntary" condition, should not be equated with illness..." [U.S. News & World Report, 7/10/78]

  • U.S. Chamber Opposed Amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to Cover Women From Discrimination Due to Pregnancy. The New York Times reported "Women's rights groups and organized labor urged Congress today to counter a major Supreme Court ruling by amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to make the law clearly prohibit job discrimination because of pregnancy. But the United States Chamber of Commerce opposed the move..." [New York Times, 4/7/77]

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