Building the Movement for CalCare in 2023: Our 5 Part Plan

“California nurses are renewing our fight to put health care back in the hands of people, not the insurance companies hunting for their next buck.” California Nurses Association President Sandy Reding, RN, photo of Sandy Reding smiling in red scrubs

Nurses dedicate their careers to caring for others. They work tirelessly to ensure that the people who come into their facilities get the support they need. The California Nurses Association is dedicated to extending that care to everyone, and that’s why we continue to work tirelessly to build a just health care system that is there for everyone when they need it. We are doubling down on our long-held commitment to fight for and win CalCare.

We know that winning something as transformative as a just health care system will not come easy. It will take a serious and committed movement of people demanding it and working to win it. We appreciate all the people who are in this movement with us. We made no secret of the fact that we were angry with how our last effort to pass legislation in California ended, but that anger sharpens our resolve to push forward, and it does not obscure all of the progress we have made. We have analyzed the last campaign and have come up with a plan to take us all forward together to build unstoppable momentum that will eventually ensure we win.

We have secured the introduction of a spot bill, now known as AB 1690. A spot bill is essentially a bill with an intention of what we aspire to accomplish. In our case, it would mean that it is the intent of the legislature to work toward single-payer health care for all Californians, and we would introduce a bill with substantive language in 2024. We’ve heard from many legislators that they want to engage in meaningful discussion and give feedback on single payer. While there are certain principles of CalCare we would never compromise on, we also understand that it is important to engage in dialogue with the legislature and ensure that a majority support CalCare when the time comes. A spot bill allows the time for this critical dialogue while we continue to organize and build power and support for CalCare inside and outside the Capitol.

CalCare reintroduced graphic with red CalCare heart logo, orange background, red stripes at edge of square radiating from the center
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The introduction of AB 1690 is an important step. It gives us a focus point to organize around now, and it provides us with our north star to build for: a full CalCare bill introduced in 2024. It is essential that we put in work now to prepare for that. We have developed a five point plan to do that. We share our plan here in the interest of transparency and honesty, and because we know that the strength of our movement is derived from the grassroots — the committed people who step up to do the hard work of organizing and campaigning for CalCare. We want to show you what the nurses are committed to doing to fight for CalCare and to ask you to work with us.

Here is our five point plan to build the movement for CalCare this year.

1. Our biggest ever field program

Grassroots organizing is key to winning CalCare. It is how we bring more people into our movement, and it is how we show politicians that the public is with us. We plan to develop our biggest ever field program, and we need you to work with us to do it. Door-to-door canvassing is going to be crucial to these efforts. We need to get out into our communities and talk to our neighbors about CalCare. That’s why we’re organizing a Statewide Weekend of Action on Saturday, March 25th, and Sunday, March 26th. We already have over 70 people signed up to host canvasses. If you want to step up and take part let us know here. We will give you all the support you need to take part. This is the single most useful thing you can do now to build support for CalCare.

Photo of a canvass from the SB 562 campaign (2017–2018)

We will also build our CalCare District Leader Program so that we can have local organizing in as many Assembly districts as possible. We will offer continued training and support to tailor an organizing approach that works best for each district and work to build coalitions of local organizations and community leaders in your district to support CalCare. This is something that we saw work really well to move legislators in the last session, and we’re excited to expand it. If you want to become a District Leader, let us know here.

“Fierce, dogged organizing by nurses and our community allies is the reason why CalCare advanced through the Assembly Health and Appropriations committees last session and why CalCare is on the table again.”
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Puneet Maharaj, California Nurses Association’s Government Relations Director

2. Broadening and deepening our coalition

We deeply appreciate our allies in the health care justice movement. We will continue to work shoulder to shoulder. But we also need to expand and diversify the movement by including other new organizations and people who have not been involved before. We will look to proactively build the coalition for CalCare by inviting other organizations to support and by working with District Leaders to sign up supportive local organizations. We are particularly excited to work with organizations that want to step up and help organize to pass CalCare, organizations that can help to put boots on the ground to canvass, and who can help to engage with and put pressure on politicians. These organizations will be invited to an Organizing Table to help coordinate action and to build support and momentum to pass CalCare.

If you are part of an organization that supports CalCare, have a point person fill out the CalCare Organizational Endorsement Form for org-related updates.

3. Building support in the labor movement

Support from the labor movement is essential to getting CalCare passed. The California Labor Federation did officially support the previous CalCare bill AB 1400, and we want to build on this. But we need to get active support from individual unions and commitments to work toward passing legislation. Over the next months we will be reaching out to all the Central Labor Councils across the state, arranging to attend meetings and make presentations. We know that CalCare will greatly improve conditions for workers. We need to make sure that union members know this too. If you’re a union leader or member, and you would like for us to give this presentation to your union, please send us an email at info@medicare4all.org.

4. Public education

We want to create a robust education program to build and solidify support for CalCare and to inoculate against attacks and disinformation from our opponents.

During AB 1400’s progress through the Assembly last session, and during last year’s elections, we saw what the health care industry is capable of. They launched a sustained propaganda effort against CalCare. Millions of dollars were spent by corporate interests to attack pro-CalCare candidates. We know that the closer we get to winning CalCare, the more these attacks will increase. We must start preparing for this now. We plan to roll out educational programming and materials to inoculate the public from these attacks. This approach will include a Nurses & Allies Speakers’ Bureau — a cadre of CalCare Speakers who can speak about CalCare with local groups — and a series of video explainers that will counter corporate disinformation online. Stay tuned for more information about trainings to become part of the speakers’ bureau.

“The billion-dollar insurance industry will come forward with their lies, complaints, and army of lobbyists, but nurses see every day why Californians desperately need CalCare. We have the facts and the people behind us.”
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Puneet Maharaj, California Nurses Association’s Government Relations Director

5. Organizing inside the legislature

We need legislators to pass legislation. We want to work closely with the legislators who already support CalCare — including the CalCare champions our movement helped elect — to work out how to get CalCare passed into law.

Some legislators are allies with whom we can work. Some are supportive of CalCare in principle but need reassurances about our bill. Others will need to be pressured to get on board or worked around. We know that some politicians are not with the people and will never support us. But we don’t want to paint all politicians with the same brush. We need an intelligent and strategic approach to working in Sacramento. This work will be led and guided by our excellent Government Relations Department — they will work to educate legislators and their staff on the policy details of CalCare, answer any questions they may have, and to take feedback on the bill. They will help us to shape our organizing strategy — letting us know how to approach each Assemblymember and whether they need to be pressured or persuaded.

“With an even larger Democratic supermajority this session, there are no excuses for Sacramento to deny Californians guaranteed health care through CalCare. Nurses look forward to working with Assemblymember Kalra to build support for a single-payer health care system that puts patients above profits.”
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California Nurses Association President Sandy Reding, RN

2023 Campaign Strategy: Canvassing (Later: Expanded District Leader Program), Union outreach, Work w/ legislators, Grow CalCare coalition, Public education (short videos & speakers bureau trainings).

This plan relies on the strength of our grassroots movement and particularly the willingness of people to step up and to organize in their own communities. All the efforts that our union will make — to galvanize the rest of the labor movement, to educate the public, to build our coalition, to organize politicians — are amplified by and connected to the local organizing of CalCare supporters. We will invite unions and other organizations to join our canvassing field effort. The public will hear about CalCare on the doorstep. And legislators will feel more motivated to work on CalCare when they know that their constituents are canvassing and being canvassed. If you want to be involved in these efforts, sign up here.

We are very proud of the fact that this movement is led by nurses. Nurses are on the front line of the broken health care system and know better than anyone what is wrong with the status quo and what needs to be done to fix it. But we also know that we don’t do anything alone. This campaign draws its strength from being a grassroots movement of committed people. We thank you and we look forward to working together again.

Photo compilation of nurses and community supporters holding placards for Safe Staffing, CalCare, Black Lives Matter, and Medicare for All.
Nurses and community supporters demonstrating for CalCare, safe staffing, racial justice, and Medicare for All.

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Nurses' Campaign for Medicare for All

National Nurses United is the largest union of nurses in the US. NNU is leading the fight for Medicare for All on behalf of our patients and our communities.