This summer, volunteers and staff from the Vermont Workers’ Center have been asking working Vermonters a simple question — “Do you believe we have a human right to healthcare?”
That question is part of a survey being conducted as the first phase of the Workers’ Center’s Healthcare Is a Human Right campaign. This campaign aims to change what is “politically possible” in the healthcare debate through grassroots organizing and expanding public understanding of the human rights framework. “Sixty years ago, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the nations of the world — including the U.S. — declared that everyone has a basic human right to medical care and security in the event of sickness or disability,” said Dawn Stanger, president of the Workers’ Center. “Sadly, that right is not respected in the U.S., the wealthiest country in the world.”
So far, the Center has surveyed over four hundred Vermonters, with a goal of reaching well over a thousand this fall. Some of the survey results have been eye-openers. Approximately two-thirds of respondents had refrained from getting health care at some point because they felt they were unable to afford it. A majority have stayed in a job only because of health insurance benefits. Almost one in five have experienced discrimination in trying to access healthcare, and more than one in ten respondents have stayed in an abusive relationship in order not to lose health benefits.
Surveys are being collected door-to-door, in workplaces, at community events and house parties hosted by volunteers. “The effort is really to try to speak to people who haven’t been involved in politics before,” said Colin Robinson of the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign, which is joining the Workers’ Center in the campaign.
The next stage of the campaign will feature Human Rights Hearings in locations around the state in the fall, where community leaders will gather to hear testimony from those most affected by the healthcare crisis: working Vermonters, the unemployed, retirees, the un- and under-insured. The Workers’ Center expects to hold hearings in Brattleboro, Burlington, Barre and the Northeast Kingdom in the coming months, expanding to more locations as the campaign continues.
For more information about the campaign, to volunteer or take the survey, contact VWC Healthcare Organizer Erika Simard at 861-2877 (Burlington) or 866-229-0009 (toll-free), or visit workerscenter.org/healthcare