by Traven Leyshon, VWC Member

On May 30th, leaders and activists from Vermont labor and community-based organizations met at the Vermont State Employees Association headquarters to craft an action campaign to build a powerful grassroots, labor-led movement for health care as a right, publicly financed, and divorced from employment. This follows on the Workers’ Center’s decision to build a winning universal health care campaign.

In the shadow of the Chittenden East teachers’ strike, three other recent teachers’ strikes, and other potential looming strikes over health care in Burlington and elsewhere — building a movement of unprecedented strength and depth in the face of this crisis must intensify.
As an action campaign we are uniting both those who may believe that Catamount “is a step toward universal coverage,” as well as those who think that it “is worse than no bill at all.” Anyway you add it up, Catamount shows the limits of relying on the current political establishment — even when under pressure from a commendable coalition like the Vermont Campaign for Health Care Security.

Without massive pressure from Vermonters, politics as usual would mean that the legislature will just focus on implementing the bill that was passed, and not move forward until it plays out over three years or so. In the interim, health care would become more unaffordable, and bitter strikes over health care would increase as school boards and businesses try to shift more of the costs onto our families.

At our well-attended Burlington forum on the health care crisis, Jen Henry, a nurse and President of the United Professions of Vermont/AFT, gave us the prescription for curing a sick system: unite labor and our community allies in educating and mobilizing our members, and build a grassroots movement that the politicians can’t ignore.

This spring the Workers’ Center worked with the NEA and others to hold cross-union workshops as part of building a grassroots health care campaign from the bottom up.
Another recent victory for the labor movement was when nurses and Workers’ Center members who support the Justice for Health Care Workers Campaign helped win passage of the Safe Staffing and Quality Patient Care Bill. This was a victory for disclosing proper staffing levels in Vermont hospitals and a step towards ensuring safe and quality patient care in our health care facilities.

Our May 17th Burlington public forum brought the voice of working people to this crisis: including nurses on the front line, firefighters, laid off factory workers struggling to keep insurance, and others fresh from the picket lines and contract campaigns where we’re fighting to keep affordable health care, including the Burlington & Chittenden East Education Associations; Burlington Electrical Department workers (IBEW Local 300); Copley United Nurses & Allied Professionals Local 5109; Fletcher Allen Nurses (UPV/AFT Local 5221); United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE); UVM Faculty (United Academics, AAU P/AFT); UVM Student Labor Action Project (SLAP); Vermont Ironworkers Local 474; and others. The panel was facilitated by Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss.

The Workers’ Center’s Health Care Action Committee is developing an effective organizing campaign that will mobilize thousands of Vermonters to change what is politically possible through intense organizing, education, and grassroots action. This summer we will be canvassing throughout neighborhoods in Barre, Burlington, Rutland, and southern Vermont.

If you’d like to help, please give us a call (802) 229-0009.

Work to End the Healthcare Crisis!
Building a movement for comprehensive health care reform will take the involvement of lots of Vermonters like yourself. From talking to neighbors & co-workers, petitioning, door-to-door canvassing, or writing letters to the editor… there are things you can do to help us build the solidarity and power we need to win!
Contact us at (802) 229-0009 or email to get involved.