Hundreds of UFCW members from across the country flooded the halls of Congress today to tell how the health care crisis has impacted working Americans and to send a strong message to those in Washington that health care reform cannot wait.
UFCW members joined with thousands of health care advocates from other labor unions, community groups, and medical associations for one of the largest health care reform rallies in recent history. Crowds gathered in Upper Senate Park at 11:30 AM to hear Actress Edie Falco, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and other leaders in the health care reform movement speak at the event, which was hosted by Health Care for American Now (HCAN).
Following the massive rally, workers went to congressional offices and held eleven different town hall meetings to share their stories and advocate for principles key to fixing our intertwined economic and health crises including:
- the restoration of choice and cost-controls in the insurance industry through a public health insurance option;
- shared responsibility among individuals, employers, insurance companies, and the government;
- the end to consideration of a tax on health benefits that would place additional stress on the already-struggling middle class.
Vincent Germani, a produce clerk at ShopRite in Edgewater, New Jersey and a UFCW member since 1979, was one of the workers who brought his story with him to Washington, DC. Though Germani has good benefits, he worries for his 19 year-old daughter who is going off to college and won’t be eligible under his plan unless she maintains full-time enrollment status at school.
“Health care is something I feel deep down inside me,” said Germani. “Things have to change and I think with Obama, we have a better chance.”
“As an employee of a successful integrated health care delivery system, it still has its challenges,” said Leslie Fitch, a single mother who travelled from Marysville, Washington for today’s rally. Fitch has worked as a pharmacy technician at Group Health for the past 16 years. “We bargain for better wages, which is affected by ever-increasing health care costs,” Fitch continued. “I believe I speak for my co-workers back home when I say ‘quality affordable healthcare for all can be done.’ We ask our nations leaders to make it happen. The longer we wait the longer each one of us will be suffering for it.”
Today’s rally comes at a crucial time for health care reform. As committees in the House and Senate continue to flesh out their proposals, the future of our health care system is being defined. The UFCW stands united with the other labor, health, and community organizations who represent middle class America and will work together to ensure that every American has quality, affordable health care and coverage they can count on.