Friday, June 20, 2008

Coalition against privatization NYC June 19 Demo Report-Back

Here is the report Billy Wharton filed with the national coordinating committee of the June 19th demos...


We had a great rally and march in NYC yesterday. About 300 people
turned out in front of the office of GHI (a non-profit insurer in NY
State) and we then marched to the office of United Health. Speakers
included Ralph Nader, actress Vinie Burrows, Dr. Oliver Fein of the
Physicians for a National Health Program, Chuck Bell from the
Consumers Union and longtime socialist-pacifist activist David
McReynolds. Jean Fox from the Private Health Insurance Must Go!
Coalition and Billy Wharton from the Coalition Against Privatization
shared duties as the MC.

We began the event by reading aloud three healthcare horror stories
and holding a moment of silence dedicated to all the victims of
private health insurance. The GHI section of the protest was
high-energy. There is currently a proposal to "convert" GHI & HIP
into a merged for-profit company. Many speakers spoke against this
proposal and in favor of H.R. 676. Included here were rank-and-file
trade unionists including John Powers from the United Federation of
Teachers, Marvin Holland and Marty Goodman from the Transport Workers
Union Local 100 and Ronald Crenshaw from District Council 37 who,
despite their union leaders support of the conversion, found the
courage to speak up. Ralph Nader, Dr. Fein and David McReynolds gave
strong speeches demanding single-payer as both a human right and as
part of the routine services that citizens demand from the government
(fire, police and postal).

We then marched to United Health, a company which is housed in a
massive glass monstrosity on 34th street. Vinie Burrows began this
section of the march with a fine speech which highlighted the
significance of Juneteenth and the overall struggle for social
justice. Later, the Raging Grannies belted out some tunes including
lines like "Oh Medicare, my Medicare, Why don't you pay for Long Term
Care?" We closed with a fiery speech by Ajamu Sankofa of the Private
Health Insurance Must Go! Coalition and call by the MC (me!) to treat
the demonstration as a beginning point for further organizing.

Media coverage was unusual. I suppose that more people in Tokyo and
Rome will know about our demonstration than in New York City. Film
crews from Asahi news and an Italian TV station filmed and reported on
the march. Longer-term reporters from A&E and Bill Moyers Journal
also turned up. In addition, several independent media sources and
our main trade union newspaper picked up on the story.

To follow up, we distributed leaflets for a meeting on June 26th at
6:30 pm at 339 Lafayette Street (Buzzer #11) to discuss both the
GHI/HIP privatization and the struggle for HR 676. Overall, the
demonstration was quite invigorating as I felt like we were at the
beginning and not the end of something.

I have attached a photo of TWU Local 100 member Marvin Holland
delivering a speech just before we began the march from GHI to United
Health. Video and other reports are forthcoming.

Billy Wharton

Coalition Against Privatization

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