Vermont Can Lead the Way:
New national solidarity initiative launched to support grassroots effort to establish human rights-based universal healthcare system in Vermont
BURLINGTON, VT – The Vermont Workers' Center (VWC) and national human rights organizations are launching a new nationwide solidarity initiative called "Vermont Can Lead the Way" to build national public support for the Vermont-based grassroots organizing-based Healthcare is a Human Right campaign (HCHR) to counter the enormous resources being pumped into the state to anti-universal healthcare groups, flooding airwaves with scare tactics and high-priced ads.
HCHR is a groundbreaking grassroots effort launched by the Vermont Workers' Center in 2008 that led to the 2011 passage of universal healthcare through Act 48. The legislation creates a universal healthcare system, grounded in human rights principles, setting Vermont on course to be the first in the country to provide healthcare as a public good, financed publicly and equitably. "Vermont Can Lead the Way" aims to build "critical national solidarity support from people all over the country," for HCHR, gathering at least 1,000 individual endorsers by September 3rd, 2012 (Labor Day). (www.vermontcanleadtheway.org)
Referencing the outside anti-healthcare groups, Vermont Workers' Center Director James Haslam said, "We will never be able to outspend these groups in an air war. But, we can out-organize them on the ground, and we can only do this through national support for our organizing! We're building a movement through canvassing, community outreach, public forums, accountability sessions with elected officials, collecting and sharing our stories, and continuing to indict the current broken healthcare system. Now we need our national solidarity movement so we can lead the way!"
Prof. Cornel West, Senator Bernie Sanders, Dr. Paul Farmer, Prof. Noam Chomsky, Dr. Patch Adams, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have already endorsed the campaign.
"This [initiative] is really important. The Healthcare Is a Human Right campaign in Vermont is one of the best examples I can imagine for how grassroots change can happen in this country, and we need all the support we can for it. If you want to see universal healthcare in this country and see a state truly put people over profit, now is your chance to support that happening," said Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of the Ben & Jerry's ice cream company.
Critical decisions will be made in 2013 about the health benefits in the new universal system, Green Mountain Care, and the financing mechanism for healthcare. The Healthcare is a Human Right campaign is working to ensure that the decisions result in a healthcare system that fully embodies the human rights principles of universality, equity, accountability, transparency and participation — a healthcare system that constitutes a public good belonging to the people of Vermont.
"Prior to the 2012 elections we are beginning to see giant healthcare profiteers and other big-moneyed corporate interests dumping huge sums of money to put out misinformation and confuse the people of Vermont in order to derail this effort.", said Haslam.
Vermont Can Lead the Way and HCHR also calls for a move away from focusing on the cost implications of universal healthcare: "We're morally bound to provide a system that's a public good that embodies the values of universality and equity," said Vermont Workers' Center President Peg Franzen. "We know we can ‘bend the cost curve,' but the number one priority is confronting the human suffering under our current healthcare system, and creating a universal healthcare system that fully realizes our human right to healthcare."
Dr. Paul Farmer, founding Director of Partners in Health and board member of National Economic & Social Rights Initiative, spoke on the importance of the VWC campaign for the right to healthcare. "The ongoing struggle for the right to health care has always needed champions," said Dr. Farmer. "Remember Martin Luther King's Poor People's Movement? Remember the March on Washington? The Vermont Workers' Center is a vital member of this movement for health, working to ensure that all people get the health care they need regardless of their ability to pay. Some things are not meant to be commodities – they are… rights."
Vermont's universal breakthrough has inspired people throughout the country to take up the struggle on a state level. To mark the one-year anniversary of Act 48 and the road ahead, the "Healthcare Is a Human Right" campaign has created a new video detailing the story of the grassroots organizing that led to the healthcare victory, and launched a new phase of the campaign, "Vermont Can Lead the Way," to secure individual endorsements from people all over the country.
"If Vermont can actually implement universal healthcare, our state can lead the way for states across the country to do the same," said Haslam. "People in Maryland, California, Oregon, New York, Pennsylvania, Maine and an increasing number of states are beginning to work together and apply strategies from the Healthcare Is a Human Right campaign in their states."
More information and the new video can be found at www.healthcareisahumanright.org. To endorse and view the most current list of endorsers, visit www.vermontcanleadtheway.org