The Health Care is a Human Right Model

Date and Time:
Sunday, August 24, 9:00AM-10:10AM, ILWU Local 6 Hall, Auditorium 2

Presenters: Matt McGrath, Vermont Workers Center, and Ben Palmquist, National Economic & Social Rights Initiative

Description: The lessons of the Vermont Workers’ Center’s human rights organizing model, which led to the passage of the United States’ first universal healthcare law, have informed the emergence of new campaigns in Maryland, Maine and other states. Grassroots groups are picking up the baton and paving the way for a domino effect of state-based universal healthcare wins. By uniting constituencies and envisioning alternatives to commodification, healthcare is used as a lever to build a counter-hegemonic force for structural change. This workshop will discuss the Vermont model, share lessons learned, and invite participants to join a national network that supports the growing Healthcare Is a Human Right movement in their states.

Notes by Presenters and Conference Participants:

Matt M – there’s a lot of components to it – we hope to engage in a dialogue – a lot of other organizations are using similar language and components – we will lay out what it means to us, but we want to engage in a dialogue – don’t have to just sit there and listen – that’s counter to the HCHR model

Ben Palmquist—based in NYC – a national org – partner with orgs around the country – economic and human rights initiatives. NESRI – National Economic and Social Rights Initiative

Matt M – lead organizer of campaigns – VWC – around for 10 years – Jobs with justice chapter – multi issue – HC is major part – workers’ rights hotline – very few rights unless they build a union. They are just not getting paid enough – reason we took on our own campaign – the best thing that we could do was launch our own campaign – build a base across the state with the power to influence – chose HC as that issue – fundamentally believe HC is a right – we are building an organization and we are developing people and leaders – understand that our struggles are connected – struggles in the work place – climate justice, housing – if we think that our struggles are not tied to Ferguson, then we are missing the point – that’s one of the reasons to use the HR framework instead of policy – unify under broader framework.

????Sandra – Everything connects

MM – Social determinants of health – what keeps us health is more than just the system.

Ben - one other thing that I want to mention up front – what does that mean (Human Right) – for us – things that our communities need – fundamental needs – human rights come through struggle – they are given – they are things that we claim. And the change – in Detroit – water is a human right – that is another struggle very interrelated with our health care struggle – we don’t debate on a list – things that they need and they will stand up and claim – governments responsibility – their obligation to provide those rights – shouldn’t expect they will just give them – don’t try to debate the rationality of single payer – we need to change the terms of the debate by using human rights to put human beings and our fundamental needs right the center of everything, and we need to build power through deep, intentional organizing, base building and leadership development

Matt - VWC started campaign in 2008 – set out to collect stories – Donna mentioned yesterday – that’s what we did in the beginning of the campaign – series of questions – and really started to engage with people in a conversation – a lot of people just think that’s the way it is – help people recognize that it’s not just them – actually that’s lots of people – it’s a systemic problem – not their fault. Then we put the system on trial – in communities – panel of community leaders, not dec makers – to listen to the stories of the crisis – reshape the narrative of what HC should be – this is the system when HC is a commodity delivered in the market place – helped us shift the conversation to HC as a right. A few years of this, developing our own media – hammer hc cannot be commodity. it is a right. Some of our politicians recognized that was a talking point they could utilize for their own ambition. In VT there are some SP activists who have been working for a long time – what we did was allow us to build a broader base – talking about as a moral issue and through that power we were able to change the political landscape in VT to where we had politicians saying that HC is a right. We started with a repub gov – we set out by changing the narrative. The gov candidates were jostling for who was going to be the candidate for SP – that was a political selling point.

??? We have been having a similar thing in Oregon. District that was dem – all running with credentials – nurses assoc – pestered him to be very very strong on HC – and he won the primary and there for the seat. Did that happen with you?

??? Shumlins margin was pretty small right?

MM – yeah, I don’t want to get focused – the politicians were the product of the organizing that we did – all three candidates were SP.

??? I tell people 3 things – every time you buy a bar of soap you bought someone’s HC. ……………… acknowledged that it was a human right.

MM – you are basically making the same point that JN made yesterday – we’ve won all of the arguments – he said it way more passionately – we agree now what is missing is the political power and that is what we are trying to hit down – building that power.

??? – my leg is very conservative – don’t take to human rights. When we think about our daycare workers, if they’re not healthy we are contagious too.

???? – issues in CA – fits and starts – momentum and then it dies and we splinter off – the people that believe HC is a HR are on our team already – how do we get past that point and get the people who are on the fence. Those people that aren’t with us – and to maintain that momentum to where we can grab the opportunity when it’s ripe.

MM – another bullet point – we try to focus on building the leadership of those most impacted by the system. 1 – what our org has tried to focus on doing – going to the places where we believe the people are most impacted – we want to talk about what is important to them –been easier to get more people engaged outside of the liberal folks who are usually with us – its hard work – not initially with us. 2 – I left a few things out – when repub gov was sitting – passed another law – to do a study – DR. Tsau – passed under a repub gov – have small victories along the way – need victories to sustain people – what is useful for having a larger framework – even when their small we have to claim them (improvising?) –

BEN – in terms of base building identify those most impacted, being strategic – not trying to win everything – not trying – more strategic – the point about necessity – entry point is listening – asking for their stories and having a conversation about that and through the experience – through the conversation, use questions to move people's thinking - we're not alone in our challenges accessing health care and it's not our fault - everyone get the HC that they need and through that coming to HR

Kevin – just listening to everyone yesterday – rammed home the mess that HC is in right now—got into the mess via WWII — FDR froze wages during WWII – couldn’t raise wages – became you get HI if you work, if you don’t work you don’t get HI

???? – after the war racial divisions prevented ……

??? – Cold war

???? – examples of place to find people?

MM – KS on ways and means comm – doing 2 things – identifying people that we need to build support in their constituencies to hold them accountable – within their districts – low income in mobile home parks – I guess that’s akin to apartment complexes in cities.

How approach? Opening line

MM – Hey, I’m Matt (laughter) I support my field team – and we talk about what works – depends.

??? – I live in Maryland – have HC as a HR campaign – concerns about applicability in big states – progress is very slow – resources – 1 paid organizer – greatest success in rural areas and less populated – people know each other – in anonymous large cities its different – it’s a deep blue state but the dem are tied to the wealthy – mis match of resources – and a state like CA which Is huge – organizing in a highly urban env may require rethinking of models.

MM – great questions – movement is generally underfunded

Ben – we are working with Maryland – no ready answers – urban env, 5 million people – comm to GR org and political ed – this is a huge fights against massively powerful ins com – even if we are starting on the state level before national. In my experience the people who most affected – takes a lot of comm to do this work – a lot come in to it because of personal struggles – not just fighting for SP – do have a bigger transformative vision – really is rooted in our human needs and human rights.

Paul C – LUUHC – worked on prop 186 – underscore – how you began with going out with surveys and talking to people – there’s a diff between going to somebody and saying we have this great idea you should join us and going to them and asking them about their concerns – they want to feel that you care – feel that they are part of the campaign, not just someone on the outside – better chance of building a movement – kudos for starting that way – did you continue throughout.

MM – yes, you have to – you have to continue to organize – people have lives – fade out – bring people in a way that is empowering – part of organization.

Ben – workers center embodying this – doing political ed to build leadership skills.

MM – That brings up a good point – when we say that a good piece is organizing our communities – developed the peoples recipe – not new stuff – taken from precious organizers – component to build successful organization.

7 things in the recipe – at different times you add diff components

1 – base building – surveys, petitions – engage them in some way in the org.
2 – political education – robust program developing for 10 years – solidarity school – 2 day intensive pol ed – ongoing workshops. Learn as we lead. Learned from the poverty initiative in NY.
3 – Winning the battle of the story – developing our own narrative – narrative of mainstream is not our narrative – narrative of the ruling class – we need to be developing our own narrative – we think in terms of stories – we have our own – peoples media project – pod casts – videos on line – tv show – radio show – trying to tell our own story.
4 – holding power holders accountable – say nice things about us before the election – she is a politician like anybody else – we met with her the other day to get her on record – series of meetings and then when the leg session starts – actions to hold them accountable
5 – using the human rights framework – in this case we can talk about it in terms of the policy – how we develop policy and analyze policy
6 – grassroots fundraising – our work is underfunded – at the whims of foundations if that is the way we go – early on 2010 – got 30 thousand a year from the catholic foundations – could get the money again if we would say that HC HR did not include reproductive care – we will continue to lose those friends – moving towards the dues structure.
7 – Solidarity and movement building – growing organization in a way that is building the movement – — HR framework has been so powerful – sister org – migrant justice – talk about immigrant rights as human rights. Framed it around HR – fundamentally believe in same principles – have close relationship with disability rights organization – they have been able to really grasp on to the concept – so our relationship with these orgs go beyond supporting issues – rooted in something bigger.

???? – a lot of people are being demonized (children, immigrants, homeless) and we are trying to humanize – humanize instead of demonize

MM – universality – fight against the divide and conquer – that is the that will defeat us. When we talk to people – the narrative that is dividing our communities is compelling and moving us in ways – keeping us dividing – part of this framework is to unite us.

???? – know more about the particulars of the VT plan – study – cost 2 billion.

???? – financing plan – specifics – how to keep the ins companies out.

Ben – power of HC HR model – powerful tool – the way that we’re approaching these things – puts people first – challenged austerity narrative – narratives that divide us – part of what t act 48 did – codified principles into law – We got all that (principles) in the law. SO by getting these principles into the law and also by organizing – 2 ways to allow us to fight – tools to provide analysis (amendments / funding scheme) – equitable, universal etc.

One of the tools that we’ve developed – Hu man Rights assessment – back in 2008 – bill in house and senate – assessment tool – a matrix – under each principle – asks a bunch of questions. One by one through these principles – detailed analytical tool – here is the system that we need and here is what we need to change – gave members of worker center way to talk to legs in a way to hold them accountable. Really simple language.

MM – questions about public administration – who administer – question yet to decided – we have our own analysis – is to have that publicly administered – this is where the policy hits the organizing – if we don’t have the power – to say we don’t want BXBS to be the administrator –

??? Make a point about fund raising – my kids are texting me about the ice bucket challenge – the use of social media – at some point – it’s a thought in terms of fundraising

MM – do crowd sourcing types of fundraising – it’s a good question. Folks in the next room – tools that we should be utilizing.

David – I come from (NUHW) – also work at Kaiser – in the early days of Kaiser – learned about the history of Kaiser – how it came about – pragmatic issue of having health workers – principle to add – credibility – talk to people who don’t give a rats ass about human rights – necessity and human right – human rights is a good concept – in order to get the funders – grassroots is not going to do it – we are not Obama – we will not be able to beat the HC industry – frame it as a necessity for the economic good of the countries

MM – Koch brothers don’t give a shit what we say – but we do need to frame it for our audience.

??? – In Oregon – poll of citizens – 77 percent said they believe that HC is a human right – we can fight around it – idea is still out there. I have a perception that I’m part of a HC SP movement – one of our difficulties – not in category as most impacted – afraid of HR framework – a few years – actually focus on low wages – there is some fear with in the movement of this – we need SP to make 15 now mean something – inside the movement problem of that multi issue meaning being a challenge.

MM – We appreciate you all coming – point in really amazing dialogue that we need to continue to have – we have to build power in our states – we could really use help – big action on May Day 2015 – We’d love for folks to join us – phone banking, any resources.

Ben – emphasize – fight in VT – what plays out in VT will affect every other state – all and interest in making sure this plays out well.

Slideshows, Photos, and Video:


Packed room for Health Care is a Human Right workshop (photo by Healthcare-NOW!):

frpm CCourtney Health Care for All ~THANKS to the Vermont Worker's Center especially for sharing their experiences & inspirational campaign. I like how much info they also include on their website

Amazing that of citizens in OR reported 77% belief that HC is a human right? What was the sample size? Who did the poll? Reference?
Not a challenge, just truly impressed & the health behavior sociologist in me is curious to learn more.
WHAT do you think the differences in approaches might be between framing Health care as a human right compared to health care as a civil right? "
Focus groups" in TX, anecdotal reports are showing that more folk respond here to "civil right". Thoughts? Factors? Considerations?

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