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Children protest the board meeting that decided
to shut down Grady Hospital’s dialysis center in
2009. Grady, an historic safety net hospital, was
privatized, putting treatment for the poor at risk.
Photo/John Slaughter

By Rita Valenti

There is a cutting edge to the struggle for health care for all. It is the undocumented workers and their families.

In October of 2009, Grady Health Systems, in Atlanta, Georgia closed its dialysis clinic. ‘Citizen’ patients requiring long term dialysis eventually become eligible for Medicare and thus have access to the private dialysis clinics. Not so for those without papers.A grassroots effort has been able to secure continuing dialysis care for many of the 50 plus patients who were shut out of Grady, but the continuity of that care is fraught with insecurity. Without dialysis these people will die.

The irony is that nearly all dialysis patients receive public health insurance, but none of the dialysis centers are public. The closure of the Grady dialysis clinic was one of the first actions taken after Grady, an historic safety net hospital, was privatized. Privatization removed local government from democratic accountability and replaced it with corporate profitability. In May of 2011, Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia signed into Law HB 87—an Arizona anti-immigrant profiling copycat law that, among other heinous provisions, can potentially put health care providers at criminal risk for treating and/or assisting undocumented patients except in an emergency.

The inhumanity continues. Less than two years after the closure of the dialysis clinic, two Grady neighborhood clinics will be closed. Increased co-pays for indigent patients have been instituted. Over one hundred Grady workers have been laid off and more layoffs are planned. Those left working are doing the jobs of two and three people.

The alarm is sounding that an injury to one is an injury to all. Throughout the Midwest, collective bargaining rights particularly for health care benefits have been attacked. In Georgia, the Atlanta Central Labor Council has opposed HB 87. But more so, a movement is growing. Over 100 high school students walked out protesting HB 87. Thousands have demonstrated at the Georgia state Capitol against the bill. Several national and regional gatherings have been held in the south to examine tactics and strategies moving forward. A call to Boycott Georgia has been raised by immigrant rights organizations and a lawsuit filed. And in Vermont, where grassroots efforts toward single payer, public health insurance for all have succeeded in passing a legislative framework for a state single payer plan, the Vermont Workers Center organized and stopped an amendment to exclude the undocumented from that plan.

The fight for health care for all—Everyone In and No One Out—is an important piece of the class struggle. Militant defense of the undocumented worker is necessary for the defense and unity of the whole working class. Government must be held accountable to secure health care for all and not be allowed to turn public funding into private wealth!

By Eric Sheptock

On April 14th, 2011, the Coalition of Housing and Homeless Organizations (COHHO) discussed the devastating impact that Mayor Vincent Gray's proposed budget cuts for FY 2012 will have on DC's poor and homeless community. A formerly homeless man asked, "Who's going to tell the poor and homeless in DC about the cuts?" In response, several people said that they would remain after the meeting to plan a strategy.

We met at the CCNV (Community for Creative Non-Violence) Shelter. (About 25 were homeless or formerly homeless.) At the next meeting about 50 people were present. Then something awesome happened.

I learned that a non-profit called Save Our Safetynet (SOS) would plan a Human Services Reality Tour inside of the Wilson Building (DC City Hall) on May 18. People would set up displays and walk the Council members and/or their staff around to each display and explain the harm that will be inflicted on the city's neediest if the displayed social service is partially or fully defunded. The idea of having a march from CCNV to the Wilson Building prior to the reality tour was floated. I advertised it to my 15,000 on-line contacts through Facebook, Twitter and e-mail. Various non-profits posted it on their websites. I was invited to speak on Pacifica Radio. Word was spreading about this group of homeless people who were organizing at CCNV. A teacher brought his social justice class to a meeting. A free-lance writer for the Washington DC Examiner found out about the meetings through a flier on a supermarket bulletin board. Then came the big day.

Our small crowd of marchers made its way toward City Hall only to find more advocates there. Stragglers continued to join the demonstration.  The crowd —about 200-250 people and a considerable number of homeless -- moved from office to office to express their concerns to councilmembers who were in favor of cutting the Human Services budget and/or against raising taxes on the rich. We pressured the DC Council into meeting our demands for continued Human Services. We continue to visit our city council and follow their every move. When a couple of council members who said they would vote in favor of our demands withdrew their support, we were right back in their faces en masse to get them right again.

The movement of the dispossessed is growing by leaps and bounds in Washington, DC—the belly of the beast. Various non-profits and supporters are coming together to save Human Services. The homeless themselves are stepping up to the plate. The media is beginning to cover homelessness. Shelter employees are telling residents about the developing, government-manufactured crisis and allowing homeless advocates to come in and hold meetings. I'm organizing a group of homeless people and supporters at the CCNV Shelter. We are meeting every Monday. Local radio stations are advertising our meetings and fliers are posted in supermarkets.

Many of the homeless are becoming more socially conscious and are bringing some analysis to what they are doing. They are talking about how the present mayor is like the previous one and how the Democrats are acting like Republicans. Some say that the sudden loss of Human Services will spur a sharp rise in crime and might even spark a revolution. I've been advocating for the homeless for five years now, but have never seen such a wave of support for the dispossessed people. I'm glad to be a part of this new motion. It's been said that "There are 20 years that don't make a day; then, there's that day that makes 20 years". It seems that we're coming upon the latter.


This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 800-691-6888
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