Editorial: We Must Prepare For A Drawn-Out Assault on Our Rights

May 18, 2017

We won the first battle for the ACA, but there are many more to come.

On the afternoon of March 24, thousands of 1199SEIU members took a moment to celebrate a hard won victory when Rep. Paul Ryan pulled the Republican healthcare plan and let stand President Obama’s signature healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act. It culminated one of the first major battles of the Trump Presidency for working people. Over the course of three months, tens of thousands of workers, concerned citizens and coalition members stood together. They fought to protect healthcare coverage for 24 million people, Medicaid funding, women’s health care, drug treatment and the scores of other protections farright wing lawmakers wanted to eliminate in the name of economic stewardship and state’s rights. But the vast armies that rose up at town halls, demonstrations, on social media and in countless other ways refused to let elected officials act against the best interests of the people. 1199SEIU members were among them in every region of the Union. “I believe that health care is a right,” said Almitra Yancey, a frontline defender of the ACA who works at the Tarrytown, NY site of Montefiore Medical Center.

Yancey, an active 1199SEIU delegate, attended town halls and demonstrations in support of protecting the ACA. She noted the Medicaid cuts in the Republican plan would have devastated our vulnerable institutions and patients. “They would have a ripple effect on the healthcare system as a whole,” she concluded.

“The truth is, we’re just out of the first skirmish in this new fouryear war on our rights; the other side is mustering and hunkering down in Washington, D.C. and every state with plans to keep working people down,” says Justina Cioffi, an RN at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, FL.

She points to the explosive growth of right-to-work (for less) laws and the increasing suppression of unions. “If we let it happen it’s going to be downhill for everything—the quality of life, health care, care for our patients,” she says. “Everything will go down the tubes. We will just be numbers.” To continue the good fight, every member has to be all in, she says. “Many workers may not see the benefits yet, but I ask them, ‘Don’t you want to have a say in better staffing, in better patient care?’ You pay your dues. It’s one hour of your pay. That way you get to have an opinion, you are proactive and you are involved.”

1199 Magazine | March/April 2017