Remember their Faces: The Life and Death Stakes of the Healthcare Fight


June 29, 2017 “Healthcare is a human right. Non-negotiable.”

That’s what Filaine Deronnette, of SEIU 1199, said when asked what she would say to someone who asked why more than seventy men and women had gathered to protest the Republicans’ plan to strip away healthcare from between 22-23 million Americans. Hopefully future generations will think her answer is obvious and wonder why there was any debate at all about whether people living in the wealthiest country on Earth all deserved equal access to medical care.

But for now, there are plenty of politicians who think healthcare is a privilege meant only for the wealthy. And if they have their way, it soon will be.

That’s why members of SEIU 1199, SEIU 32BJ, Healthcare for All, the Jewish Labor Committee, Jobs with Justice, and more gathered outside the JFK Federal Building together to declare that Deronnette is absolutely right – no one living in the United States should needlessly suffer, especially when many of those who would lose healthcare are working two or three jobs to keep themselves and their families alive.

There remains a grotesque number of people uninsured even with the Affordable Care Act. But the Republicans’ plan would make a terrible situation far worse.

The devastating human cost of repealing the Affordable Care Act was front and center at the rally yesterday – union members, nurses, and other medical professionals spoke about their experiences with the sick, the elderly, and the disabled whose lives depend on Medicare and Medicaid, which Republicans want to gut.

These speakers know firsthand how important access to medical care is in this country. They’ve seen the faces of those everyone gathered at the JFK building came to fight for and protect.

And they brought those faces with them.

Amidst the many signs with slogans and demands, anyone passing by would see giant posters with images of nurses and doctors with their patients – patients that were of all ages, all genders, all races, all religions, and, above all else, all human. These signs had no slogans. They didn’t need any. They testified to the fact that beneath all the rhetoric and politics surrounding this issue is a moral question about what kind of society we want to be.

Near the end of the rally, the final speaker reminded people that the 4th of July was approaching and that it was incumbent on all of us to keep pressuring lawmakers until this fight is over, perhaps by reminding them that if they all really love America so much, then maybe they should show some love to Americans.

Even the poor ones.


Matthew James Seidel is a post-graduate fellow at the Center for Labor Research and Education. He has worked as an adjunct English instructor for five years first in Chicago, IL and then Bloomington, IN. He has been published on and maintains a book review blog at He is currently working for Massachusetts Jobs with Justice.


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