The drawn-out debt ceiling debate galvanized working people to come together en masse to redirect the discussion from catering to CEOs in board rooms to creating jobs and relieving the pain of families at their kitchen tables across the country.
In the weeks leading up to the critical final hours of the debt ceiling debate, SEIU active and retiree members made more than 16,000 calls, sent emails and took to the streets to say loud and clear that cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security would be unacceptable. Read on for a round-up of actions that SEIU members took part in NY, IL, MN, PA, MA, OH, CA, WI and FL.
New YorkSeniors and community members from Long Island and NYC took action to get their message heard loud and clear: instead of slashing funds to programs like Medicare and Medicaid, banks should be helping balance the budget. More than 150 people organized by United NY, 1199SEIU and 32BJ held "Knit-Ins" at banks on August 3 to create blankets that say "Save Medicare." The blankets will be hand-delivered to members of Congress during the August recess.
Earlier in July, SEIU Local200U members who provide support for people with developmental disabilities joined with community ally the Center for Disability Rights to pay a visit to Representative Buerkle's staff for a discussion about proposed cuts in Medicaid. As part of the visit, members delivered over 800 postcards they'd collected calling on Rep. Buerkle and Rep. Gibson to fund Medicaid services for people with disabilities, not tax breaks for corporate jet owners.
"We help people cope with life and take care of themselves," said Local 200U member Dave Zimmerman. "If cuts are made to Medicaid, which is the funding which provides these folks the opportunity to be on their own, it would negatively impact their lives and diminish their dreams."
MinnesotaSEIU members joined an audience of 60 constituents at U.S. Representative Erik Paulsen's district office to tell him not to balance the budget on the backs of seniors and working families.
Members and activists protested and held signs outside of U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack's office, telling him to "Stop Protecting Fat Cats." In contrast, members gathered in a gesture of appreciation outside the office of U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum to show their thanks for her strong opposition to cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
PennsylvaniaSEIU Healthcare PA members took action by visiting the district offices of Reps. Tim Holden and Jason Altmire to send the message that we cannot solve the ongoing debt ceiling debate through cut and gut economic policies only. Watch video here.
Massachusetts1199SEIU members, hospital representatives, healthcare advocates and faith leaders gathered on the steps of the state house in late July to urge their Congressional delegation to stand strong in the face of potential Medicaid cuts. "My patients are not just numbers to me and I want them to not be just numbers to Washington, D.C.," said Nadia Vilmont, a patient access representative at Boston Medical Center. Read more about the event.
IllinoisIn late July, Senator Mark Kirk's capitol office in Springfield became a scene filled with dozens of SEIU members chanting "Show some guts; stop the cuts!" Read more about the Springfield action.
OhioVeterans, seniors and other concerned citizens met up at outside the offices of Congressman Bill Johnson and Congressman John Boehner to protest proposed cuts. A group also rallied outside the office of Senator Rob Portman to voice their concerns about cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
CaliforniaSEIU-UHW members at St. Francis Medical Center mobilized to speak with the media about why it's important to have a deal that protects Medicaid for seniors, children and the disabled. Read more.
In Fresno, 500 healthcare workers rallied alongside concerned citizens outside the office of Rep. Jeffrey Denham (R-CA), to tell the congressman to prioritize job creation when Congress re-convenes in September after the August recess. "Congressman Denham campaigned on the promise of creating more jobs," said SEIU-UHW VP Stan Lyles, "but he hasn't voted for one single jobs bill." Watch video here.
WisconsinIn Glendale, supporters staged a funeral procession, complete with a hearse and coffins, outside of Senator Alberta Darlings' office. In spite of the fact that Medicaid and Medicare provide critical healthcare to hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents, Darling supports Paul Ryan's extreme plan to undermine the nation's historic health care commitments to seniors, children and people with disabilities.
"When it comes to issues that matter to working Wisconsin families, State Senator Alberta Darling is not on our side," said Dian Palmer, RN, President of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin. Watch video of the procession.
FloridaSEIU members and seniors participated in rallies in Tallahassee and West Palm Beach. In West Palm Beach, activists from MoveOn.org and the Florida Alliance of Retired Americans joined SEIU members gathering outside U.S. Representative Allen West's office to protest West's support for the "Cut, Cap, and Balance Act," which would greatly diminish Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits for Floridians who need them the most.
Refocus: JOBS, not cuts
The debt ceiling deal was a last ditch attempt to avert financial disaster, but it by no means secures the future of Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is precisely why it's time for unions and progressives mobilize their core activists and members even more for a series of bold actions on jobs that Congress can't ignore.
We need a better vision of America, where we can work for a living, support our families, and retire with dignity. Simply put, working people need leaders to lead. But if we want Congress to show more courage to stand up and get serious about job creation, then we need to start showing more fight and displaying more courage ourselves.
You can get started right now by calling your member of Congress right now to tell them to focus on creating jobs for millions of workers and preserving the benefits of retirees. Send them a message here.