WIL Statement in Response to Violence Incited by Right-Wingers Against SEIU Members

On Thursday, August 6th, following a town hall meeting staged by Representative Russ Carnahan (D-MO) in St. Louis, MO to tout President Obama’s health reform plan, violence was instigated by right-wing “protesters” against members of the Service Employees International Union. The SEIU members, three organizers and a shop steward, had turned out to demand health care for all. Among the SEIU members was recent St. Louis Mayoral candidate Rev. Elston McCowan, who ran an independent campaign on the Green Party ticket, fighting for single-payer health care and concrete measures to create jobs and defend public education. McCowan was assaulted by “tea party” protesters and his shoulder was dislocated.  He was also arrested along with other SEIU members, for the “crime” of defending themselves against the right-wingers. The town hall meeting itself was disrupted inside by right-wing hecklers, who created a charged atmosphere.
This incident has been seized upon by right-wing media outlets such as Fox News and the O’Reilly Factor, who are falsely laying blame on “SEIU thugs” (according to the O’Reilly Factor) for the violence. In the days following Thursday’s town hall meeting, the “tea party” organizations staged a protest outside the union’s offices. To add insult to injury, Rep. Carnahan appeared on television this past weekend to condemn the right-wingers and the SEIU! Another town hall meeting on health care reform scheduled for Saturday, August 8th was canceled due to fears of disruption and violence.
These “tea party” groups, funded by the Republican Party and the big health insurance corporations, are shills for big business. Made up mostly of middle class and wealthy people, these “grass roots organizations” are being whipped into a frenzy of fear fed by misinformation and have been let loose in order to disrupt public discussions on health care in St. Louis, MO, Tampa, FL, and Orlando, FL so far, even meetings organized by the big-business backed Democratic Party to discuss Obama’s health plan.

Let’s be clear: Obama’s plan in no way represents a single-payer, socialized health care system. Obama’s plan in fact will continue to make room for the multi-billion dollar HMO and pharmaceutical companies, who are literally sucking the life blood of working people in the name of big profits for the wealthy. The Democratic plan is more of the same. Republican news outlets and commentators are attempting to confuse the public by making Obama’s plan synonymous with a single payer health system. This kind of misinformation is feeding the “tea party” mobs. These people are encouraged to use goon tactics to shut down, disrupt and even force the cancellation of meetings and to intimidate and attack union members and who attend these public meetings to discuss the all-important issue of health care. Enough is enough – the Labor Movement needs to mobilize its forces to defend democratic rights and place genuine reform – single-payer health care – on the agenda!
The SEIU union has now committed itself to standing up to the “tea party” groups. The union released a statement, saying:

“Let’s be clear: These groups, backed by insurance companies and corporate front groups, want nothing more than to preserve the status quo system of rationing, where HMOs choose doctors, and insurance companies deny us the care we need. Their dearest hope is that by resorting to outrageous charges of Nazism and euthanasia, they can make the American public too afraid to support real reform.
“But SEIU and hardworking women and men all over this country are standing up to their bullying tactics. We deserve a national conversation about how we will fix our failing healthcare system and help make this an economy that works for everyone.”
This call to stand up to goon tactics and for a genuine national discussion on health care reform should be supported by the whole Labor Movement and all working people, students and activists. If the unions were to mobilize the membership and working people generally to attend such public discussions, and to organize stewards and members to protect such meetings from violence and disruption, this would be a big step forward and ensure a place for working people to participate. The unions should also reach out to the millions of unemployed workers, who are without health care of any kind, and get them to join this fight. The right to democratic expression must be defended and maintained absolutely. Beyond that, if the unions were to mobilize nationally to demand single-payer health care reform, in every town and city and in every state across the nation, it would show the real balance of forces. Without the working class’ kind permission, not a wheel turns nor a lightbulb shines. Such mobilizations would show the “tea party” protests for what they are: an insignificant whimper of a marginal section of the population.
The Workers International League extends its support and solidarity to the SEIU membership and to the Rev. Elston McCowan, who have been made the targets of the right-wingers. We also believe that the only fundamental health care reform is one that takes the giant HMOs and pharmaceutical companies out of the equation: a single-payer, socialized national health care system which would guarantee full access for all to the latest treatment, research and discoveries. Abolish the HMOs and nationalize the pharmaceutical giants that squeeze their profits from the health of working people! A lead towards mobilizing to fight for single-payer health care has already been given by many unions across the U.S., organized through the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer Health Care conference. We believe that if this demand were to be taken up by and fought for by the whole of the Labor Movement, it would be the best route towards real, fundamental reform of the country’s health care system and in the best interests of the vast majority of the population – working people.

Labor Mobilize to Defend Democratic Rights and Demand Single-Payer Health Care!

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