HOUSTON – About 2,000 supporters of health care reform attended a rally called by Organizing for America (OFA) at Houston City Hall on 9/3/09 in spite of raging thunderstorms and the last of the summer heat. The rally was endorsed by OFA, Harris County Democratic Party, Harris County AFL-CIO, SEIU and Justice for Janitors. The crowd was eclectic and included members of many unions and organizations, including Carpenter’s, HOPE, ACORN, Jobs with Justice, CWA, IBEW, Teamsters, AFSCME and others. Nurses, doctors, patients and health care advocates were in the rally.
There were about 100 people present who were opposed to health care reform and they were really obnoxious, sporting obscene signs declaring “Up yours, Obama.” They were easily drowned out by the people supporting health care reform. Houston police officers kept a watchful eye on them and prevented any violence.
One African-American woman named Ryan told me, “this is my first rally…I’ve worked all my life and I don’t have health insurance…I have issues with it…we need more health care coverage here.” Her friend, Elizabeth said, “I’m out here because I feel it is time I stand up for something in my generation. Health care is something I pray for myself. I don’t think it should be a luxury. As long as we’re contributing to this nation, I feel our welfare should be protected.”
I met up with an old friend of mine who told me he had a “close encounter with an 18-wheeler” last June which resulted in a broken wrist. He had insurance since he works for a major corporation, but the total bill was $12,000 and the insurance company stuck him with $6000 of that. He pointed out that the health care system is broken and he among others attending the rally advocated Universal Health Care and support HR676.
The crowd chanted loudly and enthusiastically, “Health care can’t wait!...Get it done now!” One speaker noted that the “death panels are the insurance companies.”
A Texas Southern University (second largest HBCU in the nation) student told the audience, “I work part-time. I don’t have comprehensive health insurance. I have waited hours in emergency rooms. I have struggled to pay bills and support my daughter. Our current health system is not working. We need health care reform now. Women pay 70% more than men in out of pocket expenses because of reproductive health care costs.”
Mona told the People’s World, “If you’re going to treat everybody fair that means everybody. Don’t look at the race, everybody means everybody!” With regard to health care for immigrants, she said, “If they’re allowed to work here, they should be allowed to receive health care. If they’re good enough to work here, they’re good enough to receive health care.”
Ricky echoed his support, “I’m in support of the reform. Health care for everybody! This is the land of milk and honey. Once you’ve made it to America, you should be entitled to the benefits the people of this country are entitled to.”
The rally was really moved by the eloquence of Rep. Al Green, D-Houston. He reminded us that “we spend $2.5 trillion per year in health care…we cannot afford not to do this (referring to health care reform).” “In this country, we won’t allow healthcare to become wealthcare,” he noted. He indicated the healthcare system should “not only serve those in the suites of life. We need to cover the people in the streets of life.” Rep. Green also stated it was preposterous to suggest that any member of Congress, Republican or Democrat would vote to pull the plug on anyone’s grandmother.