BREAKING NEWS: VWC Leader Selected to go to Geneva to present to UN For Failure of US Government to meet basic human rights

October 29, 2010

Vermonter Selected To Participate in United Nation’s Review of US Government's Failure to Ensure the Human Right to Healthcare

Burlington, VT - A representative from the Vermont Workers' Center's Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign has been selected to participate in a national delegation traveling to the United Nations in Geneva to report about the status of human rights in the United States. Mary Gerisch, who lives in Bennington, has been an active leader of the Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign for over two years. Next week Ms. Gerisch will travel to Switzerland to take part in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the human rights record of the United States, and will inform representatives from other countries about the struggle for the human right to healthcare in Vermont and across the United States.

The Vermont Workers’ Center has collaborated with groups across the country in submitting a report to the UN on the status of economic and social rights in the United States. The 26-page report "Toward Economic and Social Rights in the United States: From Market Competition to Public Goods," is released today in an updated version, which includes a case study of the Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign. The report documents evidence of the denial of human rights in education, health, housing, work, and social security. The report’s authors call on the government to use public dollars for the benefit of the people, and to strengthen the public sector in order to meet everyone’s needs, leaving no one behind. Earlier this year the Workers’ Center also gave evidence at a consultation organized by the U.S. Department of State, held in New York City. These submissions, along with Ms. Gerisch’s upcoming presentations at the United Nations, form a strong body of evidence showing that the United States and the state of Vermont have failed to live up to their human rights commitments.

“It is disgraceful that the federal government does not recognize that we all have economic and social rights,” said Mary Gerisch. “Vermont should lead the way and ensure that people’s fundamental needs, such as healthcare, housing, and education, are met. At the Workers’ Center we are fighting to make that happen, and I will do my best to represent Vermonters in Geneva.”

The UPR is a new human rights monitoring mechanism of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council. Every four years, the UPR assesses each country's adherence to its human rights obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and various human rights treaties. The first Universal Periodic Review of the United States will take place on November 5 in Geneva, Switzerland.

INFO FOR EDITORS:

- VIDEO interview with Mary Gerisch about her upcoming trip to Geneva where she will to testify at the United Nations on the state of healthcare in Vermont and the efforts of the Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign - http://vermontworkerscenter.blip.tv/file/4304813

- REPORT to the UN Human Rights Council, Universal Periodic Review of the United States of America: “Toward Economic and Social Rights in the United States: From Market Competition to Public Goods”- http://www.nesri.org/UPR_Report_NESRI.pdf .

- Vermont Workers’ Center video submission (one minute clip) to the U.S. State Department’s consultation, February 26, 2010: http://www.vimeo.com/10229823

- UNITED NATIONS website for the Universal Periodic Review: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx

BACKGROUND: In 2008, the Vermont Workers' Center launched the Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign to change what is "politically possible" for healthcare reform. On May 1, 2009 over twelve hundred people participated in the Healthcare Is A Human Right rally at the Vermont Statehouse and was reported to be the largest weekday rally in the history at the state capitol. On the first day of the legislative session, over 200 hundred people attended a rally to deliver 5000 postcards to Senate President Peter Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith calling for Vermont to lead the country by developing a healthcare system that works for everybody and treats healthcare as a public good. Momentum for action grew throughout the session, until S.88, a bill that was previously considered to be going nowhere, passed with overwhelming support and was allowed to go into law by Vermont's Republican Governor. This new law, Act 128, requires the design of a healthcare system based on human rights principles, which is to be implemented by July 2012. This summer the Vermont Legislature hired the world's pre-eminent healthcare system architect, Dr. William Hsiao and his team of the Public Health Department at Harvard University to develop the healthcare system designs. The failure of the federal healthcare reform law to address the roots of the healthcare crisis has turned attention once again to Vermont and this new opportunity to lead the country in developing a health system based on human rights.