On The Eve of A Historic Rally, Thousands are Energized

Contact: James Haslam (802)272-0882 james@workerscenter.org

Thousands of Vermonters Energized for Historic "Healthcare Is A Human Right" Rally

On the eve of a historic rally, supporters of the Vermont Workers' Center's "Healthcare Is A Human Right" campaign in communities across Vermont are busy making signs, creating arts, developing skits, practicing musical performance, making phone calls and connecting through social media in anticipation of May 1st "Healthcare Is A Human Right" march and noon rally at the Statehouse in Montpelier. From the Northeast Kingdom to Windham county, from St. Albans to Bennington, regional organizing committees for the campaign are setting up carpools and rides to bring people to the Statehouse Saturday. In addition to personal cars, two charter buses will be leaving from the Grace Congressional Church parking lot to transport Rutland-area participants. A school bus and several vans will carry Bennington rally-goers to Montpelier from a location across the UU Fellowship Meeting House, and a group from St. Johnsbury has organized a carpool while bike rides to the capital are planned in Waterbury, Barre and surrounding area.

In the last few days, Vermonters of all ages and from all walks of life have gathered in houses, libraries, churches and community centers throughout the state in preparation for Saturday's events. The campaign's Burlington headquarter has been buzzing with various activities including banner painting, props making, skit practice, and phone banking. Anisa Potvin, a UVM graduate who grew up in Stamford joined about a dozen volunteers there to send personal emails and Facebook messages urging other young Vermonters to attend the rally. She believes that the May 1st rally is important to Vermont's youth because "universal healthcare will enable young people graduating from Vermont schools to stay and work for small and growing local companies here instead of leaving the state."

Expected to be one of the largest rallies in the state's history, organizers are anticipating an even bigger turnout than last year's May 1st rally, which brought in over 1200 participants and was considered the state's biggest weekday rally in recent memory. That rally built momentum for the idea of Vermont becoming the first in the nation to recognize healthcare as a human right - a goal which most lawmakers at the time shrugged off as not "politically feasible".

Starting in Fall of last year, the campaign and other community groups held sixteen "People's Forums on Healthcare" in every county, where almost a hundred state legislators joined over a thousand concerned Vermonters to hear testimonies about the healthcare crisis. These forums laid out the practices and principles of healthcare as a human right: access and coverage must be universal; it has to be comprehensive and affordable; the design must be transparent; and it must ensure public participation in the design, implementation, evaluation, and accountability. Through the persistent efforts of campaign supporters and other single-payer advocacy organizations - some of which have been active for well over a decade - these principles were finally incorporated into S88, the "Healthy Vermont Bill", which was passed by both the Senate and the House this month.

The May 1st rally will be a celebration of the passage of this healthcare bill by the legislature as well as the hard work and support of thousands of everyday Vermonters who believe that healthcare should be a human right available to every citizen of Vermont regardless of income or employment status. With a possible veto by Gov. Douglas looming ahead, Saturday's rally will also be a show of strength by "Healthcare Is A Human Right" supporters. Walter Carpenter, a campaign volunteer from Montpelier and a "survivor of our current, broken, for-profit system" was excited about the rally, saying "we will send a strong message to the governor and the legislature: Vermont is ready to make healthcare a human right and a public good".

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More information about the "Healthcare Is A Human Right" campaign is available at www.healthcareisahumanright.org