07/14/2009

AFT Members Rally for Healthcare Reform

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More than 120 AFT members from across the country visited their U.S. senators and representatives in Washington, D.C., on July 14 to share their stories and make the case for comprehensive healthcare reform.

The lobby day took place during the AFT's QuEST conference. As a morning plenary session ended, AFT president Randi Weingarten and the packed hall of conference attendees sent their colleagues off to the Hill with the chant of "Healthcare now!"

Healthcare and healthcare reform are a top priority for the Obama administration, Weingarten said. "Groups that battled healthcare reform in the past are seemingly working together to find a cure for our healthcare system. Hopefully, a breakthrough is possible." Weingarten introduced a video (view at left) featuring healthcare and public employee members who detailed the devastation they see daily in the healthcare system and its effect on patients.

As the video ended, Weingarten invited the member lobbyists to come up on stage before they left for their scheduled visits to the Capitol. "Our members are our best, and sometimes, secret weapon," Weingarten told them. "You provide a voice for members and for those who can't speak for themselves."

Jeff Carr of the Taos (N.M.) Federation of United School Employees, one of the AFT member-lobbyists, believes that the window to achieve reform is narrow. "We need to get healthcare reform done now," Carr said. "If we don't get this done soon, it will be harder in the next session."

In tandem with the in-person lobbying, the AFT held a "virtual" lobby day. AFT activists nationwide called and wrote to their U.S. senators urging them to support comprehensive healthcare reform. The effort generated more than 400 phone calls and more than 1,200 e-mails. A similar healthcare virtual lobby day in June produced 1,400 calls and 3,300 e-mails.

More information on the AFT's campaign for healthcare reform is available on the "Fight for America's Future: It's Dollars and Sense" site.

July 14, 2009