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We can't afford not to fight for health care

October 17, 2003 | Page 4

Dear Socialist Worker,
Linda Backus, former president of the University of Vermont faculty union, is currently fighting through her union for full health care and disability coverage while she undergoes cancer treatment. The following is an excerpt from her statement at the recent Vermont AFL-CIO convention:

"I've worked for 35 years of my life, nonstop, even while raising a family, going to grad school. Yet I find myself facing now reductions in time, possible unemployment, ineligibility for disability and the bankruptcy of my family.

"Everyone deserves health care. It should be a right. It should not be determined by insurance companies. It should not be determined by employers. My treatment and whether I live or die should not be decided by a profit-making corporation.

"There was a TV commercial that asked, 'Do you want big government snooping around in your medicine cabinet?' Well, let me tell you--I think that might not be such a bad thing. When I look in my medicine cabinet, do you know who I see? Insurance companies, pharmaceutical company executives, lobbyists, stockholders, Wall Street traders, university administrators, human resource professionals. You know who I'd love to see in my medicine cabinet? My union brothers and sisters! My doctors, my nurses, my family, my neighbors!...

"For a long time as union president, I tried to insist that we stay focused on the essentials--like getting a decent contract and enforcing it. I thought we didn't have the wherewithal to extend into political battles about universal health care. But as I've learned after having to beg for my own coverage, we can't afford not to get involved."

Following Linda's remarks, delegates approved unanimously a resolution calling for publicly financed universal health care--and to make universal health care a key criteria in endorsing any political candidate.

Nancy Welch, University of Vermont United Academics, AFT/AAUP, Burlington, Vt.

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