My name is Keith Long, I am a nurse (LVN), a union member of SEIU, an elected delegate for the upcoming SEIU's 65th General Council, and the Sr. job steward for FSP Sac. (Folsom Prison), and I have just returned from Washington DC where I made lobby visits with Anna Eshoo, 14th district of CA., Pete Stark, 13th district of Ca., and Nancy Pelosi who is not only from the 8th district of Ca. but is also the speaker of the house. Along with lobby visits I also participated in several very motivating rallies while I was in Washington DC.
On the 23 of June 2009 even before I rolled into Washington DC on the shuttle from the airport, I was on the phone with Heather Markert, a proud SEIU supporter who is the Legislative Director of ISSB--a member of the Safe Child Coalition--to begin coordinating my lobby visits, and I could tell Heather was very excited when she told me about how she was going to a breakfast with Dianne Feinstein the next morning on the 24th.
During the morning of the 24th of June I attended a political director seminar where Alicia Ybarra a training director for SEIU gave a class to several political coordinators from around the country on how uniting the strength of the workers in the past has won gains for workers and how the future challenges for SEIU will require unity on a much larger scale if we are to achieve our goals. Alicia Yabarra then went on to make several recommendations to the political directors on how they could help SEIU succeed in accomplishing its mission to support the union members. First: Unite working people to create the strength to attain our goals. Second: Encourage member action and leadership to participate in achieving our goals. Third: Strengthen SEIU's political voice by building a coalition to influence elected officials to support the membersí needs.
Then in the afternoon of the 24th, starting at about 5 pm, Heather and I attended two rallies on that ran until 9 pm at Freedom Plaza, 13th and Pennsylvania Ave NW, which is about two blocks from the White House. The first: The Interfaith health care Event started at 5pm and featured several speakers from various religious faiths who reinforced the fact that health care reform is important for all people regardless of their religious faith, race, or nationality/political affiliation. The second: The Health care Equity Event which started at 7pm and ran until 9pm concluding with a candlelight vigil reinforced the themes previously stated earlier: however, dance, singing, and speeches from a broad range of community and elected officials were added to the venue.
For a portion of the time, I stood on the corner of 15thNW and Pennsylvania Ave NW and held up a sign that I got from SEIU's Change That Works campaign that proclaimed "Health Care 09, We Can't Wait" for the public to see as they drove or rode past Freedom Plaza. I was joined by several youths who were also holding up signs supporting health care reform, and we got lots of positive response from those passing by while listening to the speeches and feeling the excitement behind me as I proudly held my poster high in the air for all to see. For several hours, while experiencing the vibes at the rally at Freedom Plaza, I was on a spiritual high; and I didn't care about the heat of the afternoon summer sun, the jet lag from crossing the nation the day before, or even the millions of dollars the insurance companies are going to spend to stop our efforts to reform our failed health care system that currently seems to function only to make the insurance companies ever more money.
In the morning, the 25th of June 2009, I had breakfast with a large number of SEIU members and political activist/organizers, and we coordinated our efforts. I joined in with a group from California. There was Sylvia from Sacramento who was our lead and a political director. Then there was Mario from L.A. who is an organizer. Dale a security guard and new union member and myself made up our team to storm the Cannon building in Washington DC to conduct lobby visits. Sylvia job was to lead the rap for Dale, who proved to be extremely shy, about how the health care package for union members is eroding and health care costs in general are rising. Then I gave my rap as Mario backed me up about the need for health care reform in general, and we used Dale's situation as a perfect example of how our current health care system is failing to serve the needs of the American people.
The first office we visited was Congresswoman Anna Eshoo of 14th District in California and like most lobby visits we didn't get to speak with the elected official. Instead, a legislative assistant, in this case Emma L. Moburg-Jones, took us into her office and listened politely as we made our presentation. Then we navigated through the halls of the Cannon building to Congressman Fortney "Pete" Stark's office, for the 13th district of California, where we were received by Legislative Counsel Marci D. Harris who politely listened to our rap while nodding her head and making comments that seemed to support our concerns. Eventually, we marched into Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi's office, of the 8th district of California who is also the Speaker of the House. For this visit, Heather Markert, who took a break from her work of reading and selecting health care stories submitted by union members and the general public joined us. Then after, our now seasoned team of lobbyists, finished our rap, Heather presented to the Legislative Aide Stephanie Adika a loaf of bread she baked along with her rap about the importance of affordable healthcare to union members to promote financial stability in families, lowering the incidence of child abuse.
Saving the best for last, I was privileged to attend, the big daddy of events, The Health Care Kick Off that started at 11:30 am on the 25 of January at the Upper Senate Park which is in the shadow of the Capitol Building where a whole host of members from several Unions rallied in support of the health care reforms proposed by President Barack Obama. I walked into the Upper Senate Park, and I was amazed at the rainbow of colors representing numerous unions and community groups all rallying in support of heath care reforms. I proudly wore my purple Change That Works SEIU shirt, and I quickly found lots of my union brothers and sisters also wearing the SEIU purple. In retrospect, I should have taken notes but, at the time, I was in union heaven as I waded amongst the thousands of my union brothers and sisters who were wearing their Red, Green, white, lime, yellow, and various other union shirts. With each person enthusiastically supporting everyone else in our common desire to improve health care for all Americans.
While the rally was officially over at 12:30 a tri-state town hall meeting of NY, NJ, and MD with the theme of health care reform was conducted in the park which effectively continued the rally until approximately 2pm. Then those who were to conduct afternoon lobby visits broke away and migrated to their various congresspersonsí offices. After the HCAN rally, I was forced to tear myself away from the activities in Washington DC and return to California because I am participating along with SEIU and its union members in the Change That Works campaign here in California. While I would love to participate in all of the ongoing efforts to promote health care change in Washington DC, it is just as vital for me to continue my organizing in California. We must all join together across the country from all walks of life, from all religions, from all nationalities and races to let our elected officials know they are supposed to be public servants to us the people and not on the payroll of the rich.
By Keith R. Long, reprinted with permission.
ISSBIncest Survivors Speakers Bureau of California
Mailing Address: ISSB, P.O. Box 74366, Davis, CA 95617