Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson is one of four Senate Republicans who have said they wouldn't vote for the Senate's health care bill proposal in its current form.

A community mobilization rally to tell Senator Ron Johnson to stay firm in his opposition to the Senate Health Care Bill and to call for Medicare for all instead will be held on the lawn of the Labor Temple on Madison’s south side at 5:30 p.m. today.

The event has been organized by Victoria Gutierrez, a nurse and member of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin and Helena White, a speech and language therapist and member of Madison Teachers Inc. It will feature several invited speakers and will be followed by an open mic “speak out” session for community members to address how the Senate bill would impact them.

White and Gutierrez issued the following statement about the need for the event:

“The US is one of the only industrialized nations to NOT offer single payer health care to all its citizens. President Trump wants to take health care away from our poorest and most vulnerable citizens and the give money saved in tax breaks to the wealthiest individuals and increase military spending. The US military already has a budget larger than the next 8 countries combined, while the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest people in this country has grown in recent decades. We don’t need to give more money to either of these groups at the expense of health care for Americans.”

White remembers that the impetus for this rally came when they first realized that Ron Johnson was one of the four senators who didn’t want to vote for the bill.

“I thought that we were in a unique situation where we can influence our senator and we need to take advantage of that opportunity,” White remembers. “We were going to have the rally before but then [Sen. Mitch McConnell] delayed the vote until after the recess … so that gave us more time to plan this.”

Now is the time to be contacting Sen. Johnson, White says. Both women want Medicare for all instead. They are hoping that the rally will raise awareness.

Will Williams
Will Williams

“We definitely wanted to have a community response,” Gutierrez says. “Obviously, this health care reform is going to affect everybody in one way or another and we want to have people speaking who really hit home from their perspective on how this will really change lives the next day.”

The Labor Temple event tonight will feature remarks from Democratic state Rep. Lisa Subeck of Madison; Madison School Board member Anna Mueller Moffit; Teresa Tellez-Giron, co-chair of the Wisconsin Children and Families Council; Yolanda Salazar, community advocate for Latino seniors; Will Williams of Veterans for Peace; and Cynthia Burnson of Our Revolution Wisconsin.

Yolanda Salazar
Yolanda Salazar

The Labor Temple is located down the road from two huge hospitals – St. Mary’s and Meriter – and up the road from Access Community Health Clinic.

“After the speakers are done sharing their perspectives, we will have an open mic where people will be able to talk about how TrumpCare will affect them, what impact it is having, what their concerns are,” White says.

“We’ll also be holding signs on the side of the road on South Park Street that will say “Honk for Medicare for all” so that people driving by who haven’t been able to be part of the rally will still be able to participate in showing their support.”

Teresa Tellez-Giron
Teresa Tellez-Giron

White says that she has really seen a groundswell of support for people insisting that now is the time to move towards a single payer model of health care.

“It’s just ridiculous that the United States is just one of a small handful of industrialized countries that does not provide some kind of single payer, universal health care to their citizens,” White says.

White remembers being in Botswana back in 1989 and having a minor medical issue. “I went and got free medical care. This was Botswana in 1989. If Botswana can do it way back in the ‘80s, why can’t we do it now? It’s basically greed and capitalism and racism that are standing in the way,” she says.

The Office of Management and Budget estimates that 22 million people will lose their health insurance under the new Republican heath care plan.

“Taking 22 million people off health insurance will directly cause 28,600 people to die annually according to research done by Dr. (Steffie) Woodhandler that was put out by the Annals of Internal Medicine in June of 2017,” Gutierrez says.

Both of the organizers feel that unnecessary American deaths because of lack of access to health care should not be a partisan issue.

“Ron Johnson says that he’s a ‘pro-life senator.’ Well, my goodness, how much more pro-life can you be than preventing 29,000 people from dying each year,” White says. “You say you’re pro-life, but then once the baby is born, they’re on their own!”

“What I’ve read about making health insurance like car insurance is absolutely ridiculous,” Gutierrez adds, talking about an interview where Sen. Johnson compared people with pre-existing conditions to bad drivers, or to cars that have been crashed, on a recent NBC’s Meet The Press. “It doesn’t address preventive care. Our system has always been about sick care and has not put that money on the front end for preventative care and prevention. It’s easy to say these things until you have a stroke, until you have a heart attack. It really is just a crime. And I see it every day on my job and when I sub in the schools. Everybody is affected by this.”

White also works in the Madison School District and says that she has seen things get worse and worse. “Every year, the situation is more dire for these students. They are struggling more and more,” she says. “The stress is unreal – hunger issues, housing problems, parents losing jobs. Now, if you take away health care, you’re just cosigning people’s deaths.”

Tonight’s rally is sponsored by Madison Teachers Inc., the SEIU Wisconsin State Council, Citizen Action of Wisconsin and the South Central Federation of Labor and Centro Hispano.