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Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access, a statewide coalition of 200 organizations whose goal is to provide quality healthcare for all. He began by thanking hospital workers for leading this effort with the SEIU contract fight, and "for taking the lead on issues that you don't necessarily have a direct stake in, such as the HMO Bill of Rights, the expansion of Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, and state budget cuts."

Turning to upcoming legislation: "What we have coming up is monumental and will determine the future of health care." A #1 issue is the protection of SB2, which ensures and expands the availability of employer-based health care. Corporations such as McDonalds', Macy's, and Wal-Mart have invested heavily in an effort to repeal this legislation by paying for petition signatures to place a repeal initiative on the November 2004 ballot. Failure to defeat this initiative would send a signal to large employers that it's OK to shift or drop coverage to workers, and it will make it increasingly difficult for employers who do provide coverage to compete with those who don't."

"However, if we succeed in defeating the repeal of SB2, we will not only be providing health coverage to millions who don't have it, but we will send a signal in this Presidential election year that the health care issue matters to voters!"

Other important legislative efforts are AB 232, supporting fair prices for the uninsured, AB 2300, which provides hospital employees a voice in staffing levels, and SB 1005, which would provide stronger public oversight for hospital compliance with safe staffing requirements.

"Prevent the worst and organize for the best!" was Wright's inspiring closing statement.

  Sherri Macias, SEIU Local 250 Chief Shop Steward at Mercy San Juan Medical Center, spoke to the efficacy of labor/management patient care committees: "I want to assure the community that patient care committees do work--- We had a meeting of ours today and we made quite a bit of progress in resolving our staffing issues!"

  Joan Lee of the Sacramento Gray Panthers spoke of the benefits of education and training for health care workers and their patients. She lamented the fact that community colleges (which provide training in health care specialities) are suffering budget cuts just at the time that the health care system is in trouble. "I think that a partnership between SEIU and the community colleges would make all the difference in the world," Joan said. She thanked SEIU for the inspiration the union has provided in all its efforts to provide improved health care access.

  There were many occasions for applause from this crowd of health care and community activists. In the front row are two members of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) . ACORN has been active in many local issues, most recently, the Living Wage campaign. (Successful!).

  Betty Perry, of OWL (Older Women's League), spoke of previous occasions at the St. Joseph School during the effort to establish a Public Authority for Home Health Care workers. "It's not over, but we've come a long way since then!" she said. Turning to the SEIU Hospital study, she found the findings scary, but "We depend on the good leadership of SEIU!" Betty said, announcing the support of OWL in this effort.

  Maria Palomina of the North Valley Sponsoring Committee in support of SEIU's efforts.
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