SEQUIM, Wash. — More than 70 people turned out June 2 to hear Organizing for America’s Washington State organizer, Dustin Lambro, call for a powerful grassroots movement here and across the nation to win national health care reform, “green jobs,” and quality public education.

Lambro told the meeting in the Sequim Middle School cafeteria, “No President has ever said after winning an election, ‘OK, I want this campaign to continue.’ It has never happened before. He wants to enact bold initiatives and he needs the grassroots to do it.”

Lambro, a young former union organizer, cited the healthcare crisis as exhibit number one. “I don’t think there is anyone here who wouldn’t agree that its criminal that 47 million people in this country are without health care in this country.” The crowd erupted in applause.

The meeting here was a few days in advance of a major nationwide mobilization Saturday June 6, sponsored by Organizing for America, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, Health Care for America NOW (HCAN), the Children’s Defense Fund, MoveOn and the Campaign for America’s Future “to keep the public option in health care reform.” House meetings, vigils, forums and other events are being organized by the coalition with a combined membership of 30 million people. Already, 27 U.S. senators have endorsed a resolution demanding a public health insurance option in health care reform legislation. Another coalition, Healthcare NOW is bringing tens of thousands to Washington to lobby for single payer healthcare June 25.

Mary Rickles, spokesperson for Democracy for America, said of the mobilization, “We’re drawing a line in the sand that any legislation passed has to include a public plan. Americans deserve to choose between a public option and for-profit insurance companies.”

Nearly everyone at the meeting here had worked actively to help Obama carry western Washington including Jefferson and Clallam County. But the meeting was not all sweetness and light. One senior citizen demanded the floor and read a statement charging that the Obama administration is too deferential to Wall Street including the health insurance companies.

“Health care is the government’s responsibility,” he said. “Only a nationalized, non-profit health care system can work. I have experience with capitalists. They can’t be trusted to work for the public interest.” He received a strong burst of applause.

When Lambro attempted to turn the discussion toward organizing the work of the local Organizing for America chapter, there were cries of “I thought this meeting was supposed to be about health care.”

A young Asian American woman active in organizing the meeting apologized for the misunderstanding. No, she explained, this meeting was not intended for in-depth health care discussion but rather on “how to organize to make our views heard” on a range of issues including health care, education and the green economy.

In fact, OFA’s “Healthcare Kickoff” had already been set, as elsewhere across the nation, for June 6 at the Port Angeles Library from 2-4 PM.
Another speaker pointed out that thousands of health care advocates marched in Seattle May 30. They had many opinions about health care “but they were all marching together, working together in common cause.” The health insurance industry is “licking its lips” in hopes that this movement self-destructs, he warned.

Photocopies of a New York Times article had been passed out to the crowd reporting that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) favors a strong public option while Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the committee drafting the health care legislation, wants health care to continue as an exclusively private insurance domain. “I think we have to be on the side of Sen. Kennedy in this fight,” he said as the crowd applauded.

The meeting then broke into workshops that came up with ideas on how to popularize real health care reform, including “Medicare for All” and other single payer plans.

A member of the League of Women Voters announced that they plan to march in the Fourth of July parade in Port Angeles with signs calling for universal health care. Another participant suggested a booth at the Lavender Festival that brings 30,000 people to Sequim. Someone chimed in with the idea sponsoring of a booth at the Clallam County Fair in August with literature promoting not only health care reform but also Obama’s “green jobs” agenda and measures to strengthen public education.

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