Autoworker walks across Ohio for health care

Dave Pavlick doesn’t fit any of the tired old stereotypes of an activist. At age 53, a former Marine and active UAW member, Dave spent 30 years working as a corrections officer. A family man, he and his wife Taffy have three children. Pavlick is a strongly religious Christian, very active in his church. One might expect he would view these days as a time to relax, or maybe take a vacation at the seashore.

Instead, Dave took his vacation from his job as a staff representative for the UAW in Cleveland so that he could walk 600 miles across the entire state of Ohio. He stopped at community after community to hold press conferences and talk with regular folks, supporting the Health Care for All Ohioans Act.

Dave is also a regional coordinator for the new Single Payer Action Network movement in Ohio, which has developed this universal health care proposal. 100,000 signatures are needed to place this bill on the Ohio ballot, and Dave figured that a nice hike around the state would be a great opportunity to collect signatures, as well as popularizing the SPAN movement and the need for universal health care.

“The regular corporate controlled media just seemed like they had no interest in covering the growing movement for universal health care,” Pavlick stated, “so it just seemed like a good idea to take the issue directly to the people.”

After stopping at 23 towns and cities, Dave completed his walk around Ohio with a rousing welcome home rally in front of Cleveland City Hall on July 27.

“I can tell you that the people of Ohio are certainly supportive, anxious for and ready to fight for universal health care,” Pavlick told the rally.

Pavlick said that the most satisfying part of his walk was the great number of average folks who came out to support him, walk with him, took him into their homes, fed him and organized the rallies and media events at each of the stops.

Dr. Sheila Conrad and her husband Robert Conrad, a professor at the University of Dayton, walked with Dave through the Miami Valley.

“We’re looking to make things better,” Robert Conrad said. “The United States is the only industrialized nation without a universal health care system for its people. Even small countries like Cuba provide health care for all its people. We are the richest nation, but the wealth isn’t going where it should.”

At a rally at the State Capitol in Columbus, Pavlick called the present health care system “an insult to the American people.”

Don Coulter, a member of Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees, was an organizer of the Columbus event. Coulter said that universal health care is “an idea whose time has come.”

The Health Care for All Ohioans Act would provide for a full range of health care and would cover all Ohioans, regardless of income, employment status or pre-existing conditions. It would be paid for from a public fund, fueled by a small payroll tax, a 3 percent tax on businesses and a tax on those making over $200,000 per year. Insurance companies would have no role, according to SPAN.

The fight for universal health care is heating up in Ohio. The Steelworkers union has held a series of 24 mass meetings involving thousands of steelworkers, retirees and their families across the state promoting universal health care. Unions and activists from UHCAN (Universal Health Care Action Network) have formed coalitions promoting local legislative health care reforms in Cleveland and other areas. SEIU has been locked in tough contract battles at numerous hospitals in the state and is building community support coalitions.

Many Ohio communities and labor organizations have also endorsed HR 676, the national health care legislation co-authored by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

Health care is taking front stage in the November election. Republicans facing poll numbers near single digits in some cases are scrambling to separate themselves from Bush. Labor-endorsed Democrats Ted Strickland and Sherrod Brown, candidates for governor and senator, respectively, who are ahead in the polls, are strongly supporting universal health care. Strickland just announced a proposal to expand health care coverage for all Ohioans.