Hundreds of union activists and supporters attending Medicare’s 50th birthday celebration rallied at the Frank Ogawa Plaza on Thursday, July 30 to commemorate the program, but also to stress the need to maintain it for generations to come.
People started gathering at 11 am, and at noon, the event kicked off with speakers addressing a sea of union T-shirts and festive balloons celebrating a half a century of public healthcare. A wide range of workers, unions and labor allies spoke on the steps of the Plaza about the importance of maintaining this hard won benefit despite a political onslaught on the program from the far right in their efforts to make cutbacks on the taxpayer-funded healthcare program for the retired and elderly.
Moises Montoya, Architecture Assistant for Oakland’s Public Works, is also Political Issues Coordinator and a Contract Action Team member for the Oakland chapters. He was one of the Local 21 members attending the rally. In the long run, Moses commented that he would like to see Local 21 join the political effort to expand the existing Medicare program’s benefits.
“I would like to see our union participate in ongoing collaborative work to support unions, the community, nonprofits and others who have been continuing the exhaustive work over the years to fight for a single-payer system that is uniform throughout California and throughout the country,” he added, citing healthcare as one of the key issues right now on the table in Oakland’s ongoing contract negotiations with the City.
Medicare has been serving the retired and the elderly since its inception over a half a century ago.