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Musicians and Health Care

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This missive comes from Rock and Rap Confidential, an organization far more leftist than I, and by the time you get to #5 I’m out of the picture entirely, but most of this information is hard to argue with and should be seen by those who agree with it or not:

    THE GROCERY STRIKE: MUSIC TO OUR EARS?

    The long-running strike by 70,000 supermarket workers in Los Angeles has been settled. Although the union was forced to make significant concessions to get a new contract, this strike should also be seen as a victory. For five months, the vast majority of the public in L.A. refused to cross the union’s picket lines. They did that for one simple reason: This was a strike over health care coverage and everyone in town knew it. Everyone in L.A. has their own problems with getting health care. Solidarity with the strike hung heavy in the air in Southern California and it crossed all boundaries of age, nationality, and neighborhood. That spirit was spreading across the country when the strike was settled.

    One of the highlights of strike support was a benefit for the strike fund done by members of Audioslave, Slipknot, System of a Down, and the Chambers Brothers, plus Boots Riley of the Coup and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And there were many, many other artists who made it clear they wanted to play that gig but their schedules or location didn’t allow for it. This and many other reflections of unity are part of the legacy of the strike and those of us in music should take advantage of it. We need to do our part to end the shameful spectacle of the richest nation on earth allowing its citizens to get sick and even die due to conscious denial of health care.

    How do we take the energy of the strike and go forward with it now?

    1. If you are going to South by Southwest, attend the panel, “Health Care for Musicians,” that we are organizing. It will be on Friday, March 19th, at 3:30 PM (Room 13AB, Austin Convention Center). If you’re not going, spread the word to those who are. We have daypasses for those who won’t be registering for SXSW. This means you can get in to our panel for free. Contact us for details (rockrap@aol.com / 310-398-4477).

    Plans to replicate this panel in LA are now being made. How about doing it in your city too?

    2. Every week, there are over one thousand benefits in the U.S. by musicians for other musicians in health crisis. These range from small ones at the corner bar to larger efforts such as the series of benefits for Sweet Relief, the organization founded by Victoria Williams, that will be held in LA in April with such artists as Puddle of Mudd, Michael Penn, Jerry Cantrell, and Michelle Shocked (scott@littledogrecords.com). Support every one of these that you can and let us know your thoughts about how we can knit all these isolated efforts together to create a powerful musical movement for health care.

    3. Email us at rockrap@aol.com with information about any musician for musician benefit you know of.

    4. The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) has a new contract with the music industry in which the number of artists eligible for health care benefits has been greatly expanded. This contract is a breakthrough that establishes a new morality–it breaks the obscene link between access to health care and income level. If you’re in AFTRA, be sure you find out about the new health care agreement. If you’re not in AFTRA, tell somebody about it who is.

    5. On August 25-29, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (kwru.org) will set up “Bushville” in northern New Jersey. This encampment will focus attention on the dirty deeds of the Republican National Convention across the river in New York City. It will also serve as a prelude to the August 30 “March For Our Lives” from New Jersey to New York City, a march that will press demands for health care, housing, education, and jobs. A cultural festival is being planned for August 29th. If you are interested in participating, contact kwru@kwru.org or the March Hotline (888-231-1948).

    6. Wherever there is any activity around the struggle for health care–a strike, a hospital closing, a benefit–add your talents to the mix. For example, contact Jobs With Justice (tfaulkner@cwa-union.org), a nationwide coalition of unions and community organizations which is staging “Health Care Action Day” this week in dozens of cities. Jobs With Justice has a very active Artist Program and they would be glad to hear from you.

    7. All this activity needs a vision of how the problem of health care delivery can be fundamentally solved. Check out the Just Health Care campaign.

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About Eric Olsen

  • bflaska

    So what’s wrong with #7, Eric?
    It’s a bit large reaching, but it is possible to just skip over #5 and then go on to think beyond the benefits accorded by a union card.

  • mike

    #5…”march that will press demands for health care, housing, education, and jobs.”

    The reason to stay away from this, of course, is that if you support the war in Iraq and other boondoogles, you realize that we can’t have most of these things. People are not only going to have to not only to do withou them, they are going to have to pay higher taxes and see further cuts in benefits so that Iraqis can have “health care, housing, education, and jobs,” if you’re silly enough to believe that was ever the purpose.

    From now on, people who support the President’s Iraq policy need to follow it up immediately with: “And I support greatly increased taxes and reduced benefits to pay for it.” Otherwise, they have no credibility.

    High taxes. Savage brutality towards the poor. That’s the price at home for our great adventures abroad. Get used to it.