"Moral Mondays" activists, led by Rev. William Barber, brought the movement to the nation's capital this week to highlight financial difficulties that poor people and rural hospitals across the nation are facing in states where the government has refused to expand Medicaid.
Rev. William Barber joined Adam O'Neal, the Republican mayor of Belhaven, NC, who walked nearly 300 miles from his hometown to Washington, D.C., to protest the closure of a critical care hospital serving his town. Refusal by some states to expand Medicaid imperils hospitals like Pungo and shuts off medical care to the poor, especially in rural communities.
Rev. Barber joined Adam O'Neal, the Republican mayor of Belhaven, NC (pop. 1,688), who walked the nearly 300 miles from his hometown to Washington, D.C., to protest the closing of Vidant Pungo Hospital, which serves his town and several towns in the surrounding counties of Beaufort and Hyde.
"There ought to be a law to stop immoral people from taking people's health care away," O'Neal said. "This is a matter of life and death."
In recent years, CWA activists launched similar campaigns, fighting to keep hospitals and other health care facilities from shutting down in the wake of extreme and disastrous budget cutting by governors and state legislators.
Facing a harsh attack by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on state centers for the developmentally disabled, CWA Local 1040 built an effective coalition with the families of those residents and with the small businesses to build support for the centers.
In upstate New York, activists from CWA Local 1168, with supporters joining along the way, walked 320 miles from Buffalo to the statehouse in Albany in the middle of winter, to support hospitals serving families in western New York and other locations.
At the D.C. rally, Rev. Barber said, "we have come here to dramatize the shameful conditions, how shameful it is that when the president and the Congress do the right thing, that states and government legislators and greedy business people do the wrong thing."
"Denying Medicaid, precipitating the closure of Pungo, has a disparate impact on poor people, poor black people, poor white people and poor children," he said.
Joining the mayor on his 300-mile pilgrimage was Bob Zellner, a long-time civil rights activist who helped form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Dozens of activists, many of them in vans, drove up to Washington on Monday for his news conference. "For me and the mayor, it's not about partisan politics," Rev. Barber said. "It's about what's right."