Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Death of a labor hero

Thanks to Scaypgrayce for putting me onto this.

Remember back when labor organizers, and even just plain workers, could be such American heroes that they would make movies about them? Like Terry Malloy standing up to the crooked bosses in "On the Waterfront", or, more recently, Norma Rae as portrayed by Sally Field, fighting to organize J.P. Stevens?

As usual, reality isn't quite the same as the movies, but it's still important to realize that at a time when workers and unions are under attack, the impulse to stand up for yourself and your fellow workers, at the risk of your job, and sometimes even your life, is a thread that runs deep in our history.

We can also remember the lively, living movie stars as they appeared on the screen, which is a luxury we don't have with our real-life heroes. Today, Crystal Lee Sutton, the model for Sally Field's Norma Rae, is dead at 68 of brain cancer.

Or, to put it another way, dead of insurance abuse.

She went two months without possible life-saving medications because her insurance wouldn't cover it, another example of abusing the working poor, she said.
"How in the world can it take so long to find out (whether they would cover the medicine or not) when it could be a matter of life or death," she said. "It is almost like, in a way, committing murder."
She eventually received the medication, but the cancer is taking a toll on her strong will and solid frame. Her thin black hair is brittle from the drugs and chemo treatments. She has had brain surgery twice -once on Jan. 29, 2007, and again on Jan. 11, 2008.

I'm sure the Republicans and Blue Dogs who are doing everything they can to block real health care reform would make appropriate expressions of sympathy if they knew of her death, but the true goal and effect of their efforts is clear.

This fight is important. It's a matter of life and death.

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