With support from the statewide Base Building team, we identified in the Spring of 2019 that the Southwest Philly Healthcare Rights Committee (HRC) was not becoming a political center of gravity in our region, even after several years of work. The HRC played a key role in winning our first ever public hearing on rising ACA insurance rates in 2016, garnering hundreds of petition signatures, and mobilizing and testifying at the hearing. However, turn-over of leaders and staff as well as an over-reliance on staff led to a decline in the vitality of the HRC.
Over time, we came to recognize that the HRC was missing key practices that have strengthened our committees in other areas. The practices of successful HRCs include:
- Taking advantage of the organization’s internal democracy by having members participate on statewide teams, calls, and planning bodies;
- Engaging with the campaign plan to grow, build members’ leadership, and win victories;
- Carrying out sustained base building and door-knocking work to become an organized force in our communities.
In Philly, PPF-PA members had been wrestling for a few years with our organizational structure, and how to best engage people with teams and HRCs. Since several PPF-PA members unconnected to an existing HRC lived in Philly, we decided that it made sense to expand from having a neighborhood-based HRC, to a city-wide one. The new Philadelphia HRC officially met for the first time at the end of May 2019.
Pivoting to the establishment of a Philly HRC was the right decision. We have since taken action against healthcare profiteers around the closing of Hahnemann University Hospital, which was the main hospital serving those on Medicaid/welfare insurance in Philadelphia. We have made new connections by base building and have deepened our relationships with our strategic partners in the PA Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. We have stood up to local health insurance giant IBX, demanding that one of our members receive the healthcare he needs. Twice a month we meet together, collectively plan the work of our committee, and engage in political education.
Through the transition to a city-wide HRC, we have begun to accelerate the development of leaders in the Philly region. The biggest victory we’ve achieved through this transition lies in our deepened clarity about the need for our HRC to connect with statewide work, engage with the campaign plan, and consistently base build. Through the city wide committee, the core group of leaders in this region is more connected than before, and more committed than ever to the task of building a center of gravity in Southeast PA for our statewide struggle for healthcare as a human right.
This content originally appeared in Put People First! PA’s semi-annual newsletter, The Keystone. The Keystone is a great introduction to Put People First! PA, our work, and our community. It’s all written by our members for our own communication and education, and for supporters and new relationships to get to know us better. Each issue features reports from our work, news about our victories, stories about the health care system and the other issues affecting our communities, and poetry and artwork. Check out past and present editions here: Newsletter Archive.