Friday, November 6, 2009

How many people will die from lack of healthcare due to Republican inaction?

Congressional District


No. of Dead

Pennsylvania 5

Glenn Thompson


Pennsylvania 6

Jim Gerlach


Pennsylvania 9

Bill Shuster


Pennsylvania 15

Charles W. Dent


Pennsylvania 16

Joseph R. Pitts


Pennsylvania 18

Tim Murphy


Pennsylvania 19

Todd Russell Platts


While Republican Members of Congress oppose any meaningful healthcare reform, here are the numbers of people who will die in their districts this year.

Thanks to Rep. Alan Grayson (D,FL) for the list. To view the entire list, go to:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

ACME/Supervalu cuttings workers' hours to avoid paying for healthcare

Four months ago community organizations and health care advocates across the commonwealth stood side by side with the employees of ACME/Supervalu and their union, helping the parties to reach a fair agreement for both sides The agreement overwhelmingly supported by the 4,000 union members at ACME/ Supervalu gave the employer some economic relief and preserved health care benefits and pension rights for our union members.

Now ACME/Supervalu has reneged on their agreement and started to cut the hours of many part-time employees below the level required to earn benefits without regard to our long standing negotiated seniority provisions in our contract. Hundreds of workers would immediately lose their health care benefits if ACME has their way.

Local 1776 is fighting Acme on many fronts. However, we need your help and appreciate your efforts to tell Acme that you are not going to stand by while they deprive working Pennsylvanians’ of health insurance

At a time when we are so close to winning major health care reform for all Americans we cannot allow ACME/Supervalu to dump these hardworking women and men from our negotiated employer based health care plans.

You have helped these workers, your neighbors before, we are asking for your help again.

Please contact Judy Spires by email

by phone 610 889 4202, or write her; Judy Spires, President / Acme Markets Inc./ 75 valley Stream Parkway / Malvern PA 19355

We would also appreciate copies of your correspondence with Judy Spires or the staff at ACME Supervalu and if you could share this e-mail with your lists.

Thank you in advance for your help on behalf of the 4,000 members of UFCW 1776 working at ACME Markets and their President Wendell W. Young IV. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

John Meyerson

Director of Legislation & Political Action

United Food and Commercial Workers 1776

3031A Walton Rd

Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462

610 940 1811

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Coalition of Progressive Groups Announces First Gubernatorial Debate

Coalition of Progressive Groups Announces First Gubernatorial Debate

All five major Democratic candidates have agreed to face off on January 29, 2010

(HARRISBURG, PA)—A coalition of self-described progressive organizations is hosting the first debate of the 2010 race for governor as a part of the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit. All five Democratic candidates have agreed to participate.

Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel, Philadelphia Businessman Tom Knox, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and Auditor General Jack Wagner will face questions from an audience made up of progressive activists and leaders from across the state. Tom Corbett and Jim Gerlach were invited to participate but have not yet responded.

The debate will be held on January 29, 2010 at 7:00 PM at the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey on Lindle Rd. in Swatara Township. It will be hosted by a coalition of progressive organizations, including Keystone Progress, the Service Employees International Union PA State Council, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Alliance for American Manufacturing, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, Planned Parenthood PA Advocates, United Steelworkers, and PennAction. Dozens of other organizations are already part of the planning process for the debate.

“We are excited about the impact that our gubernatorial debate will have,” said Eileen Connelly, Executive Director of SEIU PA State Council. “Since this is likely to be the first debate, the progressive community will help to set the agenda for the entire campaign.”

Questions will come from the sponsoring organizations and from the audience, which will be made up of participants in the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit. Hundreds of progressive grassroots and netroots leaders and activists will be gathering the weekend of the debate to network and discuss the progressive agenda for 2010.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rep. Metcalfe call vets "traitors" for supporting clean energy

Representative Daryl Metcalfe is at it again. This time he has called Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans “Traitors” and “Benedict Arnolds” for disagreeing with him on energy policy.
Here’s the story. A group of veterans are traveling across the country on a 21-state bus tour to talk to citizens and local community leaders about the dangers of climate change and its threat to national security. The tour will make stops in Pennsylvania on October 20th through the 22nd (see below for the PA schedule).
The tour is sponsored by Operation Free, a coalition of veterans and national security groups working together to raise public awareness about national security threats posed by climate change and the importance of building a clean energy economy that is not tied to fossil fuels. Operation Free and its members support a clean energy plan that cuts carbon pollution, develops clean energy incentives, and puts America in control of its energy future.
The vets in Operation Free invited local elected officials to join them at each of their stops. When Rep. Metcalfe got his invitation this is what he wrote back:
Subject: Re: Veterans for American Power Bus Tour coming to your state
As a veteran,
I believe that any veteran lending their name, to promote the leftist propaganda of global warming and climate change, in an effort to control more of the wealth created in our economy, through cap and tax type policies, all in the name of national security, is a traitor to the oath he or she took defend the Constitution of our great nation!
Remember Benedict Arnold before giving credibility to a veteran who uses their service as a means to promote a leftist agenda.
Drill Baby Drill!!!
For Liberty,
Daryl Metcalfe
State Representative
Veteran U.S. Army
I happen to agree with the vets that a clean energy plan is in the best interest of our national security. But whether you agree or not, to call someone a “traitor” is beyond outrageous. It is against everything this nation stands for.
Join people from all over Pennsylvania in demanding that Rep. Metcalfe apologize for his insult to our veterans, the Constitution and every American. Click here to fax Metcalfe now: It will only take a minute if you use the letter we’ve drafted, or you can write your own comments to Metcalfe.
Thank you in advance for standing up for our ability to speak out without government persecution.
In Solidarity,
Michael Morrill
Keystone Progress
Join the Vets at one of their Pennsylvania stops:
Pennsylvania Tour SchedulePittsburgh PA: Veterans will hold a press conference, take a tour of the Oakland Veterans Hospital, and have dinner in Pittsburgh.
Press Conference
Tuesday, October 20, 2009, 4:00 PM
Pittsburgh Jobs Corps Center, 7175 Highland Drive, Pittsburgh, PA
Tour of Oakland Veterans HospitalWHEN: Tuesday, October 20, 2009, 5:30 PM
Oakland Vets Hospital, University Drive C, Pittsburgh, PA
Toast and DinnerWHEN: Tuesday, October 20, 2009, 6:40 PM
Primanti Brothers Restaurant, 3803 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA
Harrisburg, PA: Veterans will host a breakfast roundtable with local veterans and a press conference with local veterans and officials. They will then take a tour of a local job training site with union members.
Breakfast Roundtable
Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 10:00 AM
Bagel Lovers coffee shop, 327 Walnut Street, Harrisburg, PA
Press conference
Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 11:00 AM
Capitol Rotunda, 228 Walnut St., Harrisburg, PA
Paul Bachman, Central PA Building Trades President
Terry Peck, UA Local 520 Business Manager
Local veterans
Tour of Job Training Center
Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 11:50 AM
Plumbers & Pipefittes 520, 7193 Jonestown Road, Harrisburg, PA
Philadelphia, PA: Veterans will host a town hall with State Rep. Brian Lentz
Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 4:00 PM
Philadelphia City Hall, Mayor's Reception Room (Room 202), Enter through NE entrance of City Hall, near intersection of Juniper and Market Streets.
Scranton, PA: Veterans will host a press conference with local citizens.
Thursday, October 22, 2009, 10:15 AM
Civil War Memorial for press conference, N. Washington Ave and Spruce Street, Scranton, PA

Friday, October 16, 2009

New Green Jobs Video

Consequence: Now's the Time for Us to Lead

Join the Rally for Single Payer Healthcare

Rally For Single Payer Healthcare:

The Economic Solution:

PA 2009 / United States 2010

Join single payer supporters from all over Pennsylvania in the Capitol Rotunda, 100 N. State St., Harrisburg. Supporting State (HB1660 / SB400) and National (HR676 / S703) Health Care Reform Efforts

Tuesday, October 20, 10 a.m. to 12 noon

Speakers include:
Sen. Jim Ferlo (D, Allegheny)

Wendell Potte, former CIGNA Executive, turned whistle blower and single payer advocate.

Katie Robbins, Assistant National Coordinator, Healthcare-NOW

Donna Smith.………Political Organizer / California Nurses Assn; star of “SiCKO”

Tim Carpenter……...National Director, Progressive Democrats of America

Bill George………………..….President, PA AFL-CIO

Members of the Baucus 8…….Kevin Zeese, Russell Mokhiber, Margaret Flowers and Katie Robbins

For more information:



Call: Eastern PA - Jerry at 717.295.0237

Western PA - Mary Pat at 412.421.4242

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Great new video on healthcare reform with Will Ferrell


You have to check this out: Will Ferrell on health care reform, along with Jon Hamm from "Mad Men," Donald Faison from "Scrubs," Olivia Wilde from "House," and a whole cast of amazing, funny actors.

Click here to see the video—and if you like it, pass it along to your friends:

Thanks for all you do.

–Kat, Laura, Stephen, Marika, and the rest of the team

P.S. Special thanks to all the actors who participated in this video: Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm of "Mad Men," Olivia Wilde of "House," Thomas Lennon of "Reno 911," Robert Ben Garant of "Reno 911," Masi Oka of "Heroes," Jordana Spiro of "My Boys," Linda Cardellini of "ER," and Donald Faison of "Scrubs."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Celinda Lake: Hoeffel with slight lead in early polling

We received this memo summarizing the latest polling done by Celinda Lake on the 2010 PA governor's race. While the numbers are inconclusive, they show Joe Hoeffel in the lead with 15%.



To: Interested Parties

From: Celinda Lake and Daniel Gotoff, Lake Research Partners

Date: September 17, 2009

Subject: New Poll Results on the Democratic Gubernatorial Primary in PA

A recent statewide survey of likely Democratic Primary voters finds former Congressman Joe Hoeffel leading a field of candidates in the race for Governor of Pennsylvania.[1] This finding is all the more impressive considering that Hoeffel has not yet announced his candidacy. Despite a field of several announced candidates, Democratic Primary voters are clearly looking for a strong progressive leader to lead the state; Hoeffel is poised to consolidate the sizable progressive bloc of the primary electorate, as well as the all-important swing Philadelphia suburbs. Indeed, after simulating an engaged race, with voters hearing positive messages for all the candidates, Hoeffel expands his lead.

Key Findings

Ø Former Congressman Joe Hoeffel leads a crowded field of candidates in the Democratic Primary for Governor of Pennsylvania. Hoeffel secures 15% of the vote, with Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and State Auditor General Jack Wagner drawing 12% each, Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty at 6%, and businessman Tom Knox at just 5%. Fully, half of the electorate (50%) is undecided, underscoring the wide-open nature of this race. Hoeffel’s early lead is especially impressive considering the fact that other major candidates have made their intentions to run for Governor clear for some time.

Ø Hoeffel is already consolidating a strong regional base in the Philadelphia suburbs, which together with the city constitute the largest region in the state – both in a Primary and a General election. Hoeffel holds a strong lead over Onorato, Wagner, and Knox—the only other Philadelphia-area-based candidate in the race—in the greater Philadelphia region. In Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs, Hoeffel takes 30% of the vote, with Knox at 10%, Wagner at 6%, Doherty at 4%, and Onorato at 3%. Hoeffel’s lead is particularly strong in the Philadelphia suburbs, where he receives 41%, followed by Wagner’s 8%, Knox’s 7%, Onorato’s 3%, and Doherty’s 2%.

Ø The greater Philadelphia regions makes up 40% of the vote in the Democratic Primary statewide vote. Hoeffel’s 41% of the vote in the Philadelphia suburbs is comparable to Onorato’s strength in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania (42%) and far outpaces Wagner’s strength in Central PA (25%) and in Pittsburgh and Western PA (17%), and Doherty’s strength in Northeastern PA (25%). It bears repeating that Hoeffel’s strength in the Philadelphia suburbs affords him an enormous – and unique – advantage in a General election.

Ø While Hoeffel’s voters are solidly in his camp, the same cannot be said for Wagner, Onorato, and Knox – all of whom are sitting on relatively weak, contested bases of support. Fully 68% of Hoeffel’s voters would move to “undecided” if he were not in the race – significantly more than is the case for Onorato’s, Wagner’s, and Knox’s voters; no other candidate would pick up more than 11% of Hoeffel’s initial vote. In contrast, if Knox were to exit the race, Hoeffel would stand to pick up 31% of his vote. Wagner and Onorato supporters are also poised to switch should their first choice exit the field. Fully 37% of Onorato voters would vote for Wagner if Onorato were not running. And more than one in five Wagner voters (22%) would vote for Onorato if Wagner were not running.

Ø Voters who know Joe Hoeffel like him, and he is more popular than most of the candidates, including Onorato. By more than a three-to-one margin, Democratic Primary voters have a favorable opinion of Hoeffel (25% favorable, 8% unfavorable). Hoeffel’s image ratings are stronger than Onorato’s (22% favorable, 8% unfavorable), Knox’s (19% favorable, 11% unfavorable), and Doherty’s (16% favorable, 6% unfavorable). Only Wagner is better known than Hoeffel (29% favorable, 7% unfavorable), though he has trouble converting personal affect into votes.

Ø After voters hear each of the candidates’ positive messages, Hoeffel expands his lead. (The text of each of the messages is provided on the following page.) Voters respond strongly to Hoeffel’s progressive bona fides and his demonstrated commitment to fighting for good jobs with good wages, fair trade laws, clean energy technologies, and real health care reform. After this exercise, Hoeffel attracts nearly one-quarter of the statewide vote (23%), followed by Wagner’s 18%, Knox’s 12%, Onorato’s 11%, and Doherty’s 6%. About one-third (31%) remain undecided.

Ø The Democratic Primary electorate is looking for a progressive leader – which is good news for Hoeffel, the only candidate with a strong record of accomplishments on progressive issues, and bad news for the rest of the field, to whom few would apply the progressive label. Fully half of Democratic Primary voters (50%) describe themselves as liberal, compared to 29% who describe themselves as moderate and 17% who describe themselves as conservative. This figure is nearly identical to the 2008 Presidential Democratic primary exit poll in Pennsylvania, which showed 49% of Democratic Primary voters describing themselves as liberal.


(Order of Statements Randomized in Survey)

Joe Hoeffel is the one true progressive leader in this race, not afraid to stand up for working families, even when it’s politically unpopular. He has been at the forefront of the fight for good jobs with good wages. Trade laws that benefit workers and small business, not corporations that outsource jobs. A health care plan that puts people ahead of profits. And a leading voice for investing in the clean energy technologies that are the key to our economic future. Joe Hoeffel is a leader who will take bold action to put people back to work and turn our economy around.

The son of a mechanic and a school teacher, and the first in his family to go to college, Dan Onorato was raised on the importance of family and faith, and that when times are tough, everyone pitches in. As Allegheny County Executive, Dan has led the way, cracking down on waste and abuse, cutting taxes, and transforming Western Pennsylvania into a hub for 21st century jobs. As Governor, he’ll bring new ideas to reform government, clean-up Harrisburg, create new 21st-Century jobs, strengthen our education system & invest in new energy solutions.

Jack Wagner is Pennsylvania’s state Auditor General. He has saved Pennsylvania taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by exposing waste, fraud, and abuse. He’s a Purple Heart-decorated Marine known for his integrity and ability to get results. Jack exposed millions of tax dollars in hidden bonuses spent by education loan executives and took steps to protect state and local pension plans. He’s already identified $1.3 billion in savings so we can keep investing in core services without raising taxes. As Governor, he’ll fix our budget mess.

The son of a steelworker, Tom Knox grew up in a Philadelphia housing project & worked his way out of poverty–serving in the Navy, then going on to become a respected business leader. Never a career politician, at his own request, Tom was paid a salary of $1 per year when Ed Rendell asked him to balance Philadelphia’s budget—which he did & turned in a $10 million surplus. Knox has led the fight against utility deregulation and is the only candidate who has created jobs in the private sector. As Governor, his three priorities for the state are simple: jobs, jobs, and more jobs.

Under Chris Doherty’s leadership as Mayor of Scranton, the city has been named one of the best places to raise a family in Pennsylvania by Business Week magazine and has seen more than 6,000 jobs created, a $500 million investment in new development, and acres and acres in new urban green spaces. As Governor, Doherty will lead the way on bringing investment dollars into the state to create jobs.

Regional Definitions

Philadelphia: Philadelphia county/city.

Philadelphia Suburbs: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties.

Pittsburgh/ Western PA: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmoreland counties.

Johnstown/Altoona: Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Elk, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Jefferson, and Somerset counties.

Northwest PA: Clarion, Clinton, Crawford, Erie, Forest, McKean, Mercer, Potter, Venango, and Warren counties.

Central PA: Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry, Snyder, Union, and York counties.

Northeast : Bradford, Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Pike, Schuylkill, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wayne, and Wyoming counties.

Lehigh Valley: Berks, Lehigh, Monroe, and Northampton counties.

[1] Lake Research Partners designed and administered this survey of 800 likely 2010 Democratic Primary voters in Pennsylvania. The survey was conducted by telephone, using professional interviewers, between September 8-13, 2009. The overall margin of error for this survey is +/-3.5%.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Rep Metcalfe: Domestic violence a family value?

A simple resolution to recognize October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives was halted by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican representing Butler. Why? Because, he said, “It has a homosexual agenda.”

No, I’m not making this up. Here is the rest of the quote from his remarks on the House floor, objecting to the resolution: “I protest, this is not non-controversial, and if you read the language it has a homosexual agenda.”1

On the same day, also on the House floor, he made matters worse. The House was about to vote on increasing marriage license fees from $3 to $28, with the increased amount going to a fund for victims of domestic abuse. Metcalfe opposed the measure, calling the funding a domestic violence programs “a slap in the face to family values.”2 The bill passed despite his outrageous claim.

Rep. Metcalfe clearly has a problem with preventing domestic violence in Pennsylvania. He also has a problem with LGBT people and other minorities trying to assert and protect their rights.

We say “Enough of Metcalfe’s bigotry and ignorance!” Join people from all over Pennsylvania is demanding that he allow a vote of the resolution recognizing Domestic Violence Awareness Month and that he should apologize for his insensitive remarks.

Click here to send him your message.

Domestic violence is a serious problem that needs our attention. According to the resolution that the House was considering3:

· One in every four women and one in every nine men will experience domestic violence in his or her lifetime.

· One in six women and one in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape.

· Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.

· Thirty percent to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the home.

· Intimate partner violence results in more than 18.5 million mental health care visits each year.

· The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services.

Please take action now to tell Rep. Metcalfe what you think. Then forward this to everyone you know and ask them to write to Metcalfe.

Michael Morrill and the Keystone Progress Team

1 CapitolWire, September 17, 2009

2 ibid

3 Here’s the entire text of the resolution that Metcalfe killed.

AFL-CIO Convention Endorses Single Payer Healthcare

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation representing 11.5 million workers in 57 international and national unions, has endorsed a single payer health care system as the best way to guarantee healthcare to everyone. The unanimous vote in favor of Convention Resolution 34, The Social Insurance Model for Health Care Reform, came immediately after President Obama had addressed the Convention last Tuesday.

The resolution states: “The experience of Medicare (and of nearly every other industrialized country) shows the most cost effective and equitable way to provide quality healthcare is through a single-payer system.” It continues: “We reiterate our longstanding call for congressional leaders to unite behind such a plan.”

Resolution 34 singles out HR 676 as one of a number of single-payer bills introduced in Congress and states: “The single-payer approach is one the AFL-CIO supports and that merits dedicated congressional support and enactment.” The Resolution concludes by stating: “Whatever the outcome of the current debate over health care reform in the 111th Congress, the task of establishing health care as a human right, not a privilege, will still lay before us.”

The Convention adopted Resolution 34 after a thirty minute debate in which 12 delegates spoke in favor of the resolution and a number of delegates who wished to speak were still standing at the four floor microphones when the time allotted to debate ran out. No one spoke against the resolution.

Those who spoke for the single payer resolution included three members of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, the Presidents of two state AFL-CIO federations, four Presidents or Executive Officers of Central Labor Councils, a high ranking official of the AFT who was chosen to speak in favor of the resolution by the AFT caucus and delegates from AFSCME and ILWU.

Rich Trumka, in his speech to the delegates immediately after being elected President of the AFL-CIO the following day, reiterated his support for single payer healthcare telling the delegates: “Now, I know that a lot of us would prefer a single payer plan. I sure would.”

Over 70 resolutions, an unprecedented number, were submitted to the Convention calling on the AFL-CIO to endorse single payer healthcare.

More than 575 labor organizations, including 136 Central Labor Councils, 22 international and national unions, and 39 state AFL-CIO’s have endorsed HR 676, single payer legislation which has 87 sponsors in the House of Representatives.

All Unions Committee For Single Payer Health Care--HR 676 c/o Nurses Professional Organization (NPO)
1169 Eastern Parkway, Suite 2218
Louisville, KY 40217
(502) 636 1551

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Murtha named one of CREW's 15 most corrupt

Representative John P. Murtha (D-PA) is a nineteen-term member of Congress, representing Pennsylvania’s 12th congressional district. Rep. Murtha chairs the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Murtha’s ethics issues and violations stem from (1) his ties to the PMA Group, a now defunct lobbying firm under federal investigation; (2) his ties to Kuchera Industries, a defense contractor under federal investigation; (3) his ties to defense executives and former military personnel convicted of skimming money from government contracts; (4) actions he may have taken to benefit his brother’s lobbying clients; and (5) his chief of staff’s threats to a political opponent. Rep. Murtha was included in CREW’s 2006, 2007, and 2008 reports on congressional corruption.

Health Care for America Now Calls Baucus Bill A Failure

Calls on Senate Finance Committee to Fix It

Washington, DCHealth Care for America Now (HCAN) – the nation’s largest health care campaign – released the following statement today on Senator Max Baucus’ health care bill:

Richard Kirsch, National Campaign Manager, Health Care for America Now:

““The Baucus bill is a gift to the insurance industry that fails to meet the most basic promise of health care reform: a guarantee that Americans will have good health care that they can afford. The Baucus bill would give a government-subsidized monopoly to the private insurance industry to sell their most profitable plans - high-deductible insurance - without having to face competition from a public health insurer.

Under the Baucus bill, employers would have no responsibility to help pay for their workers’ coverage and would be given incentives to have workers pay more for barebones insurance. Americans who don’t get health benefits through work would still not be able to get good, affordable coverage.

We urge Senators on the Finance Committee to replace the Baucus plan with legislation that will do what the Senate HELP Committee and three House committees have done: guarantee that Americans have good health insurance that they can afford with the choice of a strong national public health insurance option.”


Jacki Schechner 202-454-6196

Doug Gordon 202-822-5200

Insurance company has activist arrected

Anthem (WellPoint Virginia)Takes Executive Director of the Virginia Organizing Project to Court Next Tuesday for Trespassing

Is it hubris?

Is it a giant PR mistake?

Or is it the health insurance industry showing its true colors?

At a time when health insurance industry malfeasance is a daily focus of the evening news, Anthem, the Virginia WellPoint subsidiary, has boldly decided to put their own customer on trial for asking to speak to a representative about their rates.

On Tuesday, September 22, 2009, Joe Szakos, executive director of the state-wide social justice organization, the Virginia Organizing Project, will stand trial to defend against trespassing charges brought against him by Anthem.

Szakos was charged with trespassing on Anthem’s property in Richmond on July 24, 2009. He and three Virginia Organizing Project board members attempted to meet with Anthem officials to discuss their concerns about a 14.1 percent insurance premium increase and Anthem’s anti-reform lobbying activities. Anthem officials locked the front door to their corporate headquarters when the group approached the building, and called the police to have Szakos arrested.

Anthem declined opportunities to drop the charges. Szakos’s legal defense team has subpoenaed Anthem’s CEO C. Burke King and director of public relations Scott Golden to appear in court on Tuesday.

The Virginia Organizing Project will be holding a press conference prior to the trial where community members will share their own Anthem horror stories and call for their members of Congress to take action on health care reform.

The Virginia Organizing Project is a statewide, multi-issue grassroots organization committed to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives.

ACLU-PA Releases Report Card on Civil Liberties in Pennsylvania

New Open Records Law a Rare Bright Spot on Civil Liberties Landscape

Philadelphia – In honor of Constitution Day, September 17, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania is releasing a report card on the state of civil liberties in the commonwealth. Pennsylvania earned an overall grade of “C-”, with its lowest marks in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, immigrants’ rights, and the death penalty. Pennsylvania’s new Right to Know Law earned the state its highest grade – a “B”.

“The Constitution was born in Pennsylvania, but the commonwealth is lagging behind in advancing civil rights and freedom,” said Andy Hoover, ACLU-PA Legislative Director. “Many of our neighboring states are moving forward on issues like lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender equality, welcoming immigrants, and giving up on the death penalty. Pennsylvania can and should do better.”

The report paints a troubling picture of LGBT rights in Pennsylvania, where it is still legal in most of the state to fire someone based on his or her sexual orientation. Almost all of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states provide legal protections for their LGBT residents.

One of the few bright spots on the civil liberties landscape in Pennsylvania is the Right to Know Law, which easily won the “most improved” subject award. The new Right to Know Law took effect in January 2009 and replaced what had been one of the worst open records laws in the country.

Other issues receiving grades were reproductive rights (“C”) and voting rights (“B-”).

A copy of the report card and the accompanying report is available at:

Contact: Sara Mullen, ACLU of Pennsylvania, 215-592-1513 x122