BuxMont DSA and Norristown Municipal Council made history on Tuesday, August 20. Through the organizing efforts of the suburban branch of Philly DSA, Norristown has become the first municipality in Montgomery County, only the second in Pennsylvania, and one of just over a dozen cities and towns in the United States to pass a resolution in support of Medicare for All.
By a unanimous vote, the council recognized what the language of the resolution articulated: that enacting Medicare for All legislation is a vital step in establishing healthcare as a human right in this country. And it’s no wonder. Norristown is a working class town with large communities of Black residents and Latinx immigrants, a town where 15% of its residents (over 5,000 people) have no health insurance at all, let alone the many who are underinsured in expensive, inadequate plans. As council member Hakim Jones said before voting, Norristown isn’t “interested in waiting until the next election cycle to see what the people at the top believe in, and [we’re] not interested in following a trend[...]We are a community that suffers from not having access to healthcare.” Norristown’s enthusiastic embrace of single-payer, universal health care comes from a deep-seated need in the community for working people to take back control of their health and their lives from the predatory health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and from the capitalist class more generally.
As BuxMont DSA’s first public-facing campaign, this victory follows months of organizing from a small but dedicated group of democratic socialists just outside of Philadelphia, some of whom had never canvassed before. With the guidance of Philly DSA’s Canvassing Committee, BuxMont members launched their first independent canvassing operation. Over several canvasses from February to June with only a handful of volunteers, members knocked on hundreds of doors in Norristown and gathered close to 150 signatures at both these door-to-door canvasses and at public events, tabling and speaking to residents about their experiences with the for-profit health insurance industry. After having encouraging conversations with supportive council members at community events and scheduled meetings, Norristown Municipal Council invited BuxMont DSA to present the case for Medicare for All at their June workshop meeting. Our presentation and accompanying handout for the public clarified the five fundamental components of Medicare for All, addressed frequently asked questions through recent economic research on Medicare for All, and perhaps most importantly, connected a national program to democratize healthcare to the local needs of Norristown residents.
At the final vote two months later, many council members expressed gratitude for BuxMont DSA’s moral clarity and thorough understanding of the healthcare crisis facing both Norristown and the country. Councilwoman Valerie Scott-Cooper said, “I’d like to thank [BuxMont DSA] who came out and showed us what we need to do. I’d also like to thank that [sic] we’re also going to be one of the frontrunners in this and kind of take the lead out in this area - because the whole country’s talking.”
Indeed, Norristown is now a vanguard municipality in southeastern PA in the fight for single-payer. Meanwhile, Representative Madeleine Dean does not support Medicare for All despite this clear demand from her constituents. The struggle is far from over. As socialists in Bucks and Montgomery counties and from around the country continue to push for this essential working class demand, politicians will no longer be able to ignore the mounting pressure from the working majority. A better healthcare system - a better world - is possible, but only if we fight for it. Through continued organizing, we hope to see other towns throughout suburban Philadelphia - and throughout the U.S. - follow Norristown’s example and pass their own resolutions affirming healthcare as a human right.