NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — About 25 people recently gathered outside Johnson & Johnson’s headquarters to protest the U.S. Senate health care bill and push for a single-payer system.
The political group Socialist Alternative NJ organized the July 1 demonstration off Albany Street. Ginger Hütter, a volunteer organizer, said the faction targeted New Brunswick due to Johnson & Johnson’s power in the pharmaceutical industry and the apparent lack of street-level activity against proposed changes to health care in the state.
“Because New Jersey has two senators in the Democratic party, and because the current iteration of the bill is in the Senate, there’s been some confusion or reluctance to get that mass mobilization in the streets,” Hütter told TAPinto New Brunswick.
Single-payer health coverage would be controlled entirely by the government.
Protesters held signs bearing slogans like “Patients, not profits,” and “Medicaid for all.” They distributed leaflets explaining their opposition to the health care bill and what sort of health care system they’d prefer to see. They also chanted lines such as, “Go sick, go broke; Trumpcare is an evil joke,” and “Big pharma, you can’t hide; we can see your greedy side.”
Speakers included a retired physician who practiced in New Brunswick for years and outlined the ways in which doctors and public health experts have been excluded from writing the Senate bill. One man, a local activist named Mark Lesko, described his battle against an illness—and how, he said, Medicaid helped to save his life.
The demonstration lasted for about 90 minutes before thunderstorms broke it up, causing participants to quickly pack up and run for cover.
The rally came together just in the days before it occurred, Hütter said. It was labeled an “emergency action” to stop a bill that federal lawmakers had hoped to bring to a vote before the Fourth of July weekend.
In a phone call, Hütter railed against what she saw as a significant threat to Medicaid—in exchange for tax breaks for the wealthy—looming under the GOP proposal.
“Middle-class people will be hurt,” she said. “Millions and millions of other people will see their premiums or deductibles go up.”
Yet the protest and Socialist Alternative NJ didn’t hail President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act as a savior. Instead, Hütter said, her group wants single-payer health care, a system in which all residents receive coverage.
“It would solve the problems with Trumpcare and Obamacare,” she added.
Co-sponsors of the event included 15 Now NJ, Green Party New Jersey and the Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War.