About 30 protestors, many donning red “Unite Here” union shirts and holding signs, gathered at Congressman Steve Knight’s Santa Clarita office on Thursday afternoon.
The group shouted “Hey Knight, do what’s right” and “Healthcare for one and all,” a call to the 25th district representative to change his support of President Trump’s planned repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and proposed new act.
Referring to their action as a “die-in,” the group said it was in reference to some citizens’ fear of health risks without healthcare.
“We want to make it really clear to him that there is a human cost to what he’s about to do,” Unite Here union organizer Andrew Cohen said.
“This decision to place the Trump care tax on employer-sponsored healthcare is going to make health insurance less affordable, or in some cases, inaccessible to working Americans who currently have it. The cost of that is that people are going to get sick, they’re going to suffer and they’re going to die.”
Cohen said the group of union workers who protested are representative of people across the political, ethnic, racial and religious spectrum.
“Politics does not discriminate who gets diabetes or who gets cancer,” Cohen said. “While the Republicans are framing this like it’s liberals against Republicans, it’s just Americans against Republicans.”
While Knight was not in his office at the time of the protest, he told The Signal afterward that he is open to have discussions with those who voiced concerns in regard to healthcare and otherwise.
“I’m sure there are people whose views don’t align with what mine are,” the congressman said. “There’s going to be discourse, there’s going to be protest and things like that, but that’s part of the process that we go through. I think that everything we’ve been moving forward with has been trying to help.”
Knight said he and his team have reached out to many Democratic groups to meet with some success. However, the representative said the announcement of a town hall meeting scheduled for the morning of March 4 has actually made conversation die down.
“I can’t help people who don’t want to hear,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s a political thing or what. If they want to talk, then we’ll talk.”
In regard to his healthcare stance, Knight said his goal is to fix the program he said was “built on poor legislation.”
“If we’re going to fix that and make it better, it’s going to take a little bit of time and a little effort,” Knight said. “If you want to be a part of that, then we welcome you aboard.”
Much of United Here’s issue with Trump’s proposed healthcare plan is similar to previous concerns with the ACA, according to spokesperson Anna Oman. The “Cadillac tax” would tax employers for healthcare plans provided for employees under the ACA and would remain part of Trump’s plan, she said.
“It would mean a huge tax increase, and it’s already meant huge reductions in healthcare for working people,” Oman said. “It’s the wrong way to address healthcare reform.”
Oman said the correct way to address the issue is to continue coverage for those under the ACA without taxing the middle class’ benefits.
Protestor Nanette Meister said she attended the event because she has been dependent on the ACA since her husband retired years ago. Though her husband qualifies for Medicare, she is ineligible because of her age.
“I saved thousands and thousands of dollars (because of the ACA),” Meister said. “This has been a Godsend. Your income goes down when you retire and you still have expenses and things you have to care for. It has financially saved us.”
After getting price estimates from multiple companies, the lowest rate Meister could find was $850 a month. After the ACA took place, she paid $450 a month the first year and pays $567 a month now. She said she fears the repeal of the ACA would spell a much higher cost for her limited budget.
“We did financial planning for his retirement,” she said. “We did not plan for these horrific premiums. How do you plan for a future where you can’t make any financial decisions?”
Those who gathered in Santa Clarita are among about two dozen other groups protesting healthcare issues this week across the nation. In addition to protests, Unite Here sponsored five print and online advertising campaigns this week, targeting Knight, Darrell Issa of the 49th District in San Diego and Orange Counties in California, Luke Messer of Indiana, Ann Wagner of Missouri and Barbara Comstock of Virginia.
Cohen of Unite Here said the union plans to have larger protests in the future.
The exact location and time of Knight’s town hall meeting will be announced soon on his site, knight.house.gov.
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