Saturday, September 02, 2023

Clashes in Kirkuk

Violence in Kirkuk today has resulted in a curfew. What's going on?  Why is it happening? You have to go back a bit.  Abdulrahman Zeyad and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) explain:

Federal forces seized Kirkuk and the surrounding oil fields in October 2017 after Kurdish regional authorities organized a symbolic but controversial referendum for Kurdish independence. The KDP vacated its headquarters in the city at the time.

The agreement to form the current government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, included a provision for the return of the Kurdistan Democratic Party to the province.

Oil-rich Kirkuk, the disputed area.  Julian Bechocha (RUDAW) explains:

Kirkuk is a multiethnic city home to Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen, as well as an Assyrian minority. The city was under joint administration before 2014, when Kurds took full control after Iraqi forces withdrew in the face of a brazen offensive by the Islamic State (ISIS) group threatening the city. Kurds held Kirkuk until October 16, 2017, when Iraqi forces retook control and expelled Kurdish security forces following the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) independence referendum. While other Kurdish political parties remain active in Kirkuk, the KDP refused to return, saying the city was “occupied” by Shiite militias.

But now, the return is supposed to be taking place.

In the leadup to this handover, IANS notes, clashes began taking place, "The Arabs and Turkmens have been protesting over the past few days against the return of the KDP, including blocking streets, setting tyres on fire, and staging a sit-in outside the building to prevent the KDP from reclaiming their headquarters."  Simon Rushton (THE NATIONAL) counts 3 dead (two "shot in the chest and a third in the head") and over a dozen inured -- the injured "including Kurds, Arabs and three members of the security forces."  REUTERS counts fourteen injured.  ALJAZEERA reports:

Masoud Barzani, a veteran Kurdish leader, accused “rioters” of blocking the highway from Kirkuk to Erbil, the Kurdish capital, with their sit-in.

He said this was “creating a tense and dangerous situation for residents”.

Barzani said it was “surprising” that security forces had not prevented “the chaos and illegal behaviour of those blocking the road”, while on Saturday, “violence was used against Kurdish youth and demonstrators”.


MIDDLE EAST EYE notes, "Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani ordered a curfew in the city to prevent an escalation of the violence."


In other news, an Iraqi poet has passed.

KHALEEJ TIMES reports, "Renowned poet Karim Al Iraqi, whose real name is Karim Oudah, passed away on Friday in an Abu Dhabi hospital. He was 68."  He was born February 18, 1955 in Baghdad.  EL CINEMA notes:

A contemporary Iraqi poet, born in Baghdad. He received a diploma in child psychology and music from the Teachers Institute in Baghdad, then worked as a school teacher for several years. He started writing songs in 1974, as he wrote the children's songs The Umbrella and O, Seamstress Aunt. He wrote more than 70 songs for Kadim Al Sahir. He also wrote songs for famous singers such as Diana Haddad, Fadl Shaker and Hany Shaker.

IRAQI NEWS adds, "Arif Al-Saadi, the advisor for Cultural Affairs to the Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani, confirmed the passing. On his own Facebook page, Al-Saadi said: 'I mourn for you the poet Karim Al-Iraqi, who passed away at in Abu Dhabi'." In 2021, IRAQ NOW noted:

The poet Kareem Al-Iraqi was born on February 18, 1955 in Karrada, Baghdad. Al Iraqi was graduated from the Baghdad Teachers Institute in psychology and children's music. Kareem Al-Iraqi worked as a teacher in Baghdad schools for several years and then worked as a supervisor specialized in writing.

Kareem Al-Iraqi was famous for poems that encouraged Iraqi soldiers to fight in the Iran-Iraq war. The relationship between Al-Iraqi and the artist Kadhim Al-Sahir also started in the army. Their first songs were the series شجاهه الناس (People's Courage) and from the tunes of lightness,  معلم على الصدمات قلبي(A teacher on the pain of my heart) and افرح ولا تحرموني منه  (Rejoice and don't deprive me of it).

The real start of al Iraqi was upon visiting Cairo, Egypt with Kadhim Al Sahir and by dealing with Arab artists like Diana Haddad, Fadl Shaker, Omar Al-Abdelat, Samira Saeed, Mohamed Mounir, Hani Shaker, Asala Nasri, Saber Al-Rabai, and others as well as the singers Iraqi expatriates among them Reda Khayat, Majid Almohandis, Adel Mokhtar, Reda Al-Abdullah and others. 


In the early nineties, Karim relocated from Iraq to Tunisia and later moved across various Arab nations before finally settling in the UAE. Apart from his poetic contributions, he held editorial positions in prominent magazines and was a member of the Association of Authors and World Music Publishers.

One of his notable accolades includes the UNICEF Award for Best Humanitarian Song, which was composed and sung by Kazem Al Saher.

Among his vast body of work are published books, folk tales, poems for children, novels, television programs, plays, albums, and even screenplays. His book “Here is Baghdad” published in Dubai in 2009 stands as a testament to his love for his homeland.

The following sites updated:

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only a social movement can win real immigration reform


By David Bacon
The Nation, 8/29/23

Marchers leave Petaluma on their 3-day trek to San Francisco.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Sahuayo, a small city of factories and craftspeople near Michoacan's Lake Chapala, could not provide enough work to support its growing population. People had been leaving Michoacan for years, seeking jobs in the maquiladoras on the border, or in the fields of California's San Joaquin Valley. But as the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect, the Mexican government devalued the peso, and a new wave of Sahuayenses were thrown into the migrant stream.

One of them was Patricia Garibay. Her sister and brothers had come north, and at 16 she followed in their footsteps. But while Patricia was able to get residence status, her siblings      could not. "More than half their lives have been here - over 30 years," she says. During that time they've been unable to return to Michoacan to see their family. Her sister died here in El Norte, without papers. "Like many others, our family was divided. If the law doesn't change, they'll never be able to go back."

Garibay found domestic work in Sonoma County, and went on to care and clean for families for the next 30 years. Media stereotypes may lead some to believe that only the rich employ domestic workers. In a world of privatized healthcare, though, these mostly-women laborers, like Garibay, provide essential care for the disabled, for older women and men with no families of their own, and for many who simply can't care for themselves.  

According to Renee Saucedo, organizer of the Almas Libres domestic worker collective in Sonoma County, thousands of women doing this work in California are undocumented. Jen Myzel employs domestic workers like Garibay, and is an outspoken advocate for them in marches and demonstrations.. She believes they deserve legal status for the valuable work they do.

Garibay and Myzel were among several hundred immigrant rights activists who gathered at the beginning of August in Petaluma's Walnut Park, in Sonoma County's wine country. After listening to a few speeches and cheering on the local troupe of Aztec dancers, they set off on a 3-day march to San Francisco's Federal Building. Their goal was to win support for a bill that could make a profound difference in the life of Garibay's family. "I'm fighting for them," she says.

HR 1511, "Renewing Immigration Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1929," is breathtaking in its simplicity. It just changes a date: January 1, 1972. Today, anyone who entered the U.S. without a visa before that date can apply for legal permanent residence--the "green card. After five years as a legal resident, they can then apply for U.S. citizenship. This registry process is contained in Section 249 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and the date has been changed four times - from 1921 to 1924, 1940, 1948, and finally 1972.

Lucy Madrigal came from Washington State, where she is a candidate for city council in Mount Vernon, to participate in the march to San Francisco.

Unfortunately, for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in U.S. communities, only a tiny handful qualify under the current registry date. That population is aging out. If someone came to the U.S. just before 1972, at the age of 20, that person would be over 70 now. From 2015 to 2019, only 305 got legal status this way. "No one really knows how many have come since that 1972 date," says Saucedo, who helped set up the Northern California Coalition for Just Immigration Reform. "Ninety percent of currently undocumented people is probably an underestimate."

Known as the Registry Bill, HR 1511 would allow anyone in the country for seven years to apply for a green card. Instead of establishing a new fixed date, a person could set the legalization process into motion seven years after they crossed the border.

"Seven years recognizes that by then a person has shown they're rooted in this country and community," explains Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigration Reform in Los Angeles, which helps coordinate the national campaign for the bill. "Seven years demonstrates a commitment," she says, "the same timeframe that legitimizes a common law marriage."

Another activist pushing for the bill, Emma Delgado, a leader of Mujeres Unidas y Activas (United and Active Women) explains, "I haven't seen my children in many years because there is currently no way for me to apply for legal residency." She called the family separation produced by current immigration law "immoral."

The Petaluma-San Francisco march, organized by the Northern California Coalition and supported by a handful of local immigrant rights advocates, was one of a dozen around the country. People also walked from Silicon Valley to San Francisco in a similar 3-day trek. Other marches were one-day events. Some were followed by a day in which immigrant workers stayed home from their jobs.

The cities that mounted marches - Houston, Denver, San Diego, Washington DC and six others - all have large communities of undocumented people. While the organizers' ultimate target may be Congress, their immediate purpose was mobilizing undocumented people themselves to act independently in their own interest. That makes this movement akin to the huge immigrant rights marches of 2006.

Alfredo Juarez, from Bellingham, Washington, marches with the poster announcing the march for the Registry Bill.

"Our whole goal is to inform and unite our community," says Melanie Laplander, of Latinos Associated Together Informing Networking and Outreaching in Minneapolis, part of a network mounting these grassroots actions around the country. Saucedo says she underestimated the willingness of undocumented people to march for three days. "Eight million people would get status with this bill," Saucedo explains. "Of course, we want it for all 11-12 million, but it's the best we've seen in decades. It doesn't pit people against each other by covering only certain groups, and there's no exchange of legalization for E-Verify, guest worker visas or beefing up the border."

Salas recounted a meeting of CHIRLA leaders in Los Angeles in the summer of 2021, in which she asked people to raise their hands if they would be eligible for legalization under the more limited proposals of the last several years. Each time she asked, only a fraction of the group indicated they might qualify. But when she explained the proposal to change the Registry date, and asked who would gain status if that became law, everyone in the room raised their hands.

The marches, like the registry bill itself, mark a change in the way immigrant rights activists believe legalization can be achieved. For forty years, immigration reform proposals have followed the pattern set by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). That bill contained a strategic compromise, intended to win over right-wing Republicans and anti-immigrant legislators of both parties.

IRCA began the militarization of the border, leading to today's private detention centers. For the first time, the law made it illegal for an employer, like Myzel, to hire an undocumented person, like a domestic worker. For people without papers, making work illegal also made them very vulnerable to employer abuse. At the same time, IRCA reinstituted contract labor visas. Last year, growers filled over 370,000 jobs with temporary workers brought to work in U.S. fields using that system. In exchange, immigrants got a legalization that ultimately allowed 2.7 million people to normalize their status. Republican President Ronald Reagan signed the bill.

Every major comprehensive immigration reform bill since then has embodied the same tradeoff: enforcement against the undocumented and migrants at the border, plus more guest workers, for very limited legalization. The tradeoffs sought to make reform palatable to fearful legislators. Every such bill failed.

"Not only did we not get legalization," Saucedo charges, "but the worst parts of those bills became our reality on the ground - raids, mass deportations, detention prisons and divided families. Today we have enforcement we never even dreamed possible in the 90s. How could anyone expect to get a significant number of the undocumented to take risks to build a movement, for proposals that were causing them harm?"

Before the Registry Bill March starts out from Petaluma, immigrant activists hold the banner at a rally calling for passage of the legislation.

At the same time, disagreement in immigrant communities has grown over proposals that would provide legalization for some people, but not others. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive order issued by President Obama, enabled students brought to the U.S. as children to get a provisional form of legal status. Their parents, however, remained as undocumented as ever. The failed Farm Workforce Modernization Act sought to provide legal status for farmworkers, and other bills promised it for essential workers as a reward for their dangerous labor during the pandemic.

The compromise strategy began to fall apart when Joe Biden was elected President. He promised a broad legalization during his campaign, and progressives in Congress took him at his word. Salas worked with the Biden transition team, putting together an agenda. The key was changing the registry date, and she and her colleagues tried to get it into Biden's U.S. Citizenship Act, without success. "But it was important to show legislators a way to transform our system, and make it humane and functional, instead of concentrating on incarceration and deportation," she recalls

They tried again with the original Build Back Better bill. "It was there, in the first iteration. If there had been a vote on it, registry change would have passed. We were so close." But the vote didn't happen. "Not only did everything fall apart, but registry was used as the excuse for not going forward - that the bill wouldn't get past the [Senate] Parliamentarian. Registry was stripped out overnight. After the devastation of that moment, we knew we had to have a bill that would deal with registry alone."

Some proposals called for "earned legalization," derisively referred to as "parole" by many activists, in which undocumented people would face a decade-long tortuous process giving people only a provisional status, while eliminating millions of potential applicants. "We don't want temporary programs," Salas emphasizes. "We want access directly to green cards. There are more and more programs now with a quasi-legal, temporary worker status, but we have to talk about the longevity of our people's presence here. It's our country already."

According to Salas, three Congress members drove the proposals for including registry - Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose, CA), Norma Torres (D-Ontario, CA) and Lou Correa (D-Anaheim, CA). They introduced a registry bill in July 2022, and reintroduced it as HR 1511 this March. Today, that bill has 64 cosponsors, all Democrats. Two more joined the day after the Petaluma and San Jose marches reached the Federal Building. On July 27, 2023 California Senator Alex Padilla introduced a companion bill in the Senate, S 2606.

"Anything you can do to convince lawmakers about the importance of this bill is helpful," Rep. Lofgren told the marchers. "I appreciate the walkers and all those who continue to fight for the rights of our immigrant community. Count on me to continue the fight in Congress!"

Members of a local Aztec dance group give the marchers a blessing before they set out.

Supporting registry change makes sense in Congressman Jesus "Chuy" Garcia's Chicago district, where 41 percent of the people are non-citizens. "Nearly 300,000 of my constituents have lived and raised families in the U.S. for decades," he says. "Updating the Registry law will help restore basic safety and dignity for immigrants who have been contributing to our communities for a long time."

In meantime, however, the undocumented especially face a growing wave of anti-immigrant legislation. SB 1718, for instance, passed by the Florida legislature and signed by Gov. De Santis in July, penalizes employers for hiring undocumented people. It invalidates out-of-state drivers licenses for immigrants while making it a felony for anyone to give a ride to a person without papers. Hospitals must ask about immigration status and detained immigrants must provide DNA samples.

Grassroots activists like Saucedo and Laplander believe that fighting for the registry bill is a way to mobilize communities in their own defense, giving them something to fight for as well as fight against. "Politicians say they want to get rid of the 14th Amendment, and take away the citizenship of our children," Laplander says. "The laws are completely against us. Look at the barbed wire and inhumanity at the border. We have to inform our people of the danger we're in, to unite and protect each other."

For Saucedo, only a grassroots movement that starts in undocumented communities will be able to defeat these attacks, and at the same time force consideration of real reform, like the Registry bill. "It has to involve public actions, three-day walks every month, civil disobedience - that level of activity," she says, "to make the country feel uncomfortable. Undocumented people have to share how their lives are impacted, that no one should be separated from children or elderly parents. We've learned from the labor and African American civil rights movements that it takes great urgency and resistance and sacrifice to make mainstream decision-makers shift."

Salas, with a long history of working inside Washington's halls of power, challenges the idea that a Republican majority in the House and weak support from many Democrats dooms the Registry Bill. "The more people who are involved, the better chance we have," she urges. "Think of all the millions of U.S. citizens who have immigrant parents, and how many have had their fathers or mothers deported. All over the country, immigrant workers are a big part of the workforce. They're all part of a base that can force change. So, we can't depend on political winds or what people tell us is possible. We have to be tenacious for what's just and righteous."

Renee Saucedo speaks at a rally at the San Francisco Federal Building at the end of the march.



Photographs by David Bacon / Fotografias por David Bacon

International Meeting on Human Mobility 2023
Encuentro internacional sobre movilidad humana 2023
Museo Nacional de las Culturas del Mundo
Palacio Nacional
Moneda 13, Centro Histórico
Centro, Cuauhtémoc
06000 Ciudad de México
CDMX, Mexico

Through October, 2023


Exploring the daily reality of Latinx agricultural workers through visual art and poetry.

Wesaam Al-Badry, Abiam Alvarez, David Bacon, Hannah Baldrige, caleb duarte, Juan R. Fuentes, Ricardo Ruiz, Christie Tirado, Arleene Correa Valencia, and historic works from the collection of SFSU's Labor Archives and Research Center
Guest curated by Brianna Montserrat Miranda

Fine Arts Gallery
Fine Arts Building Room 238,
San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132

August 12 to September 2, 2023
Opening reception: Saturday, August 12, 1 – 3 pm
Gallery talk Wednesday, August 30, 4 pm - Fine Arts Gallery


Photographs by David Bacon

Global Museum
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 

October 8 - December 3, 2023


Unearthing the history of protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Photographs © by David Bacon



More Than a Wall / Mas que Un Muro explores the many aspects of the border region through photographs taken by David Bacon over a period of 30 years. These photographs trace the changes in the border wall itself, and the social movements in border communities, factories and fields. This bilingual book provides a reality check, to allow us to see the border region as its people, with their own history of movements for rights and equality, and develop an alternative vision in which the border can be a region where people can live and work in solidarity with each other. - Gaspar Rivera-Salgado

David Bacon has given us, through his beautiful portraits, the plight of the American migrant worker, and the fierce spirit of those who provide and bring to us comfort and sustenance. -- Lila Downs

Published by El Colegio de la Frontera Norte with support from the UCLA Institute for Labor Research and Education and the Center for Mexican Studies, the Werner Kohlstamm Family Fund, and the Green Library at Stanford University

Price:  $35 plus postage and handling
To order, click here:

"The "border" is just a line. It's the people who matter." - JoAnn Intili, director, The Werner-Kohnstamm Family Fund


Photographs and text by David Bacon
University of California Press / Colegio de la Frontera Norte

302 photographs, 450pp, 9”x9”
paperback, $34.95 (in the U.S.)

order the book on the UC Press website:
use source code  16M4197  at checkoutreceive a 30% discount

En Mexico se puede pedir el libro en el sitio de COLEF:

Los Angeles Times reviews In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte - click here

The David Bacon Archive exhibition at Stanford Libraries

Exhibited throughout the pandemic in the Cecil H. Green Library at Stanford. The online exhibition (, which includes additional content not included in the physical show, is accessible to everyone, and is part of an accessible digital spotlight collection that includes significant images from this body of work. For a catalog: (

Online Interviews and Presentations

Red Lens Episode 6: David Bacon on US-Mexico border photography
Brad Segal: 
On episode 6 of Red Lens, I talk with David Bacon.

David Bacon is a California-based writer and documentary photographer. A former union organizer, today he documents labor, the global economy, war and migration, and the struggle for human rights.  We talk about David's new book, 'More than a Wall / Mas que un muro' which includes 30 years of his photography and oral histories from communities & struggles in the U.S.-Mexico border region.

Letters and Politics - Three Decades of Photographing The Border & Border Communities
Host Mitch Jeserich interviews David Bacon, a photojournalist, author, broadcaster and former labor organizer. He has reported on immigrant and labor issues for decades. His latest book, More Than A Wall, is a collection of his photographs of the border and border communities spanning three decades.

Exploitation or Dignity - What Future for Farmworkers
UCLA Latin American Institute
Based on a new report by the Oakland Institute, journalist and photographer David Bacon documents the systematic abuse of workers in the H-2A program and its impact on the resident farmworker communities, confronted with a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions.

David Bacon on union solidarity with Iraqi oil worker unions
Free City Radio - CKUT 27/10/2021 -
Organizing during COVID, the intrinsic value of the people who grow our food
Sylvia Richardson - Latin Waves Media
How community and union organizers came together to get rights for farm workers during COVID, and how surviving COVID has literally been an act of resistance.
Report Details Slavery-Like Conditions For Immigrant Guest Workers
Rising Up With Sonali Kohatkar

The Right to Remain

Beware of Pity

En Español
Ruben Luengas - #EnContacto
Hablamos con David Bacon de los migrantes y la situación de México frente a los Estados Unidos por ser el principal país de llegada a la frontera de ese país.

Jornaleros agrícolas en EEUU en condiciones más graves por Covid-19: David Bacon
SomosMas99 con Agustin Galo Samario

"Los fotógrafos tomamos partido"
Entrevista por Melina Balcázar Moreno - Laberinto

David Bacon comparte su mirada del trabajo agrícola de migrantes mexicanos en el Museo Archivo de la Fotografia


Online Photography Exhibitions
Documentary Matters -  View from the US 
Social Documentary Network
Four SDN photographers explore themes of racial justice, migration, and #MeToo
There's More Work to be Done
Housing Assistance Council and National Endowment for the Arts
This exhibition documents the work and impact of the struggle for equitable and affordable housing in rural America, inspired by the work of George “Elfie” Ballis.
Dark Eyes
A beautiful song by Lila Downs honoring essential workers, accompanied by photographs

A video about the Social Justice Photography of David Bacon:

In the FIelds of the North
Online Exhibit
Los Altos History Museum

Virtual Tour - In the Fields of the North
History Museum of Tijuana
Recorrido Virtual de la Exposicion - En los campos del norte
Museo de Historia de Tijuana

THE REALITY CHECK - David Bacon blog

Other Books by David Bacon - Otros Libros

The Right to Stay Home:  How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration  (Beacon Press, 2013)

Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants  (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008

Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

En Español:  

EL DERECHO A QUEDARSE EN CASA  (Critica - Planeta de Libros)


For more articles and images, see and

Copyright © 2023 David Bacon Photographs and Stories, All rights reserved.
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Reps. Takano, Adams Statement on Proposed Rule to Expand Overtime Pay to 3.6 Million Workers


Reps. Takano, Adams Statement on Proposed Rule to Expand Overtime Pay to 3.6 Million Workers

Washington, DC – Today, Reps. Mark Takano (CA-39) andand authors of the Restoring Overtime Pay Act, released the following statement after the U.S. Department of Labor unveiled a proposed rule to update the federal overtime regulations. 

“The Biden-Harris Administration has taken a reasonable step forward today to address an inconceivable reality: millions of Americans are currently excluded from the overtime pay they have earned. It's common sense that the overtime threshold should increase as wages do, but unfortunately workers today are suffering under President Trump’s inadequate overtime policy. I’m pleased to see today’s rule proposal incorporate an index that in two years will exceed the Obama rule, and does not allow the threshold to atrophy,” said Rep Takano. “Today’s proposed rule would extend overtime eligibility to 3.5 million new workers, and I applaud Acting Secretary Julie Su for her leadership and commitment to them.”

“Millions of workers will benefit from the Biden-Harris Administration’s update to federal overtime regulations,” said Rep. Adams, Ranking Member of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. “As the author of the Restoring Overtime Pay Act with Rep. Takano I haven’t stopped fighting to make sure workers are paid fairly. I’m encouraged by the work of Acting Secretary Julie Su to move forward in the spirit of our legislation to expand overtime benefits to workers who deserve fair pay for good work.”

This March, Reps. Takano and Adams reintroduced the Restoring Overtime Pay Act, which strengthens overtime protections, increases the overtime threshold from $36,000 to $82,000 by 2027, and builds an economy that works for everyone and will ensure that American workers are not cheated out of the pay they earned for the extra hours they worked.


U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres Announces New Legislation Aimed at Protecting Rights of Seniors to Access Traditional Medicare Coverage


U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres Announces New Legislation Aimed at Protecting Rights of Seniors to Access Traditional Medicare Coverage

Aug 24, 2023

BRONX, N.Y. – U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres (NY-15) today joined local healthcare advocates and affected seniors and public sector retirees to announce he will be introducing new legislation – the “Right to Medicare Act” – aimed at protecting the rights of seniors to access traditional Medicare coverage.

It comes as a response to New York City government, the largest municipal employer in the country, which continues to attempt to involuntarily kick approximately 250,000 public sector retirees off the traditional Medicare plans they worked decades to secure and were promised and onto privately run healthcare insurance plans through Medicare Advantage.

“There is no topic as important to me than the defense of Medicare,” said U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY 15). “There is no set of people to whom we owe a greater debt than our senior citizens. The two programs that enable our seniors to lead decent and dignified lives are Medicare and Social Security – both of which must be protected at all costs. The United States is the wealthiest country in the history of the world, and with great wealth comes great responsibility. For me, there is no greater responsibility than the protection of healthcare to those in greatest need – our senior citizens. This is a public good for our senior citizens that must be protected from privatization.”

The “Right to Medicare Act” would prohibit employers, both public and private, from involuntarily forcing seniors to shift away from traditional Medicare coverage in favor of Medicare Advantage and would amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to require employers to offer an opt-in option for seniors who might want change from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage.

The legislation would also put Congress on the record as affirming that all U.S. seniors have a right to enroll in traditional Medicare that cannot be taken away and that they have a right to choose for themselves between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage.

“No one should be forced into health plans provided by private companies which maximize their profits by limiting the choice of doctors and imposing pre-approval requirements,” said Sue Ellen Dodell, a NYC retiree and the Political Action Director for the NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees. “Auto enrollment of retirees into Medicare Advantage plans is not just happening in New York City. It is happening throughout the country because of current federal law. We are grateful for Congressman Torres’s support for City retirees who want to retain the choice of traditional Medicare. We look forward to working with him on his legislation and to continue to fight Medicare privatization in all its forms.”

“I was promised by the City that when I retired, I would have Medicare and Medigap coverage that would cover my medical costs,” said Arnold Gottfried of Riverdale, a retired high school English teacher of 31 years. “I was promised that I would have freedom of choice if I wanted to switch to another plan. This was the promise, the covenant, given to me and to 250,000 City workers by our unions and the City. To no longer fulfill that promise would be a betrayal. Let us, the retirees of NYC, have the right to keep what we have, and have the option, if we wish, to choose an alternative plan. But always, always, keep the promise and honor the covenant. Thank you, Congressman Torres, for standing up for us.”