Vigil-goers hope and pray Congress sees the light against cuts

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Personal perspectives on national debate

On December 10th as the sun set on a mostly overcast Monday in North Carolina, dozens of workers, retirees, students, and veterans in downtown Raleigh joined others gathered in Greensboro and in Asheville to light candles and stand vigil outside congressional offices while their neighbors and faith leaders put the national debate over tax cuts for the rich and program cuts for the rest in personal terms.

Click here to see photos from the Raleigh and Greensboro vigils.

Bishop Hope Ward, leader of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, opened the Raleigh vigil against cuts with a prayer for courage and wisdom for Senator Kay Hagan and the rest of our delegation to work for the common good. Watch video of Bishop Ward’s prayer.

In Raleigh, retired autoworker Duane Adkinson of Garner told a crowd of about 70 that he’s grateful for not having to battle for health care while battling cancer for the last two years. The nearly $200 thousand in medical bills “would have been a catastrophic loss for my wife and family. I’m talking my home and everything, lost. Medicare saved me personally.”

Duane worked in an auto plant until he could retire, “and at age 65, I could hardly do it anymore,” he said. As for members of Congress who want to raise the eligibility age for Medicare, Duane wonders if they have considered constituents like him. “If you’ve got an active job at age 65, you’ve worked long enough.”

Watch testimony from Duane Adkinson and Sandy Irving at the Raleigh Vigil Against Cuts.

Greensboro vigil.

Greensboro vigil.

About 45 folks held vigil outside Congressman Mel Watt’s office in downtown Greensboro where retired-school teacher Judy Coggins of Kernersville testified that Social Security survivor benefits helped her and her mom pick up the pieces when her father died. Judy, who almost dropped out of college to get a job and take care of her family, was able to stay in college and get her degree. “I can thank Social Security for helping me do that,” Judy said.

Benny Miller of Greensboro, a member of Working America, testified about the importance of Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security to his mom and dad. Benny called on Congress to do the correct thing by folks like his parents, who “worked 65 years combined to pay into a system that promised to be there for them in their later years.”

Watch testimony from Judy Coggins and Benny Miller at the Greensboro Vigil Against Cuts.

Despite a light rain, some 30 people got together outside Senator Richard Burr’s office in Asheville. Western NC Central Labor Council president Mark Case described hearing emotional testimony there. “One woman who worked in the Healthcare profession was reduced to tears as she spoke about the cuts she had already seen in Medicaid and Medicare,” said Mark.

“This was a woman who truly cared about the job she was doing for others, and did not like to see the suffering that was going on in Western North Carolina and around the country. Her tears where not for herself, but for others.”

Read Marks’ full report and see photos of the Asheville vigil.

Get involved in the campaign against tax cuts for the rich and against cuts to our earned benefits at http://www.aflcio.org/Get-Involved/Protect-Our-Future.

Featured photo of Raleigh candlelight vigil against cuts. December 10, 2012.