Real-Life “Norma Rae” Dies After Battle With Insurance Company

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Crystal Lee Sutton, 68, formerly Crystal Lee Jordan—on whom Sally Field’s Norma Rae was based—died last Friday of brain cancer. Her insurance company at first had refused her treatment, then after two months relented, but the cancer moved too fast, and Sutton died.

Would the new health care reform legislation proposed this morning by Senator Max Baucus—minus, as predicted, the public option—have helped her? Probably not. The nation is full of stories like this, stories which have scant impact on the Republican right in Congress, who have made it abundantly clear that their only goal is to take out Obama—whatever that may require.

But the case of Sutton is especially poignant.

Sutton was earning $2.65 an hour folding towels at the J.P. Stevens textile plant in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina when she was fired for trying to organize a union. Before she was removed by the cops, Sutton wrote the word ‘union’ in capital letters on cardboard and got up on her work table to lead workers in turning off their machines in solidarity. Her efforts were not in vain. In August, 1974, the plant recognized the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, which has since become part of the Service Employees International Union.

Sutton was had meningioma, a usually slow growing cancer of the nervous system. In her case, it spread quickly. “How in the world can it take so long to find out [whether they would cover the medicine or not] when it could be a matter of life or death? It is almost like, in a way, committing murder,” she said.

Last year, Sutton told a reporter how she would like to be remembered:

It is not necessary I be remembered as anything, but I would like to be remembered as a woman who deeply cared for the working poor and the poor people of the U.S. and the world, that my family and children and children like mine will have a fair share and equality.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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