The following is a short piece by Florence Johnston Collective, who have been participating in the anti-police activity here in New York following the acquittals of Darren Wilson and Daniel Panteleo.
“This Stops Today”
Since August of this year (2014), people in Ferguson, Missouri have been in the streets, experimenting with a wide variety of resistance against police violence, spurred by the murder of 18 year old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. A little over two weeks ago, Darren Wilson was acquitted through a secretive Grand Jury trial of the murder, and last week another police officer, Daniel Panteleo, was similarly acquitted following his murder of Staten Island resident Eric Garner.
For the past two weeks, thousands of people all over the country have engaged in some of the most militant protests this country has seen in decades. In cities where the norm is for protests to be per-approved by the police and for marches to stay on the sidewalk, protestors are taking over and shutting down major highways and bridges. In situations where six months ago people may have been frightened or scattered by the police, they are fighting back, using the cops’ tools of violence against them–throwing back barricades and tear gas canisters, and forcefully releasing their fellow protesters from arrest and incarceration.
At least one New York City march last week began with a reading of Garner’s last words. Before gasping “I can’t breathe” eleven horrific times before Panteleo and his fellow officer made sure Mr. Garner would never breathe again, he said this:
“Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today. Why would you…? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn’t do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me (garbled) Selling cigarettes. I’m minding my business, officer, I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone. please please, don’t touch me. Do not touch me.”
What these words reveal, beyond the complete disregard of human life by the police, is the history of harassment Garner faced as someone allegedly involved in the informal economy (the police were supposedly harassing him for selling loose cigarettes, although he was not arrested nor charged), living in a mostly black and working class neighborhood. What they also reveal is that despite the threat of state violence, Garner took a stand against this abuse.
As Palestinians engage in massive protests, in NYC we are calling for solidarity. We are inseparable from the Palestinians injured, and the healthcare workers struggling not just to survive but to resist, as Israel bombs hospitals and ambulances to the ground in an attempt to break their spirit. In NY, we face, slower, every day assaults–overwork, lack of healthcare, silent deaths and ongoing mental and emotional trauma. The fight of Gaza is our fight! We will gather outside Bellevue Hospital, which is one of the largest hospitals serving poor populations in the city, and which treats patients in and out of Riker’s Island (a small version of the open air prison that is every day life in Palestine).
This summer, we’re going to spend some time doing some community surveying around hospitals but also in other areas in the community, like parks and grocery stores. We’d love to hear from you. What are your health needs? What do you think “care” actually means? Check out our survey below. And, as always, email or call us to get involved.
-FJC email@example.com 347-871-0352
The Florence Johnston Collective has been building relationships with some Miami healthcare workers who are organizing at their workplaces, in affiliation with the Miami Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) chapter. The following is a statement that some of them recently released, calling for action around budget cuts to healthcare in their area. See the original post on IWW Miami’s website here.
Some of our members and contacts have reported the hospitals they work at are pressuring them to take a flu vaccine, even to the point of forcing them to wear masks if they are not vaccinated. In response, we made the following flyer, and we are encouraging all workers to wear a mask in solidarity. We will be distributing posters and flyers at hospitals around New York. Let us know if you want to get involved!
As Florence Johnston Collective prepares for a picket tonight at 7PM, things have been heating up at Interfaith over the last week. Over 1,500 workers and 250,000 patients enter their 5th month of waiting to find out if they will have jobs, emergency services, mental health services, ob/gyn care, and more after Interfaith management, with pressure from the NYS Department of Health, filed bankruptcy in December of 2012 after receiving promises of extra funding if they completed the closure. Since then, negative changes have already started at the hospital making working conditions deteriorate and patient care slide downhill, including the departure of many workers (ex, 30% of nurses at IMC are now per diem). Politicians and the two major unions–NYSNA and SEIU 1199–have raised a few possibilities to keep the hospital open, but none of these proposals addresses the long-term problems at Interfaith-overwork, stress leading to competition between workers, long wait times, and a long list of citations since the announcement of closure. In fact, all of the proposals from the unions and political candidates, if they are successful in keeping the hospital open, will either maintain the same poor conditions or worsen them. Meanwhile, FJC is looking to Greece and to Harlem for examples of creating new health systems by and for workers and the community.
Here is a list of the major proposals by the union leaders and politicians:
1) The hospital stays open with limited state funds until NY State receives a “Medicaid Waiver”, money given to the State DoH because they cut 17.1 billion in Medicaid over the last 3 years. This proposals rests on the assumption that the cuts to Medicaid are somehow unrelated to the decline in the hospital itself–which is unlikely–and does not include concerns over how restrictions on how Medicaid money will be used.
2) Broker a merger between Interfaith and another hospital, probably Kingsbrook. Even the union says this could lead to more cuts, and the ongoing merger of St Luke’s, Roosevelt, and Mt Sinai under Continuum Health Partners has already lead to layoffs (based on information from inside the hospital, FJC believes this number is much lower than actual, since housekeeping staff have been facing layoffs since before the merger).
3) Rely on Mayoral Candidate Bill Deblasio and Public Advocate hopeful Leticia James to pull strings with the state and bankruptcy court–hardly a long term solution.
Florence Johnston Collective’s picket tonight is the first explicit step in a collective process for stopping hospital closures that doesn’t just keep sub-par service going with exploited workers, but builds community and worker control over the hospital itself. We have given the politicians and union leaders plenty of time–its time to take matters into our own hands! Community and Worker Control over Interfaith Now!
We are holding a community and worker picket at Interfaith Hospital (1545 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn, NY 11213) on Tuesday, October 15 at 7pm.
Interfaith Hospital, after several delays, will have an injunction on November 15th to decide whether it will remain open or closed, and the company is planning on closing the hospital on Christmas Day. While the unions have depicted Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio as our Holy Hospital Savior, he has merely delayed the possible closure until after he takes office. The delay does nothing for the 1,544 workers who received layoff notices, except buy time to find another job and reduce the layoff compensation. Furthermore, the Crown Heights/Bed-Stuy area are ultimately without 307 beds, 11,000 inpatient and 250,000 outpatient annual visits, and emergency services nearby. And de Blasio comes out on top.
We’ve been working with a group of RNs, CNAs, and other workers at St. Luke’s Hospital in the Harlem area. St. Luke’s recently signed a merger contract with nearby Mt. Sinai Medical Continuum to merge the two hospitals. Studies have shown that large health systems, such as St. Luke’s and Mt. Sinai, oftentimes merge in order to have more leverage to charge higher insurance premiums. This could mean increased costs of care, and a reduction in hospital beds. Communities near St. Luke’s are aware of this possibility, and have encouraged the local Community Board 9 to demand increased care for specific populations, including asthmatic children.
However, this is too little too late. Hospital workers, patients, and community members need to build power from below and pressure the new Mt. Sinai system to ensure not only job security and adequate service provision, but a complete end to job and salary cuts, increased workloads, and pressure to receive endless certifications and “official” education. When workers are overworked, we are unable to serve our clients and patients. We must work together to get all of our needs met.
We created a flyer with St. Luke’s workers and have been passing them out and postering them around the hospital. So far we are finding that most people know about the merger and are concerned about what it will mean for their job. They have been eager to take our flyer.
St. Luke’s workers understand that they are not alone. Mergers and closures like this are happening all over the city, and many are fighting back. The 1199 SEIU local has called an action on Thursday, August 29 at 4pm at 7th Ave and Greenwich Ave. This is a meaningless symbolic action aimed at workers at Interfaith Hospital in Bed-Stuy. We will be at the action passing out our flyer and meeting workers who want to build a real struggle to control how, when, and how much we work.
As always, call or email us if you’d like to help flyer, or for more information on the hospital workers campaign.
We’ve been working with some RN and CNA contacts around hospital mergers in Manhattan. Others around the city have been fighting hospital closures (more info here).
Here is a flyer a nurse contact of our made. Hit us up to get involved: 347-871-0352 or firstname.lastname@example.org.