Where: 16 Beaver St, 4th Floor, Manhattan
When: 9/28/14 @ 6PM
What is the future of struggles around social reproduction? As 2014 winds down, capital continues its offensive against reproductive labor conditions, women and trans* power, social programs, and overall quality of life for working class people in New York and beyond. Where are people pushing back? And how can we forge meaningful connections capable of linking these struggles without glossing over their particularities?
Florence Johnston Collective is an autonomous and unfunded group by and for working class people, dedicated to advancing struggle and generating analysis around issues of social reproduction.
Over the past year we have met countless inspiring people who share our desire for radical change in social reproduction. In our pickets, flyering, public meetings, movie screenings, reading groups, and door to door campaigns, we have met folks of every stripe who share a common desire for a society based on human need, and capable of human care.
As we plan our next steps, we want to hear from you.If you share our vision, want to discuss the future, or just want to hang out and see what we’re all about, join us for a dinner event to welcome the Fall and plan for the spring ahead. Bring your friends, co-workers, family, children, lovers, and let’s put our heads together toward a meaningful way forward.
In July, a last minute contract reached by 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East leadership and hospital executives in New York City averted a one-day strike that was to impact 70,000 health-care workers in over 100 hospitals and nursing homes. During the previous week, union members voted 95% in favor of the strike and 1,500 low-wage healthcare workers in Staten Island picketed for better benefits and working conditions.
The contract promises an annual raise of 3% in year 1 and 2, followed by 3.5% in year 3 and 4 of the deal. In addition, workers will receive full health insurance coverage but will reduce pension payments by employers. Several questions remain unanswered such as new hiring practices, the unclear future of outpatient clinics—especially in the newly merged health Contiuum Health Systems, overwork and short-staffing, the closure of units in various hospitals, and the overcrowding due to closed units and hospitals elsewhere; not to mention the ongoing working conditions in most city hospitals, which include concerns over safety and wellness related to shortstaffing, the inability to take breaks, and the division between workers in different paygrades. In short, the union is fighting a purely defensive battle, but still aren’t able to maintain the standards of workers, only to stave off a percentage of the attacks.
In addition, while there is a pay increase, it is not retroactive to pay for neglected cost of living increases in previous years. Furthermore, whole those who voted were overwhelmingly in agreement, many workers felt that yes, a strike was necessary, but not on the terms set by the union. Of our colleagues with whom we spoke, and other healthcare workers we surveyed who are 1199 members, many expressed extreme dissatisfaction. If the one-day strike had happened, no strike pay would have been offered. Furthermore, workers felt that they were being told to go on strike, not that they were deciding to strike. Finally, many workers were dismayed with the demands of the strike; while the potential rise in cost of health insurance matters, it is a relatively minor aspect of de-facto decreasing wages, overwork, and the potential at any time for a worker to lose her job. It is important to understand worker critiques of the strike not as a critique of taking action, but of the content of the demands, and the complete lack of democratic control. Workers feel like they get told when to come to work and when not to, and the master seems the same whether management or union leadership.
Another healthcare is possible
The overwhelming vote in favor of the strike is not surprising. Healthcare workers are upset and seeking new alternatives. Unlike the rest of the non-unionized private sector, healthcare unions are recruiting record numbers of workers. Since 2010, healthcare strikes have risen by 73% and numbers of days on strike have risen by 27%. Despite ambiguous claims by ‘expert’ academic and policy analysts claiming rising mortality following hospital strikes, such analysis ignores the motivating factors behind worker initiated strikes – such as unsafe working conditions, administrators’ use of inexperienced temporary workers, mandatory overtime and weekend shifts, lack of ancillary staff which delays vital diagnostic and treatment procedures, and higher volumes of patients in the face of staff shortages that have all been blamed for rising deaths and costs. Studies also neglect the critical role of strikes in protecting healthcare facilities in underserved communities that would otherwise be left with no access to immediate care.
Despite the increased mobilization of healthcare workers in unions, why is New York left with fewer hospitals? Why are our workplaces getting busier and more stressful? Why do we work so closely with another (the janitors, nurses, techs, doctors, social workers, aides) and yet are carved out into different unions that rarely talk or show solidarity for one another? And why is our relationship with the union more like a “grievance mill” filing for individual complaints rather than forums for collective reflection and larger-scale organizing?
More often, those we trust to be our representatives (such as hospital and union hierarchies, politicians, ‘expert’ academics) are unaware of immediate conditions in the units and clinics. We (healthcare workers) should open new forms of collectively practicing our visions for a better form of practicing care. We hope these suggestions may be of use:
- Find times and spaces inside and outside the hospital that can launch conversations that bring together all of our co-workers (i.e. nurses, aides, techs, janitors, doctors) to vent but also think of solutions that can make our workplaces safer and less stressful. For example, one lunch per week on the unit could be a relaxed space to hear one another’s concerns and consider immediate solutions. And for solutions that might benefit other units or require more resources and support, we can start having a monthly lunch with other units to explore larger-scale alternatives.
- We must identify ways to sustain our group meetings, be it in the form of regular lunches, committees, or gatherings outside work that link with other unit staff and present larger-scale concerns to hospital administration for immediate attention. And if ignored, mobilizing co-workers to find new strategies to press for a response.
- We must challenge our unions and locals to begin working in solidarity with other unions that represent other skilled professionals in our hospitals. Our work relies entirely on a team-based approach, so we must help one another, including our ‘temporary’ co-workers secure full-time jobs.
- We must not only avoid working over-time, but have protected time of at least several hours per week, in which we are free of clinical responsibilities to participate in quality improvement projects. These projects involve receiving training in health services research and finding solutions to improve the quality of care in our specific units and clinics. The work is rewarding and helps nurture real leadership and team-work skills.
- The protected time from clinical duties can also help us initiate projects that build stronger links with community groups to address locally pressing health issues, such as diabetes, asthma, alcoholism, or obesity. Many of our hospitals have lots of meeting space for support groups, educational and prevention projects, workshops, health fairs, and other forms of community support. Often sharing resources and skills with the community empowers residents to improve their health in a respectful and perhaps more effective form than if it were to be addressed in an ER or clinic. It also allows residents to see us, healthcare workers, as people that genuinely care for their well-being beyond acute or emergency care, and may support us if we were facing our own crisis, such as a closures or lay-offs.
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).
Second screening of the movie series hosted by Flo Jo!
Sunday July 13, 5PM-8PM
At The Commons 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY (between Hoyt and Bond)
Subway: A/C/G to Hoyt-Schermerhorn or 2/3/4/5 to Nevins St
“The Waiting Room” presents an ordinary day in an Oakland public hospital emergency room, from both the workers’ and patients’ perspectives. The film asks workers what they do on a daily basis to deal with the constant (over)flow of patients, and shows them in action as they redress and remedy endless ailments and afflictions, doing some of the most demanding work in our society: care work. Simultaneously, the film depicts patients, mostly uninsured and poor, as they navigate the hospital and insurance bureaucracies and struggle to survive and be healthy another day. Join us as we bear witness to these struggles, discuss how it applies to our own lives and situations, and develop some ideas about how to fight for a society with human care at the center, for workers and patients alike.
We will have a special introduction with a former employee of the hospital, who now works in the ED of a busy New York hospital, and as always, discussion and refreshments!
For more information on Florence Johnston Collective, check this blog or contact us at email@example.com
We in Florence Johnston Collective love the 1983 film Born in Flames because of its complex treatment of politics in society! A “science fiction” film based ten years after a “social democratic revolution”, the film portrays two organizations of women struggling in a world that despite a “revolutionary” government, still faces exploitation, wage labor, sexism, rape, racism, homophobia, and state repression. The film raises a lot of great questions about state led vs. grassroots led political movements, and about the possibilities for liberation in a world that is still dominated by class divisions along race and gender lines.
We hope to see you there!
**Please Note! We have changed locations for the ACA event to Barnard College, Barnard Hall Room 409, same time and date!**
Florence Johnston Collective wants to announce our new issue of Vital Signs! This issue features reports on Interfaith, Greece, and the impacts of the Affordable Care Act. To go along with the release of this issue, we will be hosting an event on March 22, 2014 at 2 PM at the Barnard College in Harlem (at Broadway and 117th St). Please come, and we welcome any healthcare professionals and patients to share their experiences with the NY State of Health, Medicaid, Medicare, and being uninsured.
And as always, we want to hear from you. If you want to contribute to the event or to our next issue of Vital Signs, please email us.
In the light of the ongoing catastrophe at the Fukushima nuclear power plant and its byproduct – radioactive contamination – in Japan, it is notable that those who are engaged in care work, or reproductive labor, have begun to organize and stand up, demanding the right to live happily as human beings. The nuclear disaster brought significant changes in reproductive labor, from watching out for radioactive levels in neighborhoods to feeding safe food to those who are more susceptible to radiation – children and youth. While the disaster in Fukushima is considered largely a Japanese problem, nuclear energy production is a global program operated by state-capital relations.
In attempt to maintain business as usual even in the wake of massive disaster, Japan’s government, in corporation with the nuclear industry, has launched a widespread campaign that downplays the negative effects of ionizing radiation.
Based on personal narratives and social organizing taking place in Japan, one of the Florence Johnston members has recently created a handbook for the purpose of sharing basic information on radiation, which is often an undercurrent, and even explicitly so in the United States, the birth place of nuclear energy and still the host to more than 100 commercial nuclear reactors.
For more info and directions for printing out: Zine: A Guide to Radiation
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!
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.