Last Tuesday, 3.11, was the 3rd anniversary of the disaster at the Fukuhsima-Daiichi disaster. Our comrades at Todos Somos Japon led two amazing actions in Manhattan, not just to draw attention to Fukishima but to connect what is happening in Japan to what is happening all over the world, including just north of New York at Indian Point. Nuclear power is a result of capitalist accumulation and is antithetical to the needs of a society trying to reproduce itself. Todos Somos Japon consistently draws the relationship between women’s labor, the conditions of workers, health, and radiation. Check out an amazing speech given at the actions, and remember two events upcoming that will discuss the relationship between people’s health and the medical system: FJC’s event on the ACA this Saturday 3/22, and Todos Somos Japon’s film screening on 3/30.
It has been three years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster happened in 2011. Since then, tons of radioactive materials keep leaking from the Fukushima-daiichi nuclear power plant every single day. While we barely hear the condition of Fukushima power plants from mass media, they hardly tell us how people struggle with their every day lives. Even though there are many people who want to evacuate, they are not able to move out from their places because of cultural, political and economic reasons. Many people are still dislocated and forced to live in limbo. In the past three years, what can we learn from the Fukushima nuclear disaster? In fact, we New Yorkers are living 35 miles from away from Indian Point. Today, I would like to share a voice of an evacuee. Her name is Hiroko Tsuzuki who evacuated with her two children right after the disaster. Currently, she and her children are living in Hokkaido.
“People who evacuated have been living with anxiety over their unseen every day lives in the future. While evacuation itself is unusual, evacuees are forced to live in the condition of ‘normal every day life.’ Today, many of the people are still separated from their families. Even though people who decided to stay in Fukushima, they also face anxieties every day that come from confusions over much different information, some of which promise their safety and some tell them the risk of remaining in the area. People in Fukushima often talk about how they have to suppress their feelings of anxieties, confusions, and anger. In that painful reality, they still try to do their best to protect their children and themselves by acting as if things were all normal in their lives.”
And Mrs. Tsuzuki also questioned that, “This is something so basic that we as a human beings must be guaranteed, but it is being ignored and minimized. Why is that? We just want to protect our children, who are the most vulnerable populations, and again, that thought and action are being discounted. Why is that?
They say it was a man-made disaster. However, there is no one who is being prosecuted for their responsibilities. Why is that?
Is it each one of us who is responsible for the catastrophe? Is it because we were indifferent and ignorant? Was it our fault?”
While the disaster in Fukushima is considered largely a Japanese problem, nuclear energy production is a global program operated by state-capital relations. This man-made disaster is due to the irresponsibility of the state, nuclear industry and their supporters who prioritize profit over people. Before we talk about alternative and renewable energy, we first must question a social structure which easily allows the existence of nuclear industry. Fukushima to Indian Point- We’re all connected.
Solidarity with Tacoma Hunger Strikers
The struggle against austerity connects the worldwide working class, at a time when borders seem to make no sense to anyone but the states who enforce draconian immigration laws. As global capital enters its fifth year of crisis, with the promised stabilization of “recession” never quite delivered, the brunt continues to fall on those perceived as least able to defend themselves: the poor, the sick, the aged, workers in unstable industries, workers with unions unwilling to fight, and the undocumented workers who make countries like the United States run.
Late last week a group of undocumented workers in Tacoma Washington staged a hunger strike and corresponding work stoppage, demanding better conditions and the basic consideration all human beings deserve. It remains ongoing. The strikers are held under harsh condition by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), for the crime of seeking low-waged work in the US after their home economies have been ravaged by trade agreements with the US and other world powers. As reproductive workers, circulation workers, and unemployed workers of New York City, we express a deep solidarity with this struggle and recognize it as part and parcel of our own.
The question of what it means to be considered a human being and treated like one is central to the struggle we share. Is a human being “illegal” when they seek to work and provide for their family? Is a human being “insubordinate” when, working as a nurse, they deem fifteen patients too many to care for in a compassionate way at one time, and tell their supervisor this fact? Is a human being entitled to the medicine and health care they need, for as long as needed to improve completely, regardless of their income, race, nationality, or citizenship status?
The hunger strikers have used the only weapon left to them in such a repressive environment as the ghastly ICE detention centers: their very lives. Their gesture is not histrionic, it is a sober assessment of the life or death stakes of the worldwide struggle against austerity. And by seeking to bully and brutalize the strikers into breaking their action, the state is revealing just how dangerous their statement can be, if it finds ears in those around the world who are increasingly left with nothing but their bodies, and nothing to lose in putting them before the powerful and saying “Enough!”
The Florence Johnston Collective expresses its unqualified solidarity with the Tacoma hunger strikers, and all prisoners of our inhuman immigration system, who stand alongside those without healthcare, those without homes, and those supposedly lucky ones whose jobs steal their lives and well-beings away, as living rebukes to the lie that things have to be the way they are and they can never change. To this they reply: “Enough!” We stand with the Tacoma strikers not as allies, but as comrades in the same struggle.
Tonight in NYC we will join a coalition of supporters for a noise demonstration outside of a detention facility, to tell those locked up that they are in our thoughts, that their struggles will not go unnoticed, and ultimately, that their struggles are our struggle.
The Florence Johnston Collective
Solidaridad con lxs huelguistas de hambre de Tacoma
La lucha contra la austeridad conecta la clase trabajadora alrededor del mundo, en un momento cuando las fronteras parecen ya no tener sentido para nadie salvo para los estados que ejecutan leyes draconianas de migración. A medida que el capital global entra en su quinto año de crisis, con una recesión y una incumplida promesa de estabilidad, la carga sigue cayendo sobre lxs que están percibidxs como menos capaces de defenderse a sí mismxs: lxs pobres, lxs enfermxs, personas de la tercera edad, trabajadorxs en industrias poco estables, trabajadorxs en sindicatos que no están dispuestos a luchar, y trabajadorxs no documentadxs que hacen funcionar a países como los Estados Unidos.
Hace un tiempo un grupo de trabajadorxs no documentadxs en Tacoma, Washington fueron detenidxs bajo condiciones severas por ICE por el crimen de buscar trabajo de bajo salario en los Estados Unidos cuando las economías de sus países han sido devastadas por acuerdos de comercio con ese país y otras potencias mundiales. Hace una semana organizaron una huelga de hambre haciendo un alto en sus trabajos, exigiendo mejores condiciones y la consideración básica que merecen todxs lxs seres humanos. Como trabajadorxs reproductivxs, trabajadorxs de circulación, y trabajadorxs desempleadxs de la ciudad de Nueva York, expresamos una solidaridad profunda con esta lucha y la reconocemos como parte fundamental de la nuestra.
En el centro de las luchas que compartimos está lo que significa considerarse ser humano y ser tratadx como tal. ¿Es un ser humano “ilegal” cuando busca trabajar y sostener a su familia? ¿Es un ser humano “insumiso” cuando, al como enfermerx, decide que quince pacientes son demasiadxs para cuidar apropiadamente? ¿Tiene un ser humano derecho a la medicina y al seguro de salud que necesita sin importar sus ingresos, raza, nacionalidad, o estatus de ciudadanía?
Lxs huelguistas de hambre han usado la única arma que les queda en un ambiente tan represivo como el que existe en los horrorosos centros de detención de ICE: sus propias vidas. Su gesto no es histriónico, es una apuesta sobria entre la vida o muerte como una lucha mundial en contra de la austeridad. En su esfuerzo por acosar y embrutecer a lxs huelguistas para que desistan de su acción, el estado revela lo peligroso de su acto. Si este acto encuentra oídos en lxs que en todas partes del mundo son dejadxs cada vez más en la miseria, estos no tienen nada que perder en pararse antes lxs poderosxs y decir “¡Basta!”.
El Colectivo Florence Johnston expresa su solidaridad con lxs huelguistas de hambre de Tacoma, y todxs lxs encarceladxs del sistema no humano de migración. Nos ponemos de pie al lado de lxs que están sin seguro de salud, lxs que no tienen trabajo, y lxs supuestxs afortunadxs cuyos trabajos roban sus vidas y su bienestar, mientras la lucha por vivir descalifica la mentira de que las cosas tienen que seguir como son y que nunca pueden cambiar. A esto responden: “¡Basta!”. Estamos con los huelguistas de Tacoma no como aliadxs, sino como camaradas en la misma lucha.
Hoy en la noche en la ciudad de Nueva York nos juntaremos con una coalición de personas que ofrecen su apoyo para realizar un cacerolazo afuera de un centro de detención, para decirles a lxs encarceladxs que están en nuestros pensamientos, que sus luchas no pasan desapercibidas y, que últimamente, sus luchas son nuestas luchas.
El Colectivo Florence Johnston
There are two great events coming up that we wanted people to know about, listed below with details. Also, please keep your eyes peeled for a new Vital Signs (read our 1st issue here) and details on our own event on the Affordable Care Act on March 15.
Thursday February 27 @ 7:30PM at the Brecht Forum: Black Workers Take the Lead w/Komozi Woodard, Cleo Silvers, Sam Anderson & Joan Gibbs. Moderated by Yusuf Nuruddin.
Launching the Brecht Forum’s year-long program “1974 Revisited” and closing the Brecht Forum’s Black History Month programming, this forum will explore the embrace of Marxism by large sections of the Black Movement in the United States during the early 1970s. As a period of rapid social change in which the benefits gained during the Civil Rights Movement were beginning to be felt and black mayors were being elected all over the country, black workers also began to take increasingly militant action at the point of production in a variety of industries.
Sunday March 30 at 16 Beaver @ 7PM at 16 Beaver: A2-B-C Film Screening & Discussion with Director Ian Thomas Ash
Eighteen months after the nuclear meltdown, children in Fukushima are suffering from severe nose bleeds and are developing skin rashes and thyroid cysts. Citing a lack of transparency in the official medical testing of their children and the ineffectiveness of the decontamination of their homes and schools, the children’s mothers take radiation monitoring into their own hands.
We live in a city where celebrities, business moguls, millionaire athletes, and politicians from all over the world receive some of the best health care available anywhere. But the hospitals that service most New Yorkers are increasingly underfunded, understaffed, and are closing down or consolidating into smaller departments with fewer staff and more patients. Many of the neighbors of Interfaith Medical Center (Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn) tell us “who cares if that hospital closes down when we have to wait 10 hours in the ER?” And we know exactly where they are coming from.
The problem is, as already insufficient hospitals continue to close, the pressure on other hospitals undergoing budget cuts and downsizing becomes even greater. Interfaith closing won’t mean that more staff will be added to nearby Woodhull, already understaffed and overcrowded, where many from the neighborhood will be forced to go for emergency care. It simply means that people will have to travel painful distances for medical attention.
And worse yet, once a hospital is closed, the fight to improve the quality of care it provides is over for good. There will be no transforming Interfaith once its doors close forever. But if the workers and community can fight to keep it afloat, then the real fight begin: to make the hospital work for the community.
The horror stories from the ever-worsening hospitals reserved for low income New Yorkers never end. We present just the latest, from the Bronx, where a NYC man named John Verrier died in the emergency room waiting for care, and nobody even seemed to notice.
As 2013 comes to end, we think about the people we have met and the work that has been done in our short time as the Florence Johnston Collective. We are thankful for all of you that read our blog, hit the streets with us, struggle with us, and empower us in many ways every day. We look forward to a new year in 2014. One where we are stronger and more united than ever.
We leave you with a speech given at a picket at Interfaith Hospital on October 15th.
“The right to a place that provides adequate medical care and safe working conditions for those that work in health care is not a new struggle for us. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that the desegregation of black patients and black medical professionals even existed. In the late 1960s, the Black Panthers created the People’s Free Medical Clinics to serve the large amount of people that were not receiving medical care because of their race and class status. In 1970, the young lords took over Lincoln Hospital so the people of the South Bronx could get the care they so desperately needed. Also in the 1970s, young organizers put together the first Chinatown Health Fair to provide better medical care for the poorly served community and provide much needed literature in Chinese as well as English. In the 1980s, ACT UP demanded proper care for AIDS/HIV patients who were being ignored and stigmatized. Here we are today still fighting all these struggles. The lowest rung of workers, the people that do the hardest jobs and get paid the least are still people and women of color. We are still demanding medical care that focuses on us as patients and not on making money. We live in a world where trans people can’t get the surgeries, the hormones, and the mental health care that we need because those in charge think we don’t exist or we shouldn’t exist. The struggle against AIDS/HIV is very much a part of our lives as queer people and people of color. These are all reasons to continue fighting! This is our hospital!