FloJo Struggles Alongside Palestinians

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FloJo has been following events in Gaza, from the attack of the El-Wafa hospital, to the ground invasion just announced. Just as the critically-ill patients were evacuated from the building, El-Wafa Hospital was burnt to the ground.

This past week we released two pieces (part 1 and part 2) on the criminalization and incarceration of pregnant women with drug addiction.  In New York, we have watched the closure of hospitals at the same time that poor and working class New Yorker’s can’t even afford rent, let alone healthcare while benefits are constantly being slashed. We are witnessing multiple murders of people of color by the police per week, death of prisoners in the concentration camp-like prisons, and the ongoing poisoning of our water, air, and soil by destructive forms of energy like nuclear and fracking.

Florence Johnston Collective is in solidarity with Palestinian people. Palestinians are facing massacre, trauma, and every kind of human destruction. As humans, and as care workers, we find our affinity not in sympathy, but in outrage, militancy, understanding, and inspiration. While we focus on the terror of Israel, we also need to remember the bravery, humility, and militancy of every day Palestinians–from small children, to hospital workers, mothers, and street vendors. Israel is the manifestation of colonialism and capitalism followed through to its logical conclusion, and no matter where we are in the world we face bits and pieces of it. FloJo struggles alongside Palestinians. Free Free Palestine!

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Another Care is Possible: Pt. 2 of Reflection on SB 1391

Here is part two of our analysis of SB1391 from a medical worker deeply acquainted with people with addiction and in recoveryThis piece further articulates the relationship between medicalization and the history of anti-drug legislation, and lays out a series of mandates/demands for healthcare and society.

Another Care is Possible: Thinking Beyond Criminalizing Substance Using Mothers

Kristen was 19 when she took her first Percocet at a party, and for that moment, all of her depression and anxieties disappeared. But it also set off a decade of addiction to pills and eventually intravenous heroin. She dropped out of college and plunged from one crisis to another. It wasn’t until Kristen realized she was pregnant that she finally reached out for help and enrolled into treatment at a New York City public hospital where doctors provided her with treatment and helped her deliver a healthy baby boy.

Kristen’s story is not a miracle – recent findings have demonstrated the effectiveness of treatment for mothers with illicit substance and alcohol dependence. However the recent passage of Tennessee’s SB 1391 has dealt a blow to women’s rights and the autonomy of healthcare workers to provide quality care.  The law mandates healthcare workers to report substance abusing mothers to the police, who face misdemeanor charges if babies are deemed to be harmed by the mother’s substance abuse. Despite evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of substance treatment, cuts in education, public housing, and healthcare services have crippled efforts to support women in recovery and diverted public funds to incarceration.

Such events are not incidental and are linked to dominant historical, ideological, and economic forces that shape how healthcare is provided.  We must beyond such events and rethink our autonomy as healthcare workers and how we can collaborate with marginalized communities to launch more lasting alternatives. We must open spaces in and outside the clinic that can launch conversations that allow us to listen and collaborate with marginalized communities in order to launch new modes of reproducing care.

Nixon, Reagan, and ‘Just say no’
In the 1960’s, organizations such as the American Indian Movement, Black Panther Party, Young Lords, and Brown Berets rattled the core of the American establishment. In the wake of the Civil Rights Act and weakening Jim Crow era laws, Nixon’s ‘War on Drugs’ re–escalated the government’s disciplinary apparatus in communities of color.   Spaces and social bonds that could produce non–capitalist alternatives were nearly annihilated, including radical organizations, unions, and eventually family and neighborhood networks with the waves of foreclosures, gentrification, and rising incarceration (particularly in communities of color). A new mode of economic production would come to dominate poor communities – the sale and consumption of illicit drugs.

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Criminalization, Crisis and Care:  Tennessee’s S.B. 1391 and Attacks on Reproduction

Recently, Flo Jo has been paying attention to Tennessee,  where the State now has the authority to criminalize women for potentially harming their newborn children with drugs.  Last week, the first woman was arrested under this new law. We have been working on a two-part series on the law, an analysis of what it means, and what we think care workers should do in response.  Below is the first article in this series.

Tennessee recently passed a law, S.B. 1391, making it the first state to prosecute women for criminal assault if their fetus or newborn is considered harmed due to illegal drug use during pregnancy.  Criminalization of pregnant women and mothers is one side of the various ways the State attempts to control reproduction and discipline womens’ bodies.  This is an attack against working class women of color not unlike those we have seen in Texas, California, nationally and globally.  All of these measures will impede women’s access to health care and efface women’s reproductive skills and knowledge.  But unlike abortion restrictions and forced sterilization, the Tennessee law is an attempt to divide feminized workers under the guise of “protection” of women and children, a strategy we are likely to see more frequently as the economic crisis deepens.

S.B. 1391 and the Crisis.

Today’s crisis is manifested in the inability of the class to take care of itself, or reproduce itself; it is a crisis of reproduction.  Wages are so low that the class cannot afford to get everything it needs to go to work every day.  Of course, “everything” we need is a relative term based on time and place; workers in America need a smartphone and cable TV after years of changes in living standards.  The class has supplemented this crisis of reproduction with personal debt.  We get credit cards to buy clothes and pay our cell phone bills and we take out student loans we will never pay back to make an extra $3/hr.  This is what life looks like for the working class today.

For the ruling class, there is another type of hustle.  It is a general law of capitalism that profits must always increase.  So capitalists make changes to the workplace, by introducing more and more machines and pushing workers out of the production process, to ensure an increased profit.  However, this catches up to them.  Since workers are the only ones capable of creating value (there is always a worker somewhere in the production process!), the more capitalists push workers out of the production process, the more the profit margin weakens.  Couple this phenomenon with the working class’s increased dependence on debt and loans and we find ourselves in today’s economic crisis.

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On top of this, because so many workers are pushed out of the production process (consider Detroit’s 23% unemployment rate for example), a surplus population of workers makes it possible for capitalism to pit people against each other in competition for jobs.  In this sense, the ruling class has an interest in controlling the actual number of workers there are in the world at a given moment, based on the needs of capital.

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Movie Screening: The Waiting Room on Sun July 13 @5PM, Commons in Brooklyn

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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

Free


“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 florencejohnstoncollective@gmail.com

Uninformed Consent: Die for the Advancement of Medicine?

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University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has been conducting a study in treating severely-wounded patients who are brought in for critical care. The study is called “EPRCAT: Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation for Cardiac Arrest from Trauma”. Part of the study involves bringing the patient’s body temperature down to 50F by draining the blood of the patient, whose heart stopped beating, and replacing it with cold salt-water to cause artificial blood loss. Once the patient’s body is cold enough, researchers expect that they can “buy time”,  gaining surgeons an extra two hours to treat the patient for their wounds. Once the surgery is complete, surgeons will return blood to the patient, causing the body to warm up gradually and eventually catch up with oxygen.

This “dramatic approach”, as the research team call it, began in or around 2011 and recently the NY Times published an updated story.

Both articles specifically mentions that the study is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Unsurprisingly, this study has been unable to get participants upon consent. Any medical studies that involve human bodies need to obtain informed consent from study subjects (patients). When patients are under a very specific condition – cardiac arrest – how will they sign consent forms? Will the surgical team force-sign a consent form by holding pen for the critically-injured, since that person might die anyway? Undaunted, these researchers have simply begun enlisting patients who come to the hospital with serious trauma injuries, without their explicit consent, to be test subjects.

NY Times reports:

“Black males are disproportionately victims of homicide, especially gun violence, and most of the patients likely to fit the study criteria in Pittsburgh are African-American males, according to officials at the medical center.”

This is no coincidence. Since the earliest days of slavery, black Americans have been victimized by nonconsensual medical testing. The notorious Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment  is perhaps the most famous example, and only a single episode in a long horrific history recently captured by historian Harriet Washington in the book Medical Apartheid. When the researchers in Pittsburgh selected a disproportionately black demographic for their testing, they did so with the confidence that comes from centuries of unaccountable medical experimentation on black Americans.

In the early stage of the research, the team began a campaign required by the Food and Drug Administration to educate area residents about the study. One of this is a Youtube video which has only been viewed 49,239 times at the time of writing. The video explains the course of the study using dummies and prompts people to spend time to contact the reseach team in order to opt out from the study: “Community members who do not wish to participate in these research studies can obtain a bracelet to opt out by going to acutecareresearch.org or contacting Tina Vita at 412-647-9652.” This perverts the notion of “consent” even more than a forced signing of consent forms, as ignorance of the program itself can be construed as consent. Even those aware of the program must navigate the bureaucratic process of obtaining a bracelet, to be worn at all times, presumably, to simply avoid becoming a test subject.

The Florence Johnston Collective is horrified by the nature of the study as well as the method of implementing the uninformed consent from the community members, and, perhaps especially, its targeting a particular ethnic group.

We are also looking further into seemingly cozy relations between hospitals (especially university-affiliated hospitals) and the Department of Defense, which we encourage others to investigate as well. We expect to find more of the same compromise of medical ethics, coupled with the increasingly obvious signs of a US state no longer concerned with even the appearance of human rights and the rule of law.

In the meantime we urge all health care officials to boycott this program, which violates not only good standards of professional ethics and human compassion, but also the Hippocratic Oath itself. Medical professionals who participate in this study willfully should not expect history to regard them as favorably as the current racist state does. And their work should be made as difficult as possible.

Summer Plans

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          florencejohnstoncollective@gmail.com         347-871-0352

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Movie Screening: Born in Flames on Thurs June 12 @7PM, the base in Brooklyn

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!

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Transgender Health Coverage with Medicare

The recent ban on transgender health coverage from Medicare has been lifted. Though there is more fighting to be done, this is a positive step forward. Here are some quick facts regarding what this means:

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Medicare is for folks 65 and older. This ruling does not affect Medicaid, a program which used by low income recipients.

The ban was put in place originally in 1981 when treatment regarding gender identity was seen as experimental. However, now many medical groups see it as safe and effective treatment for gender dysphoria.

Though the blanket ban will be lifted, individuals will not be guaranteed coverage but  will be evaluated by their health physicians to justify their need for treatment.

 

LICH’s Last Day – People Speak Out!

Rain or Shine – Thursday 5/22, 6pm at Van Voorhees Park. (Hicks St & Amity St)!

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Flo-Jo members spoke with LICH workers this morning. Many people stopped by for a chat on their way to the beloved coffee vendor on the corner of Henry and Amity Streets – who said he’d only stay there to sell coffee for another week. And the workers had a lot to say about the “situation” – or there isn’t any clear situation as many are kept in the dark about their jobs, their lives, and the fate of the community. However, we are facing a fact that today many people are being laid off from LICH.

One worker said: “We know SUNY came in for the real-estate [value] when they bought LICH.”

“And they are leaving us now just for that purpose.”

Another criticized the lack of unions’ support for workers in the struggle:

“Unions, they are with the management and they’re not communicating with us, don’t even look at us in the eye!”

As the bidding game for the hospital site continues to leave many in the LICH family in limbo, we see people’s anger turn into amazing energy for protecting and caring for each other. We need to make sure that people’s voices will not be silenced, to struggle against profit-centered healthcare. We want to hear from patients, workers, neighbors, and anyone with something to say.
Join us today, Thursday, 6pm at Van Voorhees Park. (Hicks St & Amity St)!

RAIN OR SHINE! We’ll have extra umbrellas and refreshments.

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Last Day Of LICH? Speak Out: Thursday 5/22, 6pm

ImageBy all accounts this Thursday 5/22 is the last day of any service at Long Island College Hospital. FJC has been watching these events unfold all year, along with the similar story playing out at Interfaith. We see the struggles to save these hospitals as connected, not only to each other, but to the bigger struggle for health care based on human needs, not profits.

The campaign to save LICH has worked very hard to raise awareness, earn politicians’ attention, boost the unions, and wage a court battle. But these avenues have not saved LICH.

When the politicians fail, the courts fail, and the unions’ strategy doesn’t work, its time to admit we need a better plan.

Join us this Thursday for a speak out event, to talk about the LICH experience. We want to hear from patients, workers, neighbors, and anyone with something to say.

Regardless of the outcome at LICH, we need next steps for making sure that the next battle we fight for health care based on need and not on profit will be a victory. The Florence Johnston Collective wants to help combine the energies that have been fighting individual battles in isolation, into a citywide force capable of going on the offensive, not simply defending the latest hospital on the chopping block. That is how we’ll start to win.