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).
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
We recently wrote an article on the struggle at Long Island College Hospital (LICH) for the “Field Notes” section of the local newspaper, “The Brooklyn Rail.” We are super excited to see this article in both the print version, available around Brooklyn, and the online version, available here. Thanks to Paul Mattick for reaching out to us to write this and editing the article. The text is copied below. It’s worth noting that since this article was published, a newly formed company, Brooklyn Health Partners, won the LICH bid.
On a recent date, one of our members was talking about the Collective’s organizing work around Long Island College Hospital (LICH). “Oh, my friend was just there!” the date said. “He was scared to go there because he heard what a bad hospital it was. And later, when we went to visit him, the people working at the front desk said, ‘Oh, you must be here to visit Joey!’ There were so few beds that they knew exactly whom we were there to visit. It was really creepy.”
This is a common sort of story aboutLICH (and many other hospitals in New York). On the one hand, LICHcontinues to provide much-needed care to Brooklyn residents: it is where people go, no matter how reluctantly, when they are sick, and where ambulances take them when they are in need of urgent medical attention. On the other hand, many locals look on it with apprehension and unease, perhaps well deserved; like most hospitals, it is certainly not a place where people want to go. But just describing the conditions for patients and workers in the hospital wouldn’t be telling the full story. The drama of this hospital has played out on the terrain of broader issues: gentrification, race, social welfare, the limits of electoral politics, and what it means when we talk about struggling around things that matter for “our community.” To get to the heart of an issue so complexly layered, we have spent much of our time flyering, surveying, researching, meeting with contacts, and generally just listening. What we have found is a complicated reality that presents an urgent cause for struggle, and in particular, struggle outside the mechanisms established by the courts and the government.
The story of LICH is pretty grim on the surface. It is the story of an ailing hospital, of dwindling patient numbers, of wasted resources. But it is also much more than that. In many ways, LICH is representative of bigger changes in the healthcare system in New York City and across the country. Specifically, healthcare is decentralizing in an effort to push the cost of social reproduction onto the working class. Concretely, this means fewer sizable healthcare institutions like hospitals and more specialty clinics aimed at turning a profit, alongside increased dependence upon low-waged, homebound healthcare workers.
In early March of this year, the LICH story reached a partial conclusion: The struggle to keep the hospital at full capacity, which for many years meant 1,400 employees and 516 beds, ended. The decision was made that the hospital would remain open with only a few emergency rooms and a few workers, although the details were still under negotiation during the writing of this article.
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.
On Friday there was a short attempted occupation at Interfaith Medical Center. This story was written just prior to that activity. Florence Johnston Collective is in the process of gathering more information on the occupation to write up an analysis. Below is the story of Interfaith Medical Center in the months leading up to last week’s occupation.
Interfaith Medical Center: A Disaster of “Titanic” Proportions
The last year has been a whirlwind for Interfaith Medical Center employees, patients, and the surrounding community. Since August, when Interfaith administrators filed for bankruptcy and originally pushed for closure and all 1,544 workers received layoff notices, there have been dozens of reprieves, court dates, and other delays. One worker we spoke to told us that her first layoff notice was a great shock, and with each delay a new one comes, the same notice with a different date, forming a neat little pile in her office that has become more of a curiosity than a cause for alarm. Most recently, on December 20th Interfaith officials announced that the hospital will close, after a failed closed door mediation with Interfaith’s unions (New York State Nurses Association and Service Employees International Union 1199), creditors and management. Three days later, Interfaith officials released another statement indicating that the hospital received a three month reprieve from the the New York State Department of Health. The hospital will remain open at least until March 7th, but nobody we’ve spoke with lately has much hope for staying on beyond this date, and some workers are convinced the axe might fall any day.
This disempowering news is characteristic of the behind-the-scenes struggles NYSNA and SEIU 1199 have been waging. The unions’ strategy has been to hold symbolic protests and acts of carefully stage-managed civil disobedience, delay the closure through court injunctions and negotiations, beg for state and federal funds to keep the hospital afloat, and put all its resources behind Bill de Blasio, ensuring his election. Taking advantage of this strategy, de Blasio used the issue to gain attention for his campaign, and to gain support among union workers and the working class people of color who his developer buddies like Bruce Ratner are working to force out of Brooklyn altogether. In the words of one hospital worker we met, “de Blasio rode the Interfaith issue to the mayor’s office.” After de Blasio secured the nomination last Fall, his once-familiar face could scarcely be seen around the hospital it had graced so photogenically during the primary. And since winning the office in November, de Blasio has been notably silent about Interfaith hospital altogether. This is consistent with his, and the unions’, cynical relationship to rank-and-file workers. It is still unclear whether the Save Interfaith Campaign was ever actually concerned with preserving the hospital, or if it simply served to elect de Blasio, and nobody can say for sure who the unions represent when they tell their workers to calm down, everything will be all right. What we do know is that the unions’ strategy is only delaying the inevitable, proving that de Blasio, 1199, NYSNA leadership, and Interfaith managers are not representatives of the working class, but willing accomplices in the attack against it.
A local news source reported that Interfaith Hospital has been without heat for the last two days. Read the story here.
The holidays have been a whirlwind for Interfaith Medical Center employees. On December 20th Interfaith officials announced that the hospital will close, after a failed closed door mediation with Interfaith’s unions (New York State Nurses Association and SEIU 1199), creditors and management. Three days later, Interfaith officials released another statement indicating that the hospital received a three month reprieve from the the New York State Department of Health. The hospital will remain open at least until March 7th. This news comes after months of reprieves, an injunction, and other delays. The fate of Interfaith Medical Center, and the 1,544 employees that work there, has been unclear since August, when the workers received layoff notices.
This disempowering news is characteristic of the behind-the-scenes struggles NYSNA and 1199 have been waging. Similarly to Interfaith, Long Island College Hospital (LICH) received news on December 17th that its operators, State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate, will no longer seek developers to tear down the hospital. This apparently means that SUNY will continue to operate the hospital indefinitely, despite losing an estimated $13 million per month. Employees and patients at both LICH and Interfaith have been holding on by a thread for months, waiting for news from the unions. Meanwhile, the unions have undemocratically engaged in back room negotiations, and paraded out workers only when it served the union’s agenda. The LICH and Interfaith campaigns are clearly not about building worker power but ensuring Bill de Blasio’s election and the unions’ position as the workers’ “official leadership.”
The Interfaith reprieve is one more reason that workers should struggle outside the unions, forming workplace committees and cross-workplace organizations. We cannot rely on the unions, or anyone else for that matter, to struggle for us. To all those who are sick of waiting to find out if they will have a job or medical care next month, and to all those who want an end to the unions’ closed door dealings, Florence Johnston Collective supports you. Let us struggle together.
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!