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 firstname.lastname@example.org
With a deepening global economic crisis, Greece has been the site of increasing austerity and dramatic budget cuts to essential social services such as welfare benefits, education, and public health care. Public hospital administrators have responded to this situation with layoffs, suspensions, furloughs, hiring freezes, overloading employees and speeding up care, withholding pay and even forcing workers to repay wages they already received. In some cases, patient loads have quadrupled. Additionally, hospitals are running out of supplies and electronics and computers are breaking down and left in a state of disrepair. Many pharmacists have begun only accepting cash, no longer certain that they can expect to be reimbursed by insurance. Most recently, the Greek government has been imposing fees for what used to be free services. Meanwhile, wages among Greece’s most impoverished layers have dropped 30-50% in the last few years, leaving many without any health care options whatsoever. This situation will sound familiar to many of us New York and raise questions about the road the future of the American health care system.
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.
With the recent hospital closures and cuts, many of us are wondering what is the future of health care in the U.S.? Many are arguing that the site for care is shifting from state-funded institutions that service all of society to a two-tiered system of health care: a top tier of private clinics and specialists who care for the rich, and bottom tier of low-paid workers who care for the poor in the home. Since most of us are workers, we can look forward to the latter.
The Department of Labor has noticed this trend, noting that home health aides (HHAs) are expected to have the fastest job growth of any sector in through 2020. However, just because there are more jobs in this sector does not mean those jobs will be filled, especially considering the horrendous working conditions HHAs find themselves in.
HHAs are among the most exploited health care workers. New York’s average HHA wage is only $10.21/hr, which is hardly enough to live on. On top of this, HHAs are expected to work long hours (10, 12, and 14 hour shifts or more!), and are not usually offered overtime or benefits. Furthermore, given the isolated, individualistic, and “private” nature of the work, many HHAs are sexually, physically, and emotionally assaulted by their clients.
Last week, President Obama extended minimum wage and overtime protections to HHAs, though these changes will not go into effect until 2015 (an unusual move that is supposed to give clients time to prepare for the shift). Despite when this official policy goes into effect, we know it will only be symbolic. These “protections” will either not be enforced, or will encourage the bosses to cut hours instead of paying overtime. When we are only getting paid $10/hr, we need to work as much as possible just to survive.
Similarly, HHAs in Connecticut have petitioned to unionize with the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut. While this move may provide some relief in the short term, such as job security, in the long term it will do more harm than good, since HHAs will have to deal a new layer of management. Official union leaders historically police any rank-and-file struggles, smashing anything that the union deems “unreasonable,” “unattainable,” or as threatening the union itself.
This is why we cannot rely on Obama, the official unions, the bosses, or any other rulers or managers to better our working conditions. This is something we must do for ourselves. We must unite HHAs, PCAs, CNAs, RNs, case managers, and other workers who do “care” or “reproductive” work, in order to collectively demand a living wage, shorter shifts, and the ability to control and organize our working conditions ourselves. We must confront the clients who abuse us while uniting with those who support our struggles. Our working conditions are intimately connected to our clients’ access to services.
Florence Johnston Collective is a group that supports from-below struggles, worker- and community-led direct action, and cross-workplace solidarity. Email or call to get involved.
[note from authors: the end of the article contains several exciting examples of healthcare organizing. To skip right there click here and scroll down!]
This past week, the Democratic primary seems to have taken over New York. If you’re a union member, your phone has likely been ringing off the hook–not because someone has finally addressed your 20-month-old grievance, or has called for a much needed strike action to prevent thousands of layoffs in your job, but to remind you to “get out the vote!” today. If you’re one of the millions of non-unionized, unemployed, or disabled people in this city, then for the last several months you have been getting endless campaign notifications in the mail along with news of medicare cuts, medicaid “redesign”, and a smaller balance on your SNAP cards. And if you are a hospital worker, a teacher, a cleaner, a kitchen worker, or one of the 100,000’s of people facing the loss of their local hospital (as is the case with the imminent closing of Interfaith, the closure of Labor and Delivery services at North Central Bronx, the closure of several St. Vincent locations, and the yet-to-be-determined loss of units at Mt Sinai/Beth Israel/Roosevelt/St Luke’s merger) then you’re probably wondering, what does all of this have to do with you?
This election period in particular is especially hectic, and it’s no accident. In the last year, Labor and Delivery was cut at North Central Bronx Hospital, leaving thousands of mothers without local care and hundreds of workers to transfer to unfamiliar units; Long Island College Hospital shuttered its doors and laid off its workers and medical residents; Mt Sinai is taking over Beth Israel, St Luke’s, and Roosevelt Hospitals in which cuts have already started, and more are on the way without any communication to workers or patients; and Interfaith Medical Center has made its determination that it will close, sending layoff notices to over 1500 employees and it is holding on now by a last ditch injunction pushed by DeBlasio in a cynical campaign move. And when the hospital closes either on its scheduled date (currently slated for November 14th of this year) or a month or year after, DeBlasio’s position will be sealed, along with his healthcare package. On top of this, many of us–underwaged workers (many in healthcare), the elderly,the disabled, and unemployed people are facing “medicaid redesign” and medicare sequestrations which will cut access to care even more drastically.
As political campaigns to raise the minimum wage grab headlines, there is a decrease in the federal minimum wage on the horizon that nobody is talking about. The coming reduction in the wage for working class people in the United States, employed and unemployed, will come from a two pronged reduction in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, better known as food stamps. These cuts will affect the 50 million people struggling to feed themselves and their families in the current economic depression. And these nationwide cuts, effecting every recipient, just may provide workers with the broad basis for action against the system that keeps them broke, overworked, and dependent on their boss and the state just to survive.
The state calls food stamps “benefits” and “entitlements”, and tells people they are a privilege, not a right. Some politicians talk about food stamps like they are state sponsored charity. But SNAP benefits are a part of the wage for the lowest strata of the working class. They are the piece of the paycheck necessary to buy food, a piece that the capitalists refuse to pay.
SNAP cuts must be recognized as wage cuts, and fought against by the cooperation of all working class people, no matter whether they receive benefits, and especially by the working class people who work in food stamp and other benefit centers. We need to help build this movement by facilitating these connections, and agitating beyond the reformist lines.
Accordingly we can’t simply defend the program or demand more benefits. The SNAP program itself must be understood as a tool used to discipline the working class. No matter how high they are, these benefits hold a small amount of working class peoples’ wages over their heads to make them dependent, subject them to humiliating privacy violations like drug tests and endless bureaucratic hurdles, and provide a cheap compensation for the loss of real jobs, the ever-diminishing standard of living, and the mass incarceration of tens of millions of Americans. This is why we don’t simply need more food stamps, but the end of the system that makes food stamps necessary to survive.