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International Health Workers for People Over Profit
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Hotels use "Green Choice" to bash workers

Despite need for nurses, graduates find few full-time jobs

Why should they jet to sunny climates while we freeze?

Medical monopolists play with patients' lives

Organising anger - 101

 

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Vol.2 No.7
December 12, 2010

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Hotels use "Green Choice" to bash workers

by Liv Capozzi - Canada

 Fake Green option 5 

On November 18, the early morning routine at the Toronto Sheraton Centre was anything but normal.

My friend and I were among 30 women carrying buckets, mops and dusters intent on joining room attendants as they began their morning shift.

Among us were lawyers, politicians, union members, mental health workers and students with a common mission: to stand in solidarity with our sisters in the hotel industry.

Our goal was to offer concrete support by helping to clean rooms. Our hope was that, for at least one day, no room attendant would return home in pain. 

After we introduced ourselves, members of the hotel worker’s union, UNITE HERE Local 75, explained how the hotel’s “Make a Green Choice” initiative has hurt room attendants, all of whom are women.

“Make a Green Choice” initiative offers guests who stay more than one night an incentive, such as a $5 meal voucher or loyalty points, to decline housekeeping services. The union estimates that for every 16 “Make a Green Choice” participants, one room attendant loses a shift.

Work shouldn't hurt

This program also causes injuries. Rooms that have not been cleaned for several days are dustier and dirtier and take longer to clean, yet workers are expected to clean them within the same allotted time as rooms that are cleaned daily.

The union had kept this protest highly secret, so as not to tip off management. As our group marched towards the housekeeping meeting room, deep within the Sheraton Hotel, workers expressed surprise and delight at our appearance.

Upon arrival, we asked if we could participate in the morning shift and, as expected, management refused and tried to dismiss us.

Instead of leaving, we confronted the managers about their “ Make a Green Choice” initiative. For thirty minutes, with mops, buckets, and dusters in hand, we pushed for more information about room attendant workloads and injuries.

A hotel manager refused to answer our questions, stating repeatedly that she was not authorized to speak for the General Manager, Tony Dunn, who was conveniently unavailable.

The room attendants heard us raising our voices and refusing to leave, and they joined in with their frustrations and concerns. As one individual pointed out, “I work all day. I deserve a break. I am old, and they keep asking me to do more!” We echoed such comments by chanting “Work shouldn't hurt!"

As two police officers escorted us out of the hotel, the surrounding buzz was palpable. We didn’t get answers from management that day, but we did demonstrate that working women have a common interest in fighting for work that doesn't hurt.

That same morning, women in ten cities across the US and Canada (Chicago, Honolulu, Santa Clara, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Antonio, Sacramento, Indianapolis and Vancouver) also rolled up their sleeves to help Hyatt housekeepers clean their rooms.

These actions were in support of 3,500 Hyatt housekeepers who filed work-related injury complaints with OSHA.

 

Liv Capozzi works as a psychotherapist in Toronto, Ontario.

 


Despite need for nurses, graduates find few full-time jobs

by Mel Zinberg - Canada

student nurses

We began as 54 women and 6 men in a small, steep staircase lecture hall at a Canadian university.  Most of us held prior degrees. All of us were making radical alterations in our lives to start registered nursing school.

A survey of our class would reveal the amazing efforts we have made to improve the lives of others. As we got to know one another, we discovered that most of us had volunteered or were previously employed helping people in our own localities or internationally. We had come to nursing school to become even more helpful.

We had been told that there would be a greater need for nurses as Canada’s population aged. The benefits seemed clear. We could help people, be appreciated and also be secure in our employment. As one student summarized to his classmates, “we’ll never have to worry about jobs again.”

Our orientation lecture reinforced our hopes. We were told by our instructors and professors “When you graduate you won’t have to apply for jobs, they’ll come to you. You’ll get to choose exactly where you want to work.”

Then things changed. By fourth term, only two of the many students who applied found paid work as student nurses. As our studies progressed, we encountered more changes.

From classroom to class conflict

We were instructed to be psycho-socially sensitive nurses, aware of cultural differences and needs. We were also informed of the need to be highly efficient in performing physical tasks. We wondered how we could take the time to talk to patients, to provide the psycho-social care they needed, and also be highly efficient.

As part of a leadership course in fourth term we were taught about factory time-and-efficiency studies so that we could manage other nurses, supposedly in a scientific manner.

During our schooling, we had worked inside hospitals and witnessed, firsthand, the need to hire more nurses and fund better equipment. Yet, upon graduation, we were told that we are in a “down cycle” of funding for health care.

Currently, fewer than half of us are employed. The unemployed students feel frustrated and depressed. The employed students could find only casual work. While they are relieved to have nursing jobs, they worry about not having the vacation and health benefits that they need.

Some of our graduates have been forced to return to previous jobs: house painting; waiting tables; and working at Wal-Mart. Others are looking to volunteer. Two of our nurses collected $3,200 each, the amount required by a Christian charity to travel to Haiti and spend two weeks helping people there.

Clearly, we are productive helpful people.

Why are we being prevented from providing the care we are trained to provide? Why are patients being denied the care they need? We are left with these questions and many more.

We all deserve better!

Mel Zinberg is a newly graduated registered nurse in Vancouver, whose primary interest is more healthcare funding for better patient care.
 


Why should they jet to sunny climates while we freeze?

by Patricia Campbell - Northern Ireland

snow_storm

The Island of Ireland is crippled with ice and snow in tandem with the crippling collapse of the economy. The impact of both is felt most by the poor and vulnerable.

In Northern Ireland, we rely heavily on public services. Sweeping cuts to our public and social services, pay cuts and job losses are taking their toll. The snow and ice will thaw but the hardship felt by the people is not likely to thaw soon.

In rural areas, schools and other vital services have closed because the iced roads are impassable. Front-line community health workers struggle to deliver life-saving care to patients in these adverse conditions, a heightened risk that is not recognised by government departments that squabble over whose responsibility it is to clear the roads that keep people housebound

The British Government relies on a well-paid, top-heavy administration to implement its policies in Northern Ireland. As frontline health workers struggle with increased workloads and adverse conditions, a leading newspaper (The Irish News) revealed that government bureaucrats spent an estimated £360,000 (British sterling) of public money on overseas training and conferences over the past three years.

Dr Andrew McCormick, permanent secretary at the Department of Health, defended spending  £3,600 in public funds to send the Health and Social Care Board’s Chief Executive, John Compton, to Kaiser Permanente in California.

De McCormick said, “The focus has to be how we secure patient safety,” and he described this trip as “value for money.”

Value for money?

The Irish News also revealed that senior National Health Service (NHS) managers were jetting around the world on expensive courses. Among the far-flung destinations visited by staff were Orlando, Nashville, Nice, Paris and Jonkoping in Sweden.

During one 4-day conference, fourteen health administrators stayed in a 4-star Berlin hotel.  And last month, several managers booked into a luxury Boston hotel patronized by former US President, Bill Clinton, and the Dalai Lama.

Ireland’s gloomy weather reflects the mood of the people. The NHS belongs to us. Imagine how many front-line staff could be employed for £360,000!  

It’s time that we took control of our health service to make it accountable and responsive to our needs. There would be no more squandering of public funds. I doubt if most people would agree that US medical corporations offer “value for money” or that they can show us how to secure patient safety.

Patricia Campbell works as a community psychiatric nurse in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is also president of the Independent Workers Union and a co-founder of its affiliate, Universi, a health workers’ union.
 


Medical monopolists play with patients’ lives

by Eileen Prendiville - USA

monopoly

As community hospitals become part of larger healthcare systems, they are able to lower costs and raise profits by centralizing services such as linen, food service and medical supplies and equipment.

Eliminating duplicate and non-profitable services leaves many communities with gaps in care. Economically depressed areas are more likely to lose services because most residents don’t have private insurance or political clout.

Sutter Health in Northern California has 25 acute-care hospital affiliates. It is one of the most profitable healthcare corporations in California with the highest charges for care in the greater Bay Area. It also has a history of closing hospitals in low income communities and shutting down services that are not profitable.

Shortly after Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) incorporated St Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco, it moved to close it down. St Luke’s serves a mostly low income, immigrant community in in the Mission district.

Neighborhood groups and unions, including the California Nurses Association, organized and successfully prevented St. Luke’s from closing, although it will likely be significantly downsized. With no specialty care available, St Luke’s will have difficulty remaining financially viable or meeting the needs of its community.

Sutter/CPMC has cut non-profitable inpatient and outpatient psychiatry and skilled nursing beds and has outsourced dialysis services to a for-profit non-union company.

Sutter Mills Peninsula Hospital, south of San Francisco, recently announced it would sell its skilled nursing facility and its two renal dialysis centers. At the same time Sutter is negotiating to purchase a group of profitable and free-standing endoscopy and surgical centers in the Bay Area.

Free-standing medical units are typically non-union and, unlike acute care facilities, are not subject to regulations like mandated nurse-to-patient ratios.

Sutter/CPMC plans to build a controversial mega-hospital on Van Ness Avenue that will consolidate acute-care services and exclude unionized nurses.

Our unions and community groups will continue to expose Sutter's plans and fight for union-provided medical services that are accessible, affordable and equitably distributed.

Eileen Prendiville works as a staff nurse in a San Francisco hospital. She belongs to the California Nurses Association, a member union of National Nurses United.


Organizing anger - 101

by Susan Rosenthal - Canada

unite here sit down demo

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've got a belly full of anger, and for good reason.

Life is unfair, and there’s not much we can do about that. But society is created by human beings – it can and should be fair. Yet it couldn’t be more unfair.

We who create the economy with our hands and our minds are working longer and harder and falling deeper into debt. While we suffer, the rich and powerful are getting richer and more powerful because our so-called leaders insist on serving them at our expense.

Where’s the rebellion?

Some say things aren’t bad enough for people to rebel. Not so. Life is harder and more insecure in North America than it is in Europe, yet and millions of workers and students in those countries are protesting.

We are no less angry, but our anger is not organized. Most of our organizations are tied to  sell-out political parties and sell-out union bureaucracies. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

It’s becoming clear that we can’t count on anyone but ourselves. We need to take a lesson from health and hotel workers who are standing up for their rights and for the entire working class.

NUHW is an upstart health workers’ union that revolted against bureaucratic leaders who cuddle up to management and ignore workplace issues. This fasted-growing union in the US is reviving the importance of rank-and-file control and democratic representation.

UNITE HERE locals organize by identifying workplace leaders and talking with them and their coworkers about what makes them angry and how to organize that anger into workplace actions. Their Hotel Workers Rising Campaign coordinates workplace actions in cities across Canada and the United States.

Hotel and health workers lead the class

Hotel and health workers are natural allies Both suffer crippling workloads that generate sickness and injury. Both include large numbers of cleaning staff using toxic chemicals. And both generate wealth for giant corporations.

We need to join forces to demand healthful work that doesn’t hurt. For ourselves, and for everyone.

Unfortunately, there is no profit in prevention and there never will be. In every industry, employers profit only by forcing fewer workers to do more for less. And no matter how much profit they take, they are never satisfied.

Our anger tells us that we’re fed up with this arrangement.

It’s time that we organized our anger into action, joined together as a class and took collective control of the economy that WE create. Then, and only then, will we be able to put human needs and human health first.

Susan Rosenthal is the editor of People First!
 

 

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International Health Workers for People Over Profit (IHWPOP) has joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign against Israel. We oppose Israel’s repression of the Palestinians and support a single state in Israel/Palestine with equal rights for all.

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All of the material in this newsletter is made available to the public under the terms of the Creative Commons Code. Readers are welcome to share and use this material for non-commercial purposes, as long as they acknowledge the author(s) and International Health Workers for People Over Profit

 

 




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