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Vol.2 No.4
July 6, 2010

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Support Detroit's Emergency Medics!

(Sign the online petition)
Don’t have a medical crisis in Detroit – you might not survive it.
Detroit EMS picket line.jpg
People phoning 911 are often told there are no units available, and they have to wait for hours for ‘emergency’ care. How can I look a family in the face and tell them, “I'm sorry your loved one has passed. If we could have arrived in time, we might have been able to save them.”
– Wisam Zeineh, President, DEMSA

Detroit Fire Commissioner James Mack plans to cut 75 emergency medical  positions and 33 active members from the Detroit Fire Department's Emergency Medical Services (EMS). As it is, only 24 ambulances are available to serve the entire population of Detroit (about 850,000 people), and there aren’t enough medics to staff them.

The 181 emergency medical technicians and paramedics organized in the Detroit Emergency Medical Services Association (DEMSA) are determined to stop these cuts.

DEMSA President Wisam Zeineh warns, “If these cuts are implemented, up to 9 units would have to be decommissioned to provide adequate coverage for the remaining units. That reduction, coupled with the decommissioning of two units earlier this year, would leave us unable to respond to 60,500 calls for emergency medical services and 37,400 transports to the hospital.”

Because medical insurance covers many of their services, DEMSA believes there is enough money to staff up to 5 new units that would respond to an additional 27,500 calls and transport an additional 17,000 persons to hospital for critical medical care. 

Detroit EMSA-Logo.jpgDEMSA has proposed additional recommendations to improve the EMS:

  • Reallocate half the supervisory staff to active duty to increase response capacity by 11,000 calls per year.
  • Stagger work shifts to reduce overtime costs.
  • Implement an electronic care reporting (ECR) system to improve bill collection.
  • Improve protocols to reduce responses to non-life threatening calls, freeing units to respond to critical medical emergencies.

DEMSA needs your support to pressure Commissioner Mack to do the right thing. After all, what price can you put on a human life?

Please sign DEMSA's online petition, and send a message to Detroit City Council.

Please also send letters (as an individual and also from your union, organization or institution) supporting DEMSA's recommendations to:

James W. Mack Jr.,
Executive Fire Commissioner
Detroit Fire Department
250 W. Larned
Detroit, MI 48226


Don't forget to email a copy to DEMSA

You can also telephone Community relations: (313) 596-2959 and/or Complaints: (313) 596-2932

The USSF - We Need Unity in Action

by Susan Rosenthal - Canada

USSF 2010.jpg
Amazingly diverse. Frustratingly fragmented. The recent US Social Forum showed both of these faces.

Under the banner, “Another World is Possible. Another US is Necessary,” between 10,000 and 15,000 people of all ages, colors, sexual and political persuasions converged on Detroit, June 22 -26.

The shear size of the event was overwhelming, with more than 1,000 workshops to choose from, nearly 50 People’s Movement Assemblies and multiple performances, cultural events and parties.

I attended some useful workshops featuring campaigns to stop cuts to public services and cross-border organizing around issues of common concern. The sharing of information and experiences was inspiring, and many of us exchanged contact information for continuing cooperation.

The goal of the Forum, in the words of the organizers, was to engage in “a political process through which we work to align and strengthen our communities, weaving ourselves into a movement that transcends oppression and opposition, increasing our collective power and resilience.” Unfortunately, when put to the test, these words failed to materialize into action.

On the Friday, I had just left a workshop on building labor-community alliances when I saw a group of medics employed by the Detroit Fire Department demonstrating against cuts to the city’s emergency medical service. The Fire Department and the medics’ rally were both located directly across the street from Cobo Hall, the main venue of the Forum.

I joined the medics and suggested that we bring their bullhorn into Cobo Hall and gather a crowd to swell the rally – it was lunch break and no workshops were in session. To my surprise, we had a difficult time rounding up even a dozen people out of the thousands that heard our appeal for a show of solidarity.

In front of Cobo Hall, I saw a small march being organized behind the banner “Migrant Rights are Human Rights.” I appealed to the people at the front of the march to swing by our corner, stay a minute or two to chant with us, and then proceed on their way. They marched by us but did not stop, missing the opportunity to build support for their cause by supporting someone else's cause.

My heart sank, as I overheard one of the medics say, “There are 5,000 people over there, why don’t they support us?” Fortunately, we were able to gather a dozen or so enthusiastic supporters who chanted at the top of their lungs. The medics were extremely grateful.

Actions speak louder than words

We could have done much more. The Forum could have featured the medics’ fight by asking them to speak at a workshop, organizing a massive rally outside the Fire Department and collecting thousands of signatures to petition Detroit City Council. Such actions would have brought life to our words.

Capitalism is trying to solve its financial problems by attacking all workers. This attack takes multiple forms: cuts to health, education and social services; attacks on immigrant rights; racist and anti-gay legislation; loss of reproductive rights; foreclosures; police repression; attacks on unions; and attacks on our working conditions. We can defend our rights only by fighting back as a class. “An injury to one is an injury to all” means that we must treat every battle as our own.

I urge you to support Detroit's Emergency Medical Service workers by signing their online petition

If they win, we all win. If they go down, we will surely follow.

Susan Rosenthal is a Toronto-area physician and the author of SICK and SICKER: Essays on Class, Health and Health Care (2010).

SF Pride Highlights Labor/Gay Unity

by Eileen Prendiville - USA

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Tens of thousands of people attended San Francisco’s annual Pride Parade this year, ‘Fabulous at Forty.’ The Labor contingent was led by Local 2 of UNITE HERE which is in the midst of a difficult contract dispute with the hotel industry over healthcare for its members.

Stickers handed out by Local 2 members saying “Sleep With the Right People” were wildly popular with participants and spectators - gay, straight, young, old, families and singles.

Sleep With the Right People is a coalition of the LGBT community and UNITE HERE to fight for fair and equal treatment for all. Their campaign encourages the LGBT community to boycott hotels targeted by UNITE HERE.  

Pride at Work, a constituent group of the AFL-CIO, brought many members from various unions. San Francisco’s Pride at Work mission statement reads, “the purpose of Pride at Work is to mobilize mutual support between the organized Labor Movement and the LGBT Community around organizing for social and economic justice.”

The Labor contingent also included: SEIU 1021 (public employees); SEIU 87 (janitors); CNA (California Nurses Association); various building trades unions; and NUHW (National Union of Healthcare Workers) led by Sal Roselli the ousted former president of SEIU-UHW (United Healthcare Workers).

Conspicuously missing from the Labor contingent, SEIU-UHW has been alienated from the other unions affiliated with the San Francisco Labor Council, including other SEIU locals, for good reason.

Recently, SEIU-UHW settled a contract with Sutter/CPMC (California Pacific Medical Center) in San Francisco, the most anti-union of all the Sutter affiliates. Sutter’s business plans usually involve closing hospitals in poor communities and cutting non-profitable services such as psychiatry.

In exchange for supposed protection of its members’ jobs when the new Cathedral Hill Hospital is built, SEIU-UHW agreed to publicly lobby elected officials for the project’s approval, even though it is fiercely opposed by community organizations, neighborhood groups and other unions. Compromising contracts like these led former UHW staff to break away from SEIU International.

CNA nurses, who have been without a contract at Sutter/CPMC for over three years, also opposed the settlement because CPMC plans to: cut vital (but not profitable) community services; scale down Sutter/St Luke’s Hospital in the Mission district that serves immigrants and many uninsured patients; and build a massive non-union hospital – at least without CNA - on one of the busiest traffic corridors in San Francisco.

Despite these inter-union tensions, Pride 2010 was remarkable for the show of unity between labor unions and LGBT activists and organizations. 

Pride and Unite Here.JPG
Most impressive were the many young members of Pride at Work who recently organized a flash-mob action in the lobby of San Francisco's Westin St Francis Hotel. They performed a hilarious parody of the Lady Gaga song Bad Romance, re-naming it Bad Hotel to support UNITE HERE's hotel boycott.


This was a highly creative way to deliver a message to the hotel industry and to win support for labor issues in the gay community. The YouTube video of their performance Don’t Get Caught in a Bad Hotel went viral and was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people.

Along the route of the parade, Pride at Work members met frequent requests from spectators to perform Bad Hotel. Their energy, creativity and willingness to link the issues is just what we need to revive and re-vitalize the labor movement.

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.

No al Copago (Repago) de la Sanidad

por Sergi Raventós - Catalunya (Reino España)

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El pasado 10 de Junio en Barcelona y organizado por Dempeus per la Salut Pública y la Federación de Asociaciones de Defensa de la Sanidad Pública se realizó un acto en contra del copago sanitario con la presencia de más de 120 personas donde se desplegaron una batería de argumentos tanto académicos como políticos para rechazar de plano cualquier tipo de fórmula de copago, ahora que el debate para aportar más ingresos al sistema sanitario español ha subido de intensidad.

La tesis central de la jornada fue la defensa de que el copago implica un "repago", es decir, los ponentes han defendido que implantar un sistema de cobro por acudir al médico significaría que el ciudadano pagaría dos veces por la sanidad: primero, a través de los impuestos; y después, pagando una cuota puntual en el momento de la consulta.

El portavoz de la Federación de Asociaciones para la Defensa de la Sanidad Pública (Fadsp), Marciano Sánchez, aseguró que el dinero que se ahorrará en sanidad aplicando el copago será menor que el que se gastará poniéndolo en marcha

El diputado de Izquierda Unida en el Congreso de los Diputados y presidente de la Comisión de Sanidad del Congreso español, Gaspar Llamazares, consideró una lucha "fundamental" resistir al copago sanitario, y reafirmó su defensa del sistema de sanidad público español, que lo calificó como uno de los más eficientes y de calidad de toda Europa.

El diputado de Izquierda Unida en el Congreso, Gaspar Llamazares afirmó que implantar el sistema de copago en la sanidad pública española supondría ceder al "ajuste permanente impuesto por orden del Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI) y los organismos internacionales".

Llamazares, que preside la Comisión de Sanidad del Congreso de los Diputados, aseguró que la posibilidad de cobrar al ciudadano por ir al médico es una "forma de mercantilizar el sistema de sanidad público" que "responde a intereses económicos".

El ponente de la jornadaLluís Camprubí del Grupo de Investigación en Desigualdades en Salud de la Universidad Pompeu Fabra aseguró que existe un "claro divorcio entre lo que por una parte se nos dice acerca del copago por parte de los políticos" y lo que su grupo de investigación encuentra "en la evidencia científica".

Camprubí explicó que el copago es "un instrumento muy débil" para incrementar los recursos de la sanidad pública, en la medida en que "los costes administrativos" que acarrearía el sistema "pueden superar el posible ahorro".

Las asociaciones participantes de la mano de Àngels Martínez Castells, presidenta de Dempeus acabaron la jornada aprobando una declaración conjunta contra el copago sanitario en la que entre otras razones se dice que  “establecer tasas para el acceso sanitario supondrá una dificultad insalvable para los sectores de la población más vulnerables.”

Read the Barcelona Declaration in Spanish, Catalan or English

Sergi Raventós - Trabaja en una Fundación sociosanitaria de salud mental y realiza el doctorando de Sociología por la UAB. Es miembro de la plataforma en defensa de la salud pública Dempeus y de International Health Workers for People Over Profit.


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Last April, 1,500 members of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) won a new contract from Temple University Hospital after a 28-day strike/lockout. Now, because of Temple's illegal behavior, they will also receive $1.5 million in unemployment compensation - and Temple will have to foot the bill.

Largest Nurses’ Strike in US History

On May 19, nurses belonging to the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), voted to authorize the largest nursing strike in US history. On June 11, more than 12,000 nurses struck 14 hospitals in Minneapolis and St. Paul demanding mandated nurse-to-patient ratios: 1 RN to 4 patients in medical and surgical units, and 1 RN to 2 patients in critical-care units.

Blood collection Workers Strike the Red Cross

In mid-June, 1,200 Red Cross workers in seven unions coordinated a strike across six states to protest cuts to their health care and unsafe demands to speedup production. Despite making $2 billion from its blood-collection service last year, the Red Cross pays these workers as little as $11 an hour and aggressively pushes them to produce, making their work unsafe, creating high staff turnover, and endangering the blood supply. Since 2003, the Food and Drug Administration has fined Red Cross $21 million over unsafe practices.

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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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