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Issue #11
October 1, 2009

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Hands Off Our HealthCare!

     by Eileen Prendiville – USA 

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In 2004, Local 2 of UniteHere won a great wage and benefit package after a difficult 53-day strike and lock-out and a 2-year boycott of the involved San Francisco hotels. Now these gains are under attack.

Mike Casey, president of Local 2 and also of the San Francisco Labor Council points out that,

"Hotel workers welcome visitors to our city and are often ‘invisible’ to their guests as they clean rooms and prepare food, but…the hotel corporations are using the current economic crisis to undercut their healthcare benefits despite raking in over $200 billion in profit over the past years."

Before their contract expired in August, Local 2 members organized a kick-off rally and march next to the Four Seasons Hotel. Approximately 1,500 people attended, including union members, community groups and local politicians. It was a beautiful, fog-free day, and the diversity of San Francisco was apparent in the faces of the many ethnic groups that make the city so remarkable.

Solidarity is alive in San Francisco

During the 2004 strike, SEIU-UHW staff (who founded NUHW after SEIU fired them and placed their local in trusteeship) actively supported Local 2. Solid relationships were built.

This past July, Dave Regan, trustee for SEIU-UHW, offered to support Local 2 in its upcoming dispute with hotel owners if Casey would stop supporting NUHW. San Francisco will be the next battleground between these two unions as soon as the National Labor Relations Board sets election dates for the many SEIU-UHW facilities where NUHW has filed for decertification from SEIU.

When Casey refused, Regan threatened to withhold SEIU dues from the San Francisco Labor Council. An emergency meeting of the Executive Committee of the Labor Council was convened with Casey offering to step down as president.

Fortunately, these strong arm tactics failed. Not only did SEIU not withdraw from the Labor Council, it swore in eight new delegates at the most recent meeting.

On Sept 24th, Local 2 organized another march and rally that was attended by about 1,700 people.

In Union Square, labor and community activists sat down to block the hotel lobby of the Grand Hyatt Plaza Hotel. A block away, another group obstructed the entrance to the Westin St Francis by sitting on the cable car tracks in front of the hotel. Ninety-two people were arrested and later released.

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It was a magnificent show of solidarity!

Rank-and-file members of SEIU, NUHW, CNA, ILWU and IBEW participated, along with many other unions. It felt great to be a part of something so positive within the labor movement, putting aside our differences to support hotel workers who are fighting to keep their healthcare benefits.

Watch a video of this inspiring demonstration.

The same day, 150 members and supporters of UniteHere were arrested when they blockaded Chicago's Park Hyatt hotel to protest the replacement of 98 housekeepers with cheaper labor at three Hyatt hotels in Boston. Article

Eileen Prendiville works as an RN at an acute-care hospital in San Francisco, USA. She is also on the bargaining team of the California Nurses Association. She was one of the supporters arrested in the San Francisco demonstration.


“My Blindness Will Not Stop Me” 

           submitted by Marwan A. Diab – Palestine


Loa'i is a ten-year-old boy who was severely injured during an Israeli air raid against Beit Lahia, Gaza, on January 14, 2009.

Loa'i, his father and cousin fled to a school to escape the bombing which lasted for 15 days. The school was overcrowded with people in need of basic supplies. More than sixty people were crammed into one classroom.

When they tried to return home to retrieve food and blankets, they were caught in the shelling. Loa'i suffered a head injury that blinded him, and his hand was also injured. His cousin was killed.

After Loa'i was injured, no one could reach him for an hour and a half because the bombing was so intense. His father, who was few meters away, could not move a single step to save his son because of the continuous shelling.

Loa'i tried to reach his father, but could not. Loa'i's father says, “At that moment I thought I lost my son, but when I heard him calling me, I realized that he was still alive.”

Finally, Loa’i was carried to safety. An ambulance took him to Kamal Odwan Hospital. He was then sent to Al Shefa Hospital and later to Saudi Arabia for further treatment.

Loa'i was very attached to his elder brother Rajab, who was killed on February 16, 2009 during another Israeli attack on Gaza. When Loa'i returned from Saudi Arabia, he brought gifts for his brother, not knowing that he was dead.

The shock of his brother’s death greatly deepened Loa'i’s suffering. Loa'i misses him terribly. He believes that if his brother were alive, he would feel stronger and better able to bear his disability.

Before the bombing, Loa'i was a happy, active boy who liked to play and have fun. He was his father's right hand in his modest trade. He dreamed of buying a bicycle, and he dreamed of his future. He wanted to be a businessman. When Loa'i lost his sight, everything changed.

The active child who was filled with energy became helpless and dependent on others. He became frightened and fearful. He despaired that he would have no future. Even his dream to ride a bike was shattered.

After Loa'i returned from Saudi Arabia, he was referred to the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme’s Community Center. When our psychologist, Rawya Hamam, visited Loa'i at home, he was suffering from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which included insomnia, nervousness, feelings of blame and anger at his family and pain for the loss of his brother. He was easily provoked and felt helplessness for being blind.

Family services provided to Loa'i and his family included helping him express his feelings and cope with his circumstances through daily activities that build on his strengths.

Loa'i is making progress. Once again, he has begun to dream of a future.

Loa'i hopes that someday he will see again. He is determined that his blindness will not prevent him from living a normal life.

Despite this terrible tragedy, Loa'i remains his father's right hand and a kind uncle for his younger nephews.

Marwan A. Diab is a psychologist and public relations director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP)


La Lucha Contra La Enfermedad Mental

       por Sergi Raventós - Catalunya (Reino España)

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En estos momentos de grave recesión económica, estar en paro o con trabajos precarios, entre muchas otras consecuencias negativas, está ya provocando estragos en la salud mental para miles de personas (1). Es conveniente hacer, entre muchas otras cosas, un repaso a las recomendaciones de las políticas de prevención y promoción de la salud mental que desde años se vienen haciendo desde la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) y la Unión Europea (UE).

La relación de documentos, resoluciones, conferencias, comunicados, etc. que se han publicado en los últimos años, ya sea de la UE como de la OMS sobre el alcance de los problemas de salud mental son considerables. Y es que los problemas relativos a la salud mental constituyen una preocupación de salud pública de primera magnitud.

A pesar de la calidad y la importancia de estos informes, las concreciones de los mismos han sido escasas. A medida que pasan los años, la salud mental de la población está empeorando cada vez más.

La salud mental suele estar interrelacionada dentro de un complejo cuerpo de políticas sociales, de salud, de bienestar, de vivienda, de justicia, de ocupación, etc. Cuando se formula una política de salud mental es necesario valorar el entorno físico y social donde viven las personas y es imprescindible también la colaboración intersectorial para potenciar sus efectos positivos (2). Como apunta la OMS:

"cada gobierno debería disponer de una política de salud mental, pues la salud mental está estrechamente relacionada con el desarrollo humano y la calidad de vida, los trastornos mentales tienen una alta prevalencia y producen una carga de enfermedad significativa a nivel mundial (3), y la puesta en marcha de intervenciones en salud mental requiere de la participación de diferentes instituciones del Estado" (ibíd.).

Desde hace unos años y sobre todo desde inicios del siglo XXI se está dando mucha relevancia a la importancia que tienen las políticas preventivas y de promoción de la salud mental como instrumentos para contribuir a una mejora de la salud mental de las poblaciones y también para disminuir los problemas sociales que giran alrededor de la misma.

La promoción y la prevención representan unas estrategias sanitarias orientadas a la modificación de los determinantes de la salud (pobreza, mala distribución de los ingresos, baja cohesión social, mala alimentación, etc.)

La prevención implica actuar sobre las causas de la enfermedad para impedir que ésta pueda actuar. La promoción, en cambio, se ocupa de los determinantes de la salud y pretende capacitar a la población para que sepa cuidar mejor de su salud y evitar que enferme. También busca construir entornos saludables, socialmente (disminución de la pobreza, de las desigualdades sociales, de la precariedad laboral, etc.) y ambientalmente: polución, riesgos ambientales, problemas urbanísticos...(4).

La promoción de la salud mental según la Asociación Española de Neuropsiquiatría también implicaría "la creación de condiciones individuales, sociales y ambientales que permitan el óptimo desarrollo psicológico y psicofisiológico..." (5).

Las actividades para la promoción de la salud mental son principalmente sociopolíticas: reducir el paro, mejorar la escolarización y la vivienda, trabajar para la reducción de los diferentes tipos de estigma y discriminación, etc. pero tienen también como importante resultado la prevención de los trastornos mentales. La evidencia indica que la promoción también es efectiva para prevenir una gama importante de enfermedades y riesgos relacionados con la conducta (6).

El propósito, de forma más concreta, de las acciones de promoción y prevención en salud mental sería la disminución del impacto negativo que el estrés psicosocial tiene en el bienestar individual y colectivo. Este objetivo se conseguiría favoreciendo el desarrollo de factores protectores, modificando los de riesgo y disminuyendo las desigualdades sociales, mediante la incidencia de las acciones en los grupos más vulnerables y con menos recursos...seguir leyendo 

Sergi Raventós Actualmente realiza la tesis doctoral en Sociología por la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.


Medical Rationing in the US and Canada

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by Susan Rosenthal – Canada

A young woman without medical insurance goes to a hospital emergency department for treatment of severe pain. She’s turned away because her pain does not qualify as an emergency. She takes a seat in the waiting room and collapses shortly after. At that point her condition qualifies as an emergency, and she is treated.

This outrage did not occur in the United States, but in Canada. Under capitalism, all nations limit access to medical care, and Canada is no exception.

Why Ration Medical Care?

Most people believe that healthcare is a human right, and everyone should get the medical care they need.

However, when profits matter more than human rights, medical care is rationed. People get only what they can pay for, or what employers, insurance companies and governments decide to give them.

The only way to provide healthcare as a human right is to provide universal access.

Universal access should not be confused with improved access. Universal access means no rationing, so that the CEO, the factory worker and the homeless addict would all receive the best care that society can provide.

Politicians who talk about universal access to medical care don’t mean equal access, they mean that everyone should have some access or more access.

One cannot eliminate class inequality in medicine without also eliminating it in society, so capitalism keeps universal access off the agenda. We are not allowed to question whether medical care (or any essential service) should be rationed by class. We are allowed to  dispute only the form and extent of this rationing.

Opposition to universal medical care is not only political, it is also financial. While productivity and profits are linked to the health of the workforce, employers don't want to pay the cost of providing medical services. And some capitalists reap huge profits from privatized medicine.

The ruling class shows no interest in what is medically preferable – universal access with an emphasis on illness prevention and social health. Its priority is to cut costs, maintain profit-making opportunities and keep the working class subordinate.

Those goals are best achieved with a class-based, treatment-oriented medical system, where the rich have access to the best services, the middle class and skilled workers have limited access through pooled insurance programs, and the poor are provided with a bare-bones basket of government-funded services. This is the standard formula for all medical systems under capitalism, with different nations displaying variations on this basic model.

While the debate to reform American medicine emphasizes the differences between the Canadian and American systems, both nations are deeply divided by class, and their medical systems reflect and perpetuate those class divisions.

In the US, medical rationing is based on ability to pay. The resulting inequality is up-front and obvious. Canada rations medical care by under-funding the public health care system, bringing inequality through the back door... continue reading 

See also: What Happened in Chile: An Analysis of the Health Sector Before, During and After Allende’s Administration


Susan Rosenthal is a physician and the author of POWER and Powerlessness.



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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