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International Health Workers for People Over Profit
In This Issue

Click on the titles below to read the associated reports:

 What it means to be a doctor

 Organize, organize!

Hungry for solutions

 We need a revolution in the NHS


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Vol. 3 No. 2
March 12, 2011

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  What it means to be a doctor

                                      by Catherine Wilkerson - USA

 stand up for the American worker 3

Doctors who wrote work excuses for protesters in Wisconsin are being accused of violating medical ethics and committing fraud.

The mass media are calling for punishment, from professional discipline (including suspension of medical license) to criminal prosecution.

These attacks on doctors are just another tactic in the war against workers.

The uprising in Madison Wisconsin and other places around the country has demonstrated the power of solidarity. Like the uprisings across the Arab world, this solidarity threatens the existing capitalist and imperialist order.

Governor Walker threatened to fire public employees if they did not leave the protests and return to work. The doctors who wrote work excuses were taking concrete action to prevent those struggling for their rights from getting fired. 

By helping workers continue their struggle without deprivation of livelihood, those doctors also took action to prevent workers from losing the right to bargain collectively for health insurance. 

The law Governor Walker aims to force upon the people of Wisconsin also slashes health services to tens of thousands of poor and working people, so the doctors' actions could have profound repercussions for their lives as well.

People all over the United States recognize the significance of the struggle in Wisconsin.
Thousands of people across the country have engaged in solidarity actions, from joining the protests in Madison to marching and rallying in their own states. They recognize that the assault on unionized workers is an assault on the entire working class.

These protesters reject the cynical efforts of the ruling class to divide the working class by pitting the unionized against the non-unionized, the unemployed against the employed, the impoverished against the so-called middle class.

The doctors who wrote work excuses also recognize the significance of the struggle in Wisconsin. 

They recognize that jobs, shelter, food, education, heat, water, light and health care are necessary for well-being, even for survival.

Actively supporting the struggle to secure the necessities of life is the epitome of what it means to be a doctor.

Join the protests being organized against the passing of anti-worker legislation in Wisconsin.

Catherine Wilkerson works as a primary-care physician in the state of Michigan.


 Organize, organize!

by Stuart Jeanne Bramhall - New Zealand

  wisconsin-workers-rights-protest 3 

The mass mobilizations across the United States have been truly inspiring.

However, the recent setback in Wisconsin shows that achieving real democracy will not be easy.

Americans can learn from the recent Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.

Not surprisingly, the media has laregely neglected to report on the five years of sustained organizing by independent trade unions that laid the foundation for both revolutions.

While the contagious effect of mass movements overseas has spurred activism in the US, no real gains can be achieved without sustained organizing efforts.

Millions of Americans are already active in a broad range of anti-war, social justice and environmental organizations, as well as in unions.

We need to build more active, member-controlled unions that can inspire even more workers to organize.

It is also essential that unemployed, homeless and low-income Americans join unions or organize unions of the unemployed to secure their right to jobs and decent wages.

Strength in numbers

UCubed is a union of the unemployed that was launched last January by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers.

The goal of UCubed is to unite unemployed and under-employed workers with union workers, to build a coalition similar to the one that pressured President Roosevelt to enact far-reaching New Deal legislation in the 1930s.

Membership in UCubed is free, with members organizing by zip code. The idea is for each new member to form a “cube” in their local area, thus multiplying their political and economic power by 6, by 36 and eventually by 29 million.

UCubed members receive action alerts on federal and state legislation affecting workers, as well as tips on surviving unemployment. They also receive generous discounts at the Machinists Mall, an on-line shopping center.

The UCubed website places no restrictions on membership. It specifically mentions “under-employed” workers, which covers a lot of territory including people working multiple part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time employment.

"Under-employed" would also cover struggling students, people forced into early retirement or unable to get off welfare or disability because they can’t find work, as well as self-employed contractors and business people whose earnings are inadequate to provide for their basic needs.

For people in full-time jobs, joining a union or becoming active in an existing union is the best way to address problems in the workplace. However, UCubed could benefit working people who are unable to organize a union.

The National Labor Relations Act guarantees every American worker the legal right to form a union, even domestic workers, office cleaners and temporary clerical workers. However, only the determination and activisim of the members give unions any power.

The AFL-CIO operates a web page with instructions on how to form a union.

Stuart Jeanne Bramhall is a retired American physician living in New Zealand.

Hungry for solutions

by Susan Rosenthal - Canada

angry_face 6BOOK REVIEW: In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Maté, MD (2008).

Gabor Maté’s latest book effectively demolishes the belief that addictions arise from chemical imbalances, genetics, or bad choices.

As in his two previous books, Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder (1999) and When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress (2003), Maté situates human suffering in a social context, inviting a political discussion of how social relations affect human health.

Scattered Minds locates symptoms of ADD in the social neglect of children’s needs and concludes,

"What begins as a problem of society and human development has become almost exclusively defined as a medical ailment."

When the Body Says No indicts “industrialized society along the capitalist model” as a source of toxic stress that “escalates as the sense of control diminishes” and causes physical and mental breakdown.

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts condemns society for depriving human beings of what they need to thrive and then persecuting and punishing them for using drugs to relieve their pain.

All three books are well-written, engaging and brilliantly expose the fake science that pushes a pill for every ill.

Personal solutions?

While Maté situates human distress in the social realm, his books seek solutions in the personal realm.

When the Body Says No ignores industrial pollution as a cause of cancer, as well as the impact of social class on one’s exposure to carcinogenic compounds.

Instead, the author promotes the myth of “the cancer personality” – people who are more likely to get cancer because they repress their emotions, ignore their needs and put others first. He writes,

"In numerous studies of cancer, the most consistent identified risk factor is the inability to express emotion, particularly the feelings associated with anger." (p.99)

Repressing emotions and ignoring one’s needs can contribute to health problems. However, these are behaviors that society demands of all women and that employers demand of all workers.

The myth of the “cancer personality” is junk science that puts the cart before the horse.

As long as the majority is exploited and oppressed, most people will feel angry most of the time, and rightfully so. 

Efforts to release or eliminate anger, without removing the social conditions that make people angry, is just another form of social control.

Maté’s books are commercially successful because they tap into popular awareness of social problems while avoiding the uncomfortable conclusion that social revolution is required to solve them.

The result is a liberal version of blaming the victim – society cannot be changed, so the individual must change. This regressive message is more insidious because it is hidden beneath a caring and progressive cover.

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


We need a revolution in the NHS

                                          by Patricia Campbell - Northern Ireland

photo patricia 2 

On May 5, the people of Northern Ireland will elect candidates for the Northern Ireland Assembly and local Government Councils

I will be running for local government as an Independent Republican, campaigning on socialist and trade union principles.

I have worked as a nurse in the National Health Service (NHS) for many years. In my experience, the NHS has been under-resourced and mismanaged to the point of crisis.
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey warns that the NHS will be financially bankrupt by next month. This warning follows revelations that tens of thousands of pounds of tax payers’ money has been squandered on luxury trips abroad to enable senior health officials to visit private US medical corporations.

More recently, it came to light that Government Departments have spent £54-60 million on lawyers over the past five years.

The DUP/Sinn Fein coalition administration have pledged support for an austerity budget that will hammer the final nail into the coffin of our NHS and other public services.

Once again, these politicians will ask the electorate for their vote and, once again, they will insist that this budget is our only choice.

Having made a mess of our lives, these elected officials propose "solutions" that can only make things worse. Yet they dismiss critics with the question, “What is your alternative?”

Here is my answer:

I believe that health workers and our communities can do a much better job of managing our public services.

We can also make cuts. Eliminating high-paid bureaucrats will free ample funds for frontline services. Just imagine what we could do with the £60 million squandered on legal fees alone!

The working class is the majority. If we pull together, we can ensure that everyone has access to quality public services.

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.


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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