Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Nurses Strike Kaiser: Workloads, Patient Care Major Issues

By: San Leandro Workers' Club

Nurses, members of the California Nurses Association (CNA) struck the giant HMO Kaiser today and will be out tomorrow in attempt to push the company into making some concessions at the bargaining table. The main concern for nurses is the increase in work. According to Kaiser’s own data, there has bee a reduction of 2,046 RN and NP positions in the last three years while the HMO has added 422,000 new enrollees in the first nine months of 2014.

Like all corporations, the services provided or the products produced are secondary to profits. Without profits, the investors move their capital to more favorable climates. Kaiser’s profits rose 41% the first nine months of 2014 to $3bn; the HMO is presently making $12 million a day and is sitting on almost $22 billion in reserves.

The hypocrisy of the bosses and anti-union forces is clear for all to see as they attack nurses for striking and jeopardizing the health of patients. “If they cared about the patients they would not strike,” is what we hear form these folks all the time. But when it comes to profits, the patient comes second. As the figures show, the company has clearly placed more work on the shoulders of those working while reducing the workforce. Added stress, overtime, these issues all threaten the health and safety of the patient as does importing non-union nurses to scab on strikes.

The same argument, that bosses must be competitive or else they’ll move, was made a week or so ago by a Teamster official who claimed the waste management workers were making unrealistic demands, “If Waste Management doesn’t make the money it needs, it will go somewhere else.” he argued repeating the bosses’ threats. The obvious solution to such economic terrorism is for the disposal of human waste, or our discarded items and the management and care of society’s ill and infirm, should not be in private hands. These should be public services and profit and the wealth of private individuals should not be a part of it.

The nurses’ strike is not actually a strike in the sense that there is no real effort to shut down the facility. Of course, in this industry, shutting down the facility would cause serious personal harm and even death to patients so it’s a bit more complicated than most workplaces. The only immediate reaction to this is that health care, and indeed, the entire health care industry should be taken out of private hands and run by the workers who work in them and the communities they serve.

Readers who work in the health industry would be more equipped to explain how strikes could take place that actually do more economic damage to profits, than we can. But the case today and in recent history regardless of the industry, is that strikes are no longer strikes, they are protests rallies. Recent low-wage fast food industry conflicts and instances where we have higher paid workers participating in labor actions seem to be an offensive maneuver, but we need to ask ourselves if this is really the case.

A truer act of workers going on the offensive would be an attempt to bring the gears of the industry being targeted to a halt (We recognize that a hospital and health care is more complex as patients’ welfare is immediately affected.) In order to begin a serious counter to the corporations assault on the workers of the world and to bring more workers into the fight, it is necessary to shutdown a retail store like Walmart on the day after Thanksgiving in the US. Power attracts, and such a strategy coupled with demands for jobs and live-able wages would inspire millions of workers.

A mass gathering of workers and protesters occupying the inside of the Walmart is quite different than occupying the publicly owned sidewalk thousands of feet away from the entrance of the store fenced in and guarded by police and union staff like a herd of cattle. Current tactics are not designed to shut down production and actually mirror more closely pep rallies. Sit-ins and mass picketing would garner the attention of the owners, media, politicians and more importantly the consciousness and imagination of workers struggling everywhere for a better society.

Also, read the solidarity message from a Canadian nurse here: http://weknowwhatsup.blogspot.com/2014/11/solidarity-from-canada-keep-fighting.html

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