Archive for the ‘United States – economy’ Category

While the United States is the richest country in the world, in 49 of the 50 states there are no limits on how many patients corporate hospitals can assign to nurses at any one time.  Bonnie Castillo, director of health & safety at National Nurses United, the main union covering reigstered nurses, has noted, “With the boom in assembly lines during the industrial revolution, employers were able to move products faster, using less staff, padding their bottom line. As I’ve written before, we’ve all seen pop culture comedy examples of what happens next, when profit-driven corporations speed up the pace faster and faster — until a character like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times works so frantically that he falls right into the machine, getting ground up in the gears.

“Our patients are not products, and nurses are not assembly line workers — but you would not know that by the frantic pace at which our hospital employers, who currently have no repercussions for saving money by cutting corners on safe staffing, expect nurses to provide care. When we are saddled with 9 or 10 patients at once, we are not practicing at our full capacity, and the repercussions for our patients, who come to us with illnesses and injuries where every moment of attention counts, include loss of life. . .”  (see, here.) 

In the article below, a nurse in the USA outlines a day in her working life.  While the article comes from the United States, the working day it outlines is relevant to many nurses working in hospitals in New Zealand. 

by Kyu Nam

The floor is chaos.

Not enough nurses on shift. Julia* called out sick this morning and an RN from 7 West who put in for overtime ended up a no-show. Our manager isn’t around, in a meeting or at lunch after popping in at 10:00 with a dapper “hello” and calling us in for a mandatory 10:30 huddle (in the middle of our biggest medication pass) to tell us about the upcoming Christmas party. We throw each other looks when she mentions the $90 price tag to RSVP. She closes with grand rounds on “fascinating nursing research topics” that we’re all invited to; of course none of us will make it because we will be slaving away on the floor.

11:55: I’m mixing antibiotics for a patient who came in with neutropenic fever overnight. We push them over 2-5 minutes via IV because of a normal saline shortage caused by Hurricane Maria. Several weeks ago, management and infection control informed us that we had to be more sparing with the mini-bags and discontinue all “keep vein open” fluids because major Baxter facilities in Puerto Rico were knocked out by the superstorm.

I pull the antibiotics into a syringe, yellow and foaming, and my mind roves to the next items on my list: notify MD of critical lab for 7A, pull methadone for 7B, find IV pump and hang fluids for 10A, return phone call to 8A family member, find out hemodialysis slot for 8B, make sure 9A is chugging the go-lightly for her colonoscopy (and not pouring it down the toilet), fetch blanket for 9B…

“Shit. Forgot the (more…)

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Below we’re running an article on a strike that took place in Detroit in 1987.  We’re running it because of what workers here in NZ, and readers around the world, can learn from this dispute.  It’s one where the workers said a resounding “No!” to the company’s demands that they sacrifice conditions and benefits and to the union leaders whose starting point was to make concessions to the employers – and get in the way of workers being able to fight!

This strike against health care giant Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) went against the wider trend in the US workplace at the time, which was to make concessions and not resist, a trend which is very much dominant in the New Zealand workplace thirty years later.  It was also marked by a large degree of rank-and-file control over the struggle and a continuous battle for workers to maintain this control in the face of manoeuvres by the union bureaucracy to take it over – and bring it to an end.

The BCBSM strike also won support from other workers, most particularly auto workers and a number of local officials in the auto workers’ union. 

The Spark is an American Marxist workers’ group which was active in the strike, Detroit historically being one of their main centres of activity. 

by The Spark

Thirty years ago, workers at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) went on strike. Chants of “No contract, no work!” and “Don’t get sick tonight: Blue Cross is on strike!” filled the air in downtown Detroit and at other statewide locations. The strike of approximately 4,000 workers began in September 1987, immediately preceding Labor Day. The strike was not over until winter moved in, eighty-three days later, in November.

The healthcare giant, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, dominated the Michigan health care industry and controlled around 70 percent of the industry statewide at that time. It was demanding major concessions at the bargaining table, taking advantage of the fact that the new 1987 contract would now cover all four local unions in offices around Michigan in a Master Labor Agreement. The company viewed it as an opportunity to impose the worst from all of the former agreements, and then some. They were a paternalistic employer; the majority of employees were women and, like public employees, were considered lucky to have decent benefits that included time off for taking care of family needs, and health care as well. Of course, the wages were not equivalent to wages earned by manufacturing workforces that were predominately male.

In the concessionary drive, earlier unspoken agreements regarding benefits as a trade-off for wages were forgotten, as the bosses came after all they could get. Benefits were at the front of their list. Always a company that believed in the stick before the carrot, BCBSM looked to impose drastic cuts in workers’ sick time off provisions and to eliminate policies that gave women workers some needed flexibility in work start times and in taking increments of time off to attend to personal and family needs. While wages were an issue in the strike, the elimination of time-off provisions and the flexibility to be able to avoid discipline and firing while still maintaining their second job, the family, was foremost in women workers’ minds.

The largest number of workers were housed in Detroit, with almost 3,000 unionized employees and almost as many more who were salaried workers, called “exempts,” meaning they couldn’t be in the union. While the union was comprised of clerical, office and professional employees, the majority of the professionals were non-union. Many of them were not particularly well paid. But they were (more…)

At Redline, we’d tend to see China very much as capitalist.  But we are also keen on discussion, comradely debate and serious examination of political issues.  It’s in that spirit that we are running the article below.

by Michael Roberts

Xi Jinping has been consecrated as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong after a new body of political thought carrying his name was added to the Communist party’s constitution.  The symbolic move came on the final day of a week-long political summit in Beijing – the 19th party congress – at which Xi has pledged to lead the world’s second largest economy into a “new era” of international power and influence.

At a closing ceremony in the Mao-era Great Hall of the People it was announced that Xi’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era had been written into the party charter. “The congress unanimously agrees that Xi Jinping Thought … shall constitute [one of] the guides to action of the party in the party constitution,” a party resolution stated.

At the same time, the new Politburo standing committee of seven was announced.  These supreme leaders are all over 62 and so will not be eligible to become party secretary in five years.  That almost certainly means that Xi will have an unprecedented (more…)

Earlier this week (July 23) marked the 50th anniversary of the urban rebellion in Detroit, Michigan.  This was the era of explosions in the deprived black communities of urban America, opening with the rebellion in Harlem (New York) on the east Coast in 1964, the Watts ghetto (Los Angeles) on the west coast in 1965 and continuing in many places in between through the rest of the 1960s, with the biggest explosions coming with the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968.  Below, we’re running a piece by the comrades of the US Marxist group The Spark; this was the editorial that appeared in the current round of all their fortnightly workplace bulletins. 

by The Spark

In 1965, Detroit’s then mayor declared that the revolt in Watts couldn’t happen in “his city”. In 2017, Detroit’s current mayor declared that 1967 wasn’t an uprising. But it DID happen, and it WAS an uprising, an uprising of oppressed people. Before it was over, the Detroit revolt of 1967 would become the largest of any uprising in 20th century America. It was “the fire next time” that James Baldwin had written about in 1962.

In 1967 – no matter how many marches, how many court cases, how many laws – unemployment continued. Impoverishment drained people. Cops went into neighborhoods like an occupying army. There was a vast powder keg of unmet needs and grievances.

All it took was an “ordinary” incident of (more…)

The following was written by the editors of the US left-wing journal Against the Current, in the July-August issue of that publication, here.

A six-part series by Laurence Peterson documenting an example of downward mobility in Post-Meltdown America

Part 6: The Uses of Uselessness

Trying to make any sense of it all 

Is there any wider significance to this sorry little tale? Well, it just so happens that Daymon was recently purchased by Bain Capital, the private equity  firm of Mitt Romney fame. Private equity firms often purchase failing and lacklustre companies, load them up with debt, pay big dividends to investors in the private equity firm, charge high fees to the acquired firm for the favour, and then dump the zombified carcass of firms drastically bled of labour and sunk capital back onto the market, sometimes generating a big, second profit on top of the fees, with the ultimate profitability or even viability of the affected firm remaining a big question mark behind the inflated dividends and lean production numbers. Being privately-held (and not required to produce public financial figures), I can’t say for sure whether or not Daymon fits this pattern exactly, but, from my vantage point, limited in the extreme though it was, the purchase of Daymon by Bain was not a surprise: the kind of unproductive, underappreciated and even unwanted work we did at CDS seemed to me to have zombie company written all over it.

(more…)

A six-part series by Laurence Peterson documenting an example of downward mobility in Post-Meltdown America

Part 5: Yuletide Epiphanies

The author experiences a mildly excruciating revelation regarding his employer’s client’s attitude towards him

Toward the latter part of last year, conditions for most CDS advisors took a turn for the worse. Marc had left, and was replaced by Ashley, who had worked alongside us as a senior advisor for a long time. This move was very popular with just about all of us, especially inasmuch as CDS practice tended towards bringing in someone from outside via the corporate office when there was a management change. I really liked Ashley: she was always respectful and eager to help every one of us, and seemed more likely to take our side in the state of permanent war with Costco management than Marc had been. For a few months things went better than they ever had done in my time with CDS. (more…)