BROOKLYN, AUGUST 15 — Downstate Hospital workers held a rally on August 8 to fight proposed layoffs and to keep the hospital open. This week, nearly 400 workers received pink slips.
The threatened closing and layoffs affect all workers but are particularly racist and sexist. Downstate serves mainly poor black and Latino workers, most whom are Caribbean immigrants. The workers are mainly black, Latino and immigrant women. Capitalism is built on, and breeds, racism and sexism. These divisions cannot be eliminated without destroying the root cause.
The civil rights movement of the sixties forced the state to hire more nonwhite workers and to provide more services. Now, in a racist election year reversal, politicians — from President Barack Obama to Vice President Joe Biden to Presidential candidate Mitt Romney to Vice President nominee Paul Ryan to NY Governor Andrew Cuomo — are falling over each other to cut budgets by attacking workers for capitalism’s problems. They will never be honest about how bosses steal the wealth all workers create.
Government spending goes for their massive imperialist war machine and to finance capital via interest on government bonds. Communists of Progressive Labor Party do tell workers the truth: through mass action, rallies, discussions, and the international workers’ paper, CHALLENGE.
PLP fights against racist and sexist budget cuts, unemployment, and healthcare cuts. Several thousand jobs and the medical care of some 440,000 patients will be lost each year. With so much at stake, some workers would expect the union leaders to fight back.
The unions UUP, CSEA and PEF called this rally for show. No electric sound system was provided for the speakers. The union misleaders had no plan to stop the cuts and closing; their job is to placate us. Several clergy and politicians spoke but brought NO congregants or constituents to stop this theft of jobs and patient care.
This is the biggest life-and-death issue in New York City, yet the community has no idea Cuomo plans to close Downstate. The politicians, union leaders, and all the government lackeys serve capitalism. Their interest is to protect profit and therefore, any unity with them spells a trap and death for workers.
After the rally, workers remarked, “we should have gone in the street, maybe then media would cover the impending closure.” Workers showed anger over the undercover state police presence (see box) by asking the cops “why are you taking our pictures” and then the cops pointed out rank-and-file militants to the hospital bosses.
These are signs that workers want to do more; these are young workers who know serious working-class struggle is more than letter-writing and lunch-hour rallies. They are thinking about having a job action or a strike. When they mention job actions in union meetings the leadership goes crazy, saying, “No, because we are bound by the New York State Taylor law.” The union leaders build demonstrations for angry workers to let off steam.
PLP fights, not for scraps, but for revolution. We will destroy these union bosses, politicians and the profit system worldwide. When involved in the daily struggles, we can effectively expose how capitalism divides us along racist, sexist, and nationalist lines in order to make maximum profits and remain in power. As we fight for international workers’ unity, we learn to use our power to build a communist revolution.
Union Causes Arrest of Retiree Activist
Following a July 25 demonstration, a long-time former Local 1199 union member and shop steward was arrested by Downstate Hospital security. Only after he was in handcuffs did he learn there was a warrant for his arrest.
In the weeks before his arrest, this recent retiree had been involved in activities to fight against layoffs and closing of Downstate. He had attended a meeting of 1199 at the affiliated Long Island College Hospital (LICH), which was called to discuss LICH layoffs.
An 1199 organizer blamed Downstate workers for LICH layoffs. This retiree rose to challenge this anti-worker divisive tactic. He called for solidarity to fight all layoffs and closings.
The organizer’s response was to kick the retiree out of the meeting and call hospital security. Although he left the meeting and hospital without contact with LICH security, the union organizer’s call had resulted in LICH pressing charges of criminal trespass.
We see how the unions and the state serve to subdue workers’ fight-backs.