by Alvin Blanco and Omar Py, NYC
In New York City, the vast and destructive wave of hospital closures and cuts in the healthcare system continued while the big health unions and its leaders timidly and faltering tried to organize the workers. That’s what we saw in the rally of October 30th in City Hall against mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to cut healthcare services and shut down clinics in the last days of his administration.
The demonstration was endorsed by the District Council 37, the “New York City’s Largest Public Employee Union” and other health care unions, such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU 1199), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA).
One could say that the rally was a step forward in denouncing the attacks on public health programs and on clinics for low-income communities and workers, calling for a united resistance movement. But this is far from what workers really need in order to wage this fight and have victories, especially because these same unions, SEIU 1199 in particular, gave up on mobilizations for the defense of the workers in order to elect Bill de Blasio and other traditional Demoractic Party representatives- who have done nothing more than give false promises.
Even now, de Blasio’s compromise with New York health workers remains vague. Even to this moment, he hasn’t once said what he is going to concretely do in order to protect the jobs in LICH, Interfaith, and North Central Bronx Hospital. A lot of hospital workers were forced to leave their jobs, some services have been reduced, and the number of patients accepted decreases every day. Brooklyn’s health system is facing an emergency situation.
To solve the problems of the hospitals and provide good services to the community, it’s urgent to restore the workforce level that existed before the economic crisis of 2008. The only way to save our hospitals is by rehiring the workers who left their jobs against their own will during this period and by investing more in the healthcare system.
At the same time, the city needs a more severe legislation against real estate speculation. During Bloomberg’s administration, St. Vincent’s Hospital was closed and now a 200-unit condominium complex is being built on the site. We need to tax this kind of financial operation to avoid hospitals from being taken over by real estate.
Health workers are tired of false promises, empty words and lies. The politicians come at the hospital doors with beautiful speeches and colorful signs during elections. The union leadership tells them about lobbying, negotiations, and arrangements that are supposedly pro-labor. Both tell workers to trust them. But, in practice, all that exists today is de Blasio’s vague statements, some “dramatic” propaganda gestures and a closer relationship with the speculators and bankers who rule the city over years. And the workers at Interfaith and LICH are tired of ambiguous meetings with hospital administrators, financial consultants and lawyers in suits.
It is time to know who is with health workers and who is not. Recently elected mayor de Blasio must say it NOW, loud and clear, that he will keep LICH ad Interfaith fully working, restore workforce level, and heavily overtax real estate take overs to avoid them.