Category Archives: Workers’ Inquiry

Caring….for Profits in the CA Nonprofit Health Industry

As our organization expands to include workers from different sectors of industry, we are forced to understand and clarify the terrain in which we are organizing in.  Below we are posting a new series that will focus on the health care industry and prospects for communist intervention in the Bay Area.  Through an analysis of our local region, we wish to draw out the broader implications for organizing the rapidly expanding health care industry.  We encourage our readers to comment on the questions raised so as to deepen our understanding of the complexities of workplace organizing in health care!

Non-profit health care is a huge industry.  It meets at the junction of the “non-profit industrial complex” and the “health care industrial complex,” but forms a unique hybrid.

To give some scope to this industry, in California, non-profit hospitals account for 61% of total patient days excluding state psychiatric hospitals.  Profits are just as large.  In 2010 alone, the top two California chains, Kaiser and Sutter Health, together made net income of $2.18 billion.[1]

This led us to two questions:  How do nonprofits make profit, and where do the profits go once they’re made?

How does a “non-profit” hospital make profits?

A huge amount of non-profit hospitals’ profits come from state subsidies and benefits. These benefits include being exempt from state and federal income taxes on profits, property taxes, and almost all sales taxes.  In return, these hospitals are supposed to offer charity care to those can’t afford it.  It’d be reasonable to think that the tax credits given and the charity care returned should balance out so that these institutions are actually non-profiting.  The joke of an exchange that exists in reality is shown in the following chart, courtesy of the National Nurses United research group the Institute for Health & Socio-Economic Policy.

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Turning the Tide: 1st Issue of Bay Area Port Workers’ Newsletter

Cover of Port Workers Newsletter

Click on this image to view or download the newsletter.

We published Occupy, ILWU EGT and the Coming Class Battles to point out the limits of a militant alliance between Occupy and ILWU rank-and-file.  As the former came into being as a radical force with its own wild contradictions, and the militancy of the latter carried a tradition of struggle from 1934  to the present, there still needs to be a framework for port class struggle.

Occupy, ILWU EGT and the Coming Class Battles offers a critique of 1) social movement unionism, 2) surplus population insurgency, and proposes to form class-wide committees, which we also call multi-sector committees.  A rank-and-file newsletter that contains articles written by port workers is a first step towards bridging the craft divides in the port. It breaks jurisdictional logic ingrained by existing unionism, orienting towards the whole space of the port. The idea is to lay the basis for a multi-sector unity that offers serious leverage against the employers and a potential model for workers in struggle throughout the US.

This newsletter is a product of combined work between different tendencies of revolutionaries, the Occupy Oakland Labor Solidarity Committee, and workers from different parts of the port.

Enjoy, and bring it down to the docks in your city!

Workers’ Inquiry: SF Bus Driver

This is the text of some literature that AS militants made from interviews with a bus driver in the San Francisco public transit system, MUNI.  We’re posting both as an example of the method we use for investigating conditions and turning the results into agitation, and to ask for thoughts from our comrades on the information/intervention here.  

Inter v iew w ith a M U N I o p e r a tor : W o r k e r s ’ H e a lth A n d

Safety  

This interview from a brother who’s worked as a MUNI operator for more than ten years is one powerful and particular expression of how bosses exploit workers for profit, leaving us physically and psychologically maimed. It reveals how at the same time that passengers have seen fares double in recent years and the elimination of bus lines, the men and women behind the wheel are also feeling the effects of austerity. This operator’s experience reflects the daily lives of millions of other workers around the world who also face cuts to social services, racist police brutality, attacks on basic political freedoms under the scapegoat of “terrorism,” and an overall capitalist assault on the minds and bodies of working people. Nevertheless, where there is oppression, there is also resistance. We must take pride in and study the current militant struggles Palestinian and Egyptian transport workers wage with other workers in their countries to topple hated

pro-imperialist regimes and achieve genuine independence and liberation. In the Middle East and in San Francisco, the common relationship working-class people of all religions and nationalities share in the act of riding public transportation provides a needed space and platform to organize around our common class interests. One issue that stands out is what seems to be a vicious cycle between a speedup of the pace of work, a lack of break time, excessive disciplining of workers that take sick days, expensive medical coverage, and obstacles to getting medical clearance. What issues do you see? What issues affect you as a MUNI passenger, or as a worker in San Francisco, that might be resolved through a united struggle of workers from many different workplaces that face common problems? Send us an email and let us know.

Question: We heard from some MUNI operators that management has cut down the number of sick days to only 3 days per year, with operators facing discipline including suspension if they take more than 3 days in a 12 month period. What is going on here?

Answer: “That’s not really accurate – here management has not adhered to their own sick day Chapter

12W. They had an article in the examiner about it last week. San Francisco is one of the cities that allows for employees to take sick leave and be paid. All employees have that right. Here we can accumulate the hours and we are supposed to be able to take them without penalty. This ordinance is on the books but the city itself isn’t adhering to it. Operators are increasing harassed and threatened for using their accumulated sick time. There is no rule that covers anything other than what 12W covers which is for paid sick time. Sick leave is the only way to get time off. When they make threats against operators for using their sick time, well there is no other way for operators to rest their body to recover from fatigue, except for using the available sick hours… There are also laws and rules that say we are not supposed to drive if we are sick…. The other thing is Absence rule 420, which requires that you bring a doctor’s note. Neither one of those spell-out any type of discipline….There is no pie in the sky to look forward to. Every other transit system, AC, SAMTRANS, GG transit, has miss out days where operators can call in for a day to rest and recuperate. MUNI doesn’t have that. There is no way for operators to get time off to rest and recuperate. There is no relief in sight for an operator with extra stressed going on in his life.”

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