NEW YORK, NY, Aug. 7th –– Eleven thousand members of Local 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Workers East attended a rally at Madison Square Garden to support 30,000 homecare worker members in their struggle for upgrading pay and against the growing threat to their medical benefits. Their contract expires December 31. As PL’ers distributed all the CHALLENGES newspapers we had to eager and angry workers, it was clear that the workers were ready to fight.
The reasons for their anger were clear. Many of the agencies that employ them are run for profit. They typically skim off half of their state- and city-funded budgets for “administrative expenses.” The average homecare worker, almost exclusively minority and immigrant women, gets about $8/hour while providing lifesaving services. (As CHALLENGE has pointed out before, these workers receive no extra pay for overtime hours and less than their hourly pay when they stay overnight.)
The system under which tens of thousands of the elderly and infirm are cared for in this city makes it clear why we must smash capitalism. The bosses’ system places little value on the lives of those who no longer produce profits for them and therefore spends as little as possible on their care.
Homecare workers have suffered racist exploitation from their bosses and less than full support from the SEIU 1199 leadership. The union leaders refuse to unify them and prepare for a massive strike. On the contrary, this rally was dominated by speech after speech from politicians like Governor Patterson who is planning a $1 billion cut in the state budget. Also featured were Senator Schumer and Congressman Weiner who are busy urging war on Iran. Each of these politicians promote cutting workers’ living standards to pay for U.S. imperialism’s economic and war needs. SEIU leaders are lulling healthcare workers into believing we have no power other than in our union’s political endorsements. In the face of capitalism’s growing economic crisis and war in the oil-rich Middle East and Caspian regions, this is deadly poison for the working class.
Progressive Labor Party and its paper, CHALLENGE, must organize the working class to make a communist revolution. How do we get there? By stepping up the struggle with bosses every day, not allying with them, by getting involved in the daily problems faced by our friends and co-workers, by reading and circulating CHALLENGE participating in discussion groups, and joining the PLP to make egalitarian communism the main issue of the day!