CHICAGO, IL October 9 – Cook County health care workers are in open rebellion against the SEIU union leadership. Class hatred has been brewing since SEIU defended County President Todd Stroger and his racist hatchet man Dr. Simon, as they closed half the health clinics that served more than one million uninsured workers in 2007. It cost us over 2,000 jobs and 100,000 fewer patient visits. This was a blatantly racist attack as 82% of our patients, and most of the workers, are black, Latin and Asian.
Now “safety-net” hospitals, like Michael Reese are closing. And with the current Wall Street meltdown, things are going to get a lot worse. Workers are under attack from the racist profit system that is expanding its trillion-dollar oil war in Iraq-Afghanistan–Pakistan, carrying out racist terror immigration raids, eliminating the second shift at the Chicago Ford Assembly Plant next month and having made one-out-of-every-four CTA bus drivers unable to support their families on new part-time schedules.
Just as politicians and preachers try to misdirect rebellions against police terror, and the IAM union leaders try to control the 5-week strike of 27,000 Boeing workers, misleaders are channeling this rebellion into a campaign to replace SEIU with the Caregivers Healthcare Employees Union (CHEU), led by the California Nurses’ Association (CNA). The struggle between the two unions has been growing around the country and has led to hundreds of SEIU members crashing a banquet at the Labor Notes conference in Detroit last spring. One SEIU member died of a heart attack in the melee.
In part, this is AFL-CIO President John Sweeney’s revenge after his protégé Andy Stern led SEIU and a dozen other unions out of the labor federation two years ago. They smell weakness at Cook County and are spending lots of money to defeat SEIU, including nightly catered dinners for the workers at a nearby hotel.
Petitions have been filed with the Illinois Labor Board (ILB) for elections in all four bargaining units. In response, County bosses are trying to buy SEIU some votes by finally paying the upgrade we “won” in the last contract, almost four years ago. It’s unlikely the $14 “upgrade” will put down the rebellion.
While the mutiny of workers at Stroger Hospital and other County facilities is good, trading one set of pro-capitalist union leaders for another will only lead to disappointment, especially in the midst of widening war and deepening economic crises. The real lasting victory will be increasing the readership of CHALLENGE and recruiting new members to PLP who will help build a revolution to replace this exploitative system.
No matter who wins the White House, the racist rulers will need trillions more to expand their oil wars and rescue Wall Street. A struggle against racist unemployment guided by communist politics, that unites County, CTA and Ford workers with immigrant workers and unemployed youth can build the revolutionary communist PLP and open the door to revolution!