NEW YORK CITY, February — I work in a medical center in the New York City area. Two years ago the maintenance and cleaning workers, were given unsatisfactory evaluations. We organized three demonstrations in the entrances and protested at the human resources office, without the help of the union which disagreed with the struggle. Although it was a small struggle, we showed strength and unity. The bosses changed the evaluations to “satisfactory.”
When the Blizzard of 2010 hit in December, the workers who do outside maintenance worked day and night for three days straight to clean the snow. We had told the bosses that the snow removal machines needed to be fixed. When the storm came we had only a small snow plow that barely worked, and soon broke down completely. From then on the work had to be completed manually, which was a backbreaking and exhausting job. There were only five workers and they were overwhelmed removing all the snow from blocks of sidewalks, entrances, driveways, and parking lots.
The bosses blamed the workers for not having removed the snow before Monday morning’s work day began. The truth is that the only ones to blame were the bosses for not having the needed machinery and for the cuts in personnel (many have been fired and others have retired without being replaced).
After the snowstorm, all the workers had to take days off because they were sick, with pain in their arms and legs. The salt used to clean off the snow burned our hands since we weren’t given adequate gloves for this work. The little sleep we did get during those three days was taken sitting in hard-backed chairs. The bosses want robots that never tire and never complain.
This is no different from what happened to the sanitation workers in NYC. Mayor Bloomberg tried to blame them for the disastrously slow clean-up when in reality the only ones to blame were the bosses who have cut more than 400 sanitation workers.
When the vice-president from our section was complaining about the “inefficiency,” a worker with 20 years service said that if he wanted to blame someone he needed to blame the director of the department because he hadn´t done what was needed to bring in more workers and to fix the snow plows.
Because of this he was sent to human relations where he was obligated by the union and the bosses to sign an “agreement” where he promises not to show this kind of “disrespect” to the bosses, or his contract will be terminated. He will not be able to complain or speak up for a year because of what he said in front of the other workers which the boss called “insubordinate.”
This is how capitalists discipline workers, creating a climate of fear and putting us in a position of extreme submission. This is part of how fascism develops in the workplace. The sanctioning of this worker is an attack on all of us.
The bosses act as if this center is their own private plantation. They constantly violate the union contract. They do all of this with the help of the union hacks who are constantly telling us that workers are getting fired so it is best to be careful and stay quiet.
Though the bosses are only small-time administrators, they want us to believe the contrary. They carry out the cuts demanded by the major capitalists who want to place the economic crisis they created on the workers´ shoulders. They cry that they have no money, while spending trillions on their wars for world domination.
We workers must learn from our past struggles. We see how the cuts in personnel affect us. There are already rumors that there won´t be a contract settlement this year and therefore there won´t be a salary increase. We have to organize more protests because the problems in this department will surely get worse. We have to link up with those fighting against school closures and against threatened closings of 10 more hospitals in New York City (eight have closed in the city since 2007).
We must link up with struggles of workers around the country and the world. This will expand our outlook and give us enormous strength. The capitalist system is not able to solve the problems we workers have. The only solution is a communist revolution to create our own system, where workers’ needs, not bosses’ profits, are put first.