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On the picket line

April 4, 2003 | Pages 10 and 11

OTHER STORIES BELOW:
Tyson
Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center

New York City hospitals

By Thomas Barton and Michael Ware

NEW YORK--Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to overcome the city's $5 billion budget deficit by laying off 4,000 public hospital workers. In response, AFSCME District Council (DC) 37 staged rallies in front of New York public hospitals March 27--with "staged" being the operative word.

At Bellevue Hospital, a DC 37 local officer told Socialist Worker that DC 37 officials told him not to turn out the workforce. "They said they didn't have a permit, so they didn't want too many people showing up," said the local officer. "Then, at the last minute, they called me and said, 'Get some people out there.'"

About two dozen hospital workers stood looking on while DC 37 big shots gave quotes to the press and sound bites to local TV reporters. But hospital workers are looking for a better answer to Bloomberg than good press. "They should get rid of the big administrators that sit there all day and do nothing but stress people out," Elsa Felix from AFSCME Local 1549 told Socialist Worker.

So far, DC 37, which represents 125,000 city union workers, has disgusted members by promising to fight hard "for better severance benefits" and promising that if they succeed in electing Democrats in 2004, everything will be fine. Meanwhile, Bloomberg started the wholesale firing of DC 37 members January 1 without the slightest response from the union leadership, other than whining press releases.

Feeling the heat from below, DC 37 this week called for a mass demonstration at City Hall April 29. Whether this will be more than another photo-op and sound bite show remains to be seen. The DC 37 membership, as usual, will have to do the heavy lifting.

We can invite every student whose education is being cut, and every citizen who depends on public hospitals and other threatened city services. We can reach out to every worker outraged by mass layoffs and cuts in city services while money is wasted for Bush's imperial war.

As Ralph Palladino, second vice president for AFSCME Local 1549, put it, "They're taking money that should be going to health care in order to pay for the war. That should be common sense by now."

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Tyson

By Robin Gee

JEFFERSON, Wis.--Despite cold and snow, more than 300 people rallied March 29 outside the Tyson plant gate to support striking workers.

The workers walked out February 28 when they refused to accept a contract with huge concessions. The mood was upbeat but determined.

Tyson has attempted to recruit scabs from Milwaukee--a 90-minute drive--by offering free transport and lodging, but so far they've only managed to round up four or five workers this way. According to reports from inside, the plant is running far under capacity.

All this--along with tremendous community support--has given encouragement to the strikers. The union is organizing "truth tours" to carry news of their struggle across the country, especially in meatpacking areas of Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Nevada.

Recently, strikers picketed Qualitemps in Milwaukee for supplying scabs, and they are targeting Rightway bus service, normally a Midwest school bus service, for agreeing to transport scabs.

Solidarity with the Tyson strikers!

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Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center

By Cesar Montufar

LOS ANGELES--Activists have built a tent city and are holding an around-the-clock vigil to keep Los Angeles County from closing down an important medical center.

Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center treats people with a range of injuries and medical conditions affecting the spinal cord. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors plans to vote on June 30 to shut the center down. The center sees between 3,000 and 4,000 patients a year and is the only hospital of its kind west of the Mississippi River.

During the vigil, one wheelchair-bound speaker from neighboring Orange County explained that he can't find the help he needs near his home, and another speaker named Rico said that he had traveled nearly 500 miles from the Bay Area city of San Jose. "Rancho helped me to be independent," Rico said in Spanish. "I don't know what people like me without insurance would do without it."

For many protesters, the fight to keep the center open is directly connected to organizing against the war on Iraq. Activist Ami Motevalli explained that a Bush administration official who visited the center commented about how "he recognized that we need these facilities and said it'll be a shame to close them. Then a week later," she continued, "they ask for $75 billion for their war!"

Pablo Murillo, one of the hospital workers and a member of Service Employees International Union Local 660, reflected on the priorities of the system. "This government is our enemy," said Murillo. "They complain about the high crime rates in the 'ghetto,' but they want to take away the only resources the people in the ghetto have."

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