Workers writing and discussing resolutions based on their experiences, needs and aspirations — not unusual for a UE convention. New this year, however, were the concerns expressed in the resolution "Rights of the Healthcare Worker."
Terry Bucknall, Local 1004, explained how this resolution comes directly out of the reality of her workplace, Henry Mayo Hospital in Santa Clarita, Calif. She described deteriorating conditions stemming from understaffing.
"It is true that we have people who are dying in the hospitals — your parents, family members, your neighbors," Bucknall said. "They are lying there and are not getting turned, not getting fed. It is very sad that someone like me, an x-ray technician, has to take time away from my job duties to feed somebody. We are all working way, way too much overtime."
Rose Martell, Local 278, Grafton County Nursing Home, said understaffing is a big problem, there as well. "The employees want to give the best care, but are limited to being able to spend the necessary time it takes. Short staffing is a huge problem."
At North Carolina’s Dorothea Dix Hospital, no one was listening to workers’ complaints about deteriorating conditions — 60 percent below full complement, staff at this state-run mental hospital have been working 18 hours a day, and placed in dangerous situations staffing unfamiliar units. So staff organized into UE, said Beverly Moriarty, Local 150. "Lots of changes since union came to the scene," she said.
Judy Hice, Local 1004, a computer operator at Henry Mayo Hospital, said the staff seeks to ensure the best care at a time when "hospital care is going down the tubes." Hospital staff deserves decent medical care, too. That was the concern of Maribel Guardado, Local 1004, a Henry Mayo housekeeper. She said her insurance costs are equal to what she makes in two weeks. How is she to feed her kids? Guaradado asked.
As the spouse of a nursing-home worker, John Thompson, Local 690, proposed a new resolve calling on Congress to prohibit healthcare institutions receiving federal funds from interfering with workers exercising rights to organize. His proposal was greeted with applause and readily adopted as an amendment.
Kim Peniska, Local 1187, called for more staffing and pay for nursing home workers. Pat Campbell, Local 731, decried hospital closures.
‘HEALTHCARE FOR EVERYBODY’
"We need healthcare for everybody," Peniska said later during the Convention, speaking on another resolution that reaffirms UE’s support a single-payer healthcare system, like that in Canada, and especially the Labor Party’s Just Healthcare campaign.
The Convention approved the Policy Action Committee’s plan that calls on locals and districts to pick one or two federal or state election contests and present candidates with the Labor Party’s "Plan for Financing Just Healthcare." Candidates are to be challenged to support this solution to the nation’s healthcare crisis.
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