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Vol. 74/No. 36      September 27, 2010

(front page)
N.Y.C. rally opposes hospital
closing, builds for D.C. action
Militant/Seth Galinsky
Protest against closing of North General hospital in Harlem neighborhood of New York September 10. Two months prior St. Vincent’s, another hospital in city, was shut down. Workers at protest said they plan to attend rally for jobs in Washington October 2.

NEW YORK—“I worked at North General Hospital for almost 11 years,” said Josette Melendez, a medical assistant. “They threw us out with just four days’ notice.”

Melendez was one of 150 people at a September 10 protest against the hospital’s closing. The 200-bed hospital in Harlem shut its doors July 2, just two months after St. Vincent’s hospital in lower Manhattan closed down. North General’s emergency room handled 36,000 patient visits a year.

The hospital declared bankruptcy and its facilities were turned over to the Institute for Family Health, which set up a government-subsidized walk-in clinic. The deal was brokered by New York governor David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Congressman Charles Rangel, and Rev. Calvin Butts, chairman of North General’s board of directors.

The Institute for Family Health said it would accept job applications from former North General workers, members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, but refused to guarantee it would hire them.

Rangel and Butts promised a “seamless transition,” said Betty Jones, a former North General social worker. “On our last day management cleaned out the lockers of people that weren’t at work that day and put their belongings in the garbage.”

Jones pointed out that many of the laid-off workers are still without jobs and employees of the Institute for Family Health are getting paid 30 percent less. “You call that a ‘seamless transition’?” she asked.

The protest also promoted the October 2 march in Washington, D.C., for “jobs, justice, and education,” which is being organized by the NAACP AFL-CIO, and others. Similar demonstrations are being organized in Los Angeles and Oakland, California.

The 1199SEIU union says it has reserved 500 buses from around the country for the action in Washington. In New York the United Federation of Teachers; Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100; and District Council 37 and 1707 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees have put out their own flyers and are organizing scores of buses. Immigrant rights groups are also planning contingents.

Mobilizing unionists for October 2 was a major theme at an 1199SEIU delegates’ meeting in New York. Union president George Gresham addressed disappointment that President Barack Obama has failed to deliver on his promises. “We have to push the progressive agenda,” he said. He blamed Republican politicians for blocking the president’s legislation.

Some are putting forward protectionist demands. The October 2 leaflet put out by TWU Local 100 calls for government investment “in more buses, trains, and light rail built in the U.S.A.” and measures to reduce “dependency on foreign oil.”

Tens of thousands of workers are expected to join the demonstration, looking for ways to come together and defend working-class interests in the face of the grinding economic crisis.

“If they can close St. Vincent’s and North General, what about other hospitals? Which one is next?” said Melendez, who plans to march October 2.”  
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