[Marxism] Re: home health care strike

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jun 10 11:05:15 MDT 2004

 From somebody who reads the archives:

> With respect to your post on marxmail about a victory by home health care workers in the 
> United States, I wanted to comment briefly as a disability rights activist and someone 
> who has worked in union side labour law. Obviously I strongly support the struggles of 
> home health care workers who clearly ought to be paid greater wages with greater 
> benefits. However, I am troubled by your comments about the melodrama of a paraplegic 
> without breakfast and a shower because these are also important civil/human rights issues 
> and your comment has the effect of pitting one group against another. I would submit that 
> unions in these fields need to form alliances with clients. I can't speak to the American 
> experience but my anecdotal insights in Canada suggest to me that unions have often been 
> highly insensitive to client needs and pit the unionized workers against the clients, 
> even on day to day issues. For some, a strike may be a class line issue and that's all 
> but I do have to question the use of the strike weapon (outside the unique context of a 
> general strike) where the impact on the clients could well be catastrophic, possibly 
> leading to the clients losing jobs (yes many people who use attendant care services also 
> have jobs) and frankly think that binding arbitration or some such solution is more 
> appropriate given the extremely unique context. A similar but not completely analogous 
> situation occurred in my home town where paratransit (door to door) bus drivers went on a 
> months long strike in a community where most of the regular buses (unlike the US) are 
> *not* wheelchair accessible, leading to some workers with disabilities losing their jobs 
> even as the regular bus drivers in a different bargaining unit stayed on the job so that 
> most of the general public was not even aware a strike was occurring. This is not 
> entirely the same situation as you describe because there was an independent (albeit long 
> term) solution of making the buses accessible (and one could even argue paratransit 
> drivers in such a situation have a vested interest in ensuring the regular buses do not 
> become accessible) whereas attendant care workers are already the optimal accomodation in 
> this situation. But still I think that a much more nuanced analysis is required because 
> the mass media largely ignores the issues of clients (which frankly include abuse by 
> attendants or home health care aides) except opportunistically in the context of strikes. 
> But your comment gives the misleading impression that mainstream neo-liberal periodicals 
> like the New York Times somehow favour disability rights or disabled people which is 
> demonstrably not the case as a content analysis of NY Times editorials will show.


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