The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Healthcare Workers:
Pawns of Profit

Jan 31, 2022

Many hospitals in this country are operating with skeleton crews of nurses and other workers, pushed to the brink by the numbers of patients each one is expected to care for. But according to the New York Times, “in fact, there are more qualified nurses today in America than ever before." As nurses interviewed by the Times made clear, the problem is not that there aren’t enough workers, but that profit-driven hospitals fight tooth-and-nail to keep their costs down and profits up—employing fewer and fewer workers per shift, pushing those that remain to do more and more.

A legal battle in Wisconsin has illustrated the bosses’ calculations and the courts’ complicity in this problem. Healthcare workers at a ThedaCare hospital in northeast Wisconsin gave notice that they were taking jobs at another hospital, Ascension. One of these workers wrote that the job at Ascension was "not just (better) in pay but also a better work/life balance."

But when the workers took their grievance to their bosses at ThedaCare, they were told that “the long term expense to ThedaCare" of matching Ascension’s offer "was not worth the short term cost" of losing the workers, and so no counter-offer was made. Instead, ThedaCare sued—to stop them from quitting, and a Wisconsin judge granted ThedaCare a temporary injunction to prevent the workers from starting their jobs at Ascension! Only after who-knows-what behind the scenes, the injunction was lifted the following week, allowing the workers to begin their new jobs.

ThedaCare’s argument to the court was that patients would be hurt by their lack of staff. True enough, and it’s a problem entirely of the bosses’ making.