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

Human Services before Profits

Apr 17, 2023

About 39% of Michigan nurses surveyed for a new University of Michigan study said they intend to leave their jobs in the next year. The number one issue for 84% of the nurses surveyed is chronic understaffing. And this was the reality even before the first coronavirus cases. Nurses are leaving their workplaces and are exhausted because their working conditions have been unacceptable for over a decade, according to this study.

At a recent Michigan Legislative hearing at a Detroit high school, teacher turnover was the critical issue raised by students and others in attendance. In particular, in low-income communities, students who most need stable school environments have had to deal with a revolving door for teachers. One student who spoke said of his teacher: “She left because she wasn’t being paid enough …. " And after she left, another teacher in the building covered his classroom.

And at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the lack of staff and not being able to hire enough people is causing increasing workload problems for the remaining employees. DHHS does not appear to have a workable plan to deal with the hundreds of thousands of cases that have to be worked on.

Overworked nurses. Overworked and underpaid teachers. Not enough workers in the Department of Health and Human Services. If you see a pattern here, it’s because there is one. All of these jobs are human service field jobs: working with kids, helping people who are in need, whether health needs or economic needs. All of these jobs are vital, essential jobs. But they are not treated as such in a society that values profit over human service.

This system is therefore incapable of solving these problems. When it comes to health care, and hospitals, this is a country that is increasingly dependent on a privately run medical system which can, and does, deny quality health care and working conditions for health care workers.

In the case of teachers and schools, a high school junior in attendance captured the essence of the problem, saying, “... I’m asking that we get more funding for our schools and employees." But this is not a new demand. Legislatures and government have handed more and more of the surplus value produced by workers that should be going to public services like health care and education, and government programs like DHHS, over to the capitalist class. This class is intent on increasing its overall profit and it is increasingly absorbing an ever-greater part of public monies to do so.

For human services to be a priority, a fight—of nurses, of teachers and other school employees, along with parents and students, of public sector workers—will be necessary. And to make that fight succeed, workers in sectors of the economy that have the weight to unite into a powerful force will have to join them.