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

Washington, D.C.:
Health Care Workers Struggle

Jun 17, 2024

Around 150 medical workers at Unity Health Care, Inc. in Washington, D.C. organized a union last fall and are still trying to negotiate a contract with management to address their jam-packed caseloads. Unity is blocking them and insisting that their caseloads are acceptable.

Unity provides medical services at 20 locations for 90,000 of the city’s poorest people, especially homeless people and people in the city’s jail. The workers—mental health clinicians, nurse practitioners, midwives, physician assistants, and even dentists and doctors—are expected to see a client every 20 minutes. They say they often have to see 24 people a day, which means they have such rushed interactions that they can’t give proper attention to each person’s health problems.

Unity was founded in 1985 but its budget exploded after 2001 when the city closed its public hospital, D.C. General. Unity is technically a non-profit but takes in tens of millions of dollars from the city jail, Medicaid, and Medicare, holds millions of dollars in cash, and pays its top ten executives more than $200,000 a year each.

Ever since the workers unionized late last year, it looks like management is pushing people to quit—the union says 25 have resigned so far this year. Many positions were already unfilled. All this drives caseloads even higher.

Poor people and those who treat them get the shaft. Under capitalism, money rules.