The Spark

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

UAW announces boycott of The Toledo Hospital

Jun 11, 2001

The top UAW official in western Ohio announced the union would institute a boycott of The Toledo Hospital (TTH). The UAW also plans to boycott Paramount Health Care, the HMO owned by ProMedica, TTH's parent company.

The UAW alone counts for almost one fifth of members registered with Paramount HMO. Other unions, which are also being asked to join the boycott, account for a good number more. A boycott, if the threat were carried out, could seriously cut into the income of ProMedica. Clearly this threat is designed to make ProMedica management take a more "reasonable" stance toward the UAW, after the union campaign which just failed there.

The problem is, what do the workers at TTH think about the boycott, especially those workers who were active in the union campaign that just ended? Certainly the hospital management will tell them that the UAW is threatening their jobs by this boycott; and echoes of this could already be heard in the hospital.

The workers at TTH might nonetheless favor a boycott if they had discussed the issues and made the decision to call for one. They might have found it a useful tactic as one action in a broader campaign which they carried out to win their union.

But the problem is that this decision was made with no "input" from the workers at TTH –don't even speak about any real collective discussion or decision-making. They found out from the press.

The organizing campaign, itself, foundered at TTH because the workers who took responsibility for the campaign did not make the decisions as to how the campaign would be carried out. This was very useful for the hospital which made a point of playing on the idea that the union is not democratic.

From the 300 workers who stepped forward publicly to announce themselves as an organizing committee, despite the risk this entailed, to the many, many workers who talked non-stop to their fellow workers to collect the necessary signatures to even get an election –these workers were the basis not only of the union organizing effort, they were the union itself.

They are the ones who today still have the capacity to make a union function at TTH. To do it, they will have to bring themselves together to decide what they want to do and who will do it.

Whatever may come of this boycott, what they do will decide whether they have a union and, above all, what kind of union it will be.