:: to the teeth ::    thoughts on social justice, medicine, race, hope and beats

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." :: Arundhati Roy ::

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." :: Alice Walker ::
Monday, July 10, 2006  

In Labor

I'm finally a second year resident in family medicine (yikes!). 2nd year started off with a bang -- I'm on week two of working at a hospital in downtown Los Angeles, doing obstetrics/gynecology. That means I'm triaging women who are possibly in labor early or in labor on time, admitting women to the Labor & Delivery section of the hospital, delivering babies (YAY!), assisting in cesarean-sections, and caring for women for the 1-3 days they're in the hospital after deliveiring their babies. I'm working with both physicians and midwives, which is a great experience. I've got lots of stories from my past week, but yesterday I worked overnight, and my last patient in the early AM hours was a 17 year old girl who came into the hospital to be evaluated because she was having contractions regularly. She was 39 weeks pregnant, so contractions would make sense, she was in active labor and ready to deliver her baby. The only issue? Well, she hadn't told her parents until that morning that she was even pregnant. They were livid, but calmed down appropriately in time. But what? She lives with them, and they didn't notice that she had gained weight or looked different. And in the process of not telling anybody, she never got any prenatal care. A social work consult was in the works, and I hope everything ended up going well in her delivery, which happened after my 28 hour shift.

During this month, i'm improving my baby delivering skills but also observing how the senior residents and attending physicians and midwives "coach" laboring women and gain great rapport with them as they're going through some of the most intense pains any of us may ever feel. Humor during this process really helps, and as we're crouched in front of a woman's vagina, coaching her to push as if she's having a bowel movement (to push the baby out of the vagina), the first bit of the baby we obviously see is his/her hair. So some of the more recent hair comments by the physicians:

"Oh my goodness, your baby has hair! We're off to a good start"
"Hmm...mommy your baby has black hair, no highlights"
"No way, your baby has a mohawk!"
or "No way, your baby has dreds!"

Day Labor

So moving on from the hospital to the folks who make it run -- nurses. Right now a battle is being waged against them by Bush's National Labor Relations Board:
In a series of pending cases known as Kentucky River, the Bush board could strip what remains of federal labor law protections from hundreds of thousands-perhaps millions-of workers whose jobs include even minor, incidental or occasional supervisory duties. The pending cases involve charge nurses in a hospital and a nursing home and lead workers in a manufacturing plant, but these workers could be just the tip of the iceberg.

The Bush National Labor Relations Board is easily the most anti-worker labor board in history, but even against this sorry backdrop, the scope of what they now are contemplating is breathtaking....

The stakes are high for the public, too. In health care, for example, scholarly research has documented that heart attack survival rates are higher for patients in hospitals where nurses have a union than in hospitals where nurses do not.

Already in 2000, months before George W. Bush was declared president, Human Rights Watch issued a powerful report that found U.S. labor laws were grossly out of compliance with international human rights norms. That organization's bill of particulars was lengthy, but the first item on their list was the failure of U.S. labor law to cover millions of workers, including among others, managers and supervisors in the private sector...

It is therefore imperative to push back against the Bush board's assault on workers' rights. We must, moreover, go beyond good defense; we must win serious protections for workers' rights. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is the most significant federal legislative proposal in nearly 30 years to protect the freedom of America's workers to form unions and bargain collectively. Since its introduction in the 109th Congress by Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., in the Senate (S. 842), and by George Miller, D-Calif., and Peter King, R- N.Y., in the House (H.R. 1696), EFCA has garnered 215 House cosponsors, just three shy of a majority, and 43 in the Senate...
(from Lawless Workplaces by Stewart Acuff and Sheldon Friedman of AFL-CIO

And more from AFL-CIO:
Have you ever shown a co-worker how to perform a task, or been asked to look over someone else's work? If so, your freedom to form a union and bargain collectively is in danger. The Bush-packed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is considering three cases that could alter the definition of supervisor—and that could mean hundreds of thousands of nurses, building trades workers, newspaper and television employees and others could be prohibited from forming unions...

During the week of July 10, hundreds of thousands of union members will take to the streets in a week of action to fight for their right to union membership. Already, some 7,000 nurses and other health care workers at eight New Jersey hospitals threatened to strike to protect nurses' right to speak out for their patients through their union.
You can send a quick letter to your congresspeople here.

And from the California Nurses Association:
The National Labor Relations Board will soon issue a major ruling that could jeopardize the ability of RNs to receive the protections afforded by CNA/NNOC representation. At the request of healthcare employers and anti-union consultants, the Board is expected to make the absurd ruling that many thousands of RNs are "supervisors" under the law because they make clinical patient care assignments to other staff. Under federal labor law, supervisors have no protection. THEY HAVE NO RIGHT TO UNION REPRESENTATION.
This coming Tuesday, CNA is organizing rallies in Los Angeles and Oakland. More info here.

Art and Labor

On a very related note, I'm hoping to check out the "At Work: the Art of California Labor" exhibit at Pico Gallery, Downtown Los Angeles, sometime in the coming month. Details below and more information here, comment below or email me if you're interested in joining me or if you've already checked it out! Looks good...
The story of labor - which comprises passionate struggles and triumphs as well as dehumanizing forces - has figured largely in the art of our time. At Work: The Art of California Labor exhibition opened at the Pico House Gallery at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument on June 13, 2006. It is the first exhibition to explore this important topic through the eyes of artists who witnessed or were inspired by some of the most significant trends and events in the history of the 20th Century...

Many Californians are aware of San Francisco's 1934 General Strike, but probably few realize to what degree labor movements shaped the state's political and social climate. Even fewer know of the copious art which both inspired and reflected California's labor struggles throughout the 20th century. "At one time, the strongest and most important artists in California made art about labor," explains Mark D. Johnson, Professor of Art at San Francisco State University. A mid-century backlash, however, including the persecution of labor sympathizers in the McCarthy era, has all but erased from public memory the very "vast and compelling" art surrounding the labor movements, he says.

And lastly -- Manual Labor

Ending on an upbeat note (pun intended), join me for some manual labor, aka dancing, each of the next 3 thursdays, at the Root Down party at the Little Temple in the silverlake area of Los Angeles. I've got each of the next 3 fridays off and I'm working each of the next weekends, so it's party time each thursday night, and this party/movement is where it's at.

(cross-posted at Los Anjalis)

posted by Anjali Taneja | 7/10/2006 01:22:00 AM | |


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