Petoskey, Mich.:Nurses demand respect, patient care

About 280 nurses, members of Teamsters Local 406 at Northern Michigan Hospital (NMH), have been on strike since Nov. 14 to improve wages, pensions, working conditions, nurse-patient ratios, and other patient-care issues.

Teamster Local 406 spokesperson Sharon Norton told the World that after nine months on strike “the nurses are holding out wonderfully well.” On the condition of the strikers, she commented, “They are as strong and as committed as they were last November.” This is Local 406’s first contract fight.

The union says that nurses at NMH are forced to care for so many patients – often as many as eight per nurse – that providing appropriate care is close to impossible.

Nurses were forced to walk out after the NMH’s Board of Trustees refused to bargain in good faith late last year. The Board has since retained the services of notorious union-busting law firm, the Fishman Group, which advertises itself as helping to keep employers “union-free.” In addition to this, the hospital contracted with Denver, Colo.-based temp firm, U.S. Nurses, to replace striking nurses.

The strike has met with broad support from the local community, from Michigan political leaders, and from the national labor movement. As the strike has dragged on into the summer, signs appeared around Petoskey reading, “NMH negotiate.”

Norton described the support from the labor movement as “one of the greatest efforts on the part of organized labor to support the nurses.” She said that the Teamsters’ international and Teamster locals, nurses in other unions, and even non-union nurses have supported the strike based on patient-care issues.

Tucson, Ariz.:Retirees rally to save Medicare

Hundreds of retirees, people with disabilities, and supporters, led by members of the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) braved the blazing heat and demonstrated in front of ultra-right Sen. Jon Kyl’s (R-Ariz.) offices in both Phoenix and Tucson to protest his efforts to privatize and weaken Medicare.

In Tucson, two demonstrators, Charlie Salaz and Vikki Marshall, members of Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees, were handcuffed and arrested for trespassing when they attempted to cross the parking lot to Sen. Kyl’s office to deliver a letter explaining to the senator why they oppose the prescription drug bills and calling on him to hold a town hall meeting on the legislation.

On July 24 five ARA members were arrested for trespassing when they refused to leave Sen. Kyl’s Phoenix office until he agreed to hold meetings with constituents. So far he hasn’t budged.

“It is shameful that Sen. Kyl refuses to listen to the concerns seniors have with the prescription drug legislation,” said Edward Coyle, executive director of the ARA. “Seniors are going to do what it takes to be heard. They are not afraid to get arrested, they are not afraid to protest and they won’t stop until Congress comes up with a simple, comprehensive, affordable prescription drug bill under Medicare.”

At the Tucson rally, Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias told cheering seniors, “We need to put an end to privatization of government services. They are not thinking about the people served. It’s wrong.”

The ARA rejects current House and Senate bills because they fail to provide a guaranteed premium for seniors, have wide gaps in coverage and put patients at the mercy of private insurers, who can change premium costs at will.

Patterson, N.J.:Hunger striker in critical condition

As of Aug. 16 Nigel Maccado, a detainee in county jail, was enduring his 58th day without food. His hunger strike is a protest to his 21 months of internment. Although he is threatened with deportation to his native India, no charges have been brought against him. He is one among thousands of immigrants who are being held without any prospect of release.

Hemuauth Mohabir, another detainee, is an immigrant from Guyana who has been interned for 16 months despite his status as a legal permanent resident. He joined his fellow captive in the hunger strike 10 days after it began.

Maccado is unable to leave his bed. The doctor and nurse of the jail have failed to treat his dangerous heart condition or move him to a proper medical facility, allegedly telling Maccado that “you are trying to kill yourself anyway.”

The New Jersey Civil Rights Defense Committee held a Aug. 6 vigil outside the jail pleading for his transfer and release. Both Maccado and Mohabir have said their actions are an expression of outrage against the unjust internment of all detainees.

Joel Wendland, Brandi Kishner,
and Joe Bernick contributed to this week’s clips.