whose side are you on?
individual freedom is only possible through collective action.
greetings, huddled masses
many sob stories abound on The Online of late. the newest one? some nurses are getting sad because they are correctly being labeled as scabs.
i’ll briefly summarize:
some workers are organizing strikes (this is called ‘direct action’).
other workers, known as strikebreakers or scabs, are either ignoring or subverting this action (this is called ‘crossing the picket line,’ or what i like to call ‘direct reaction’).
the striking workers are trying to improve their lives and the wellbeing of their patients (made precarious by the decisions enacted by hospital leadership - shit pay, unsafe staffing, etc).
the strikebreaking workers crossing the picket line are trying to ‘get their bag’ (many of which are also made precarious - debts, student loans, healthcare and childcare costs, etc. - as many of us are. others are buying luxury items to flex on tiktok.).
some would say that crossing a picket line is unjustifiable in any permutation of the act. some would say this is behavior deserving of all the shame in the world; and still some would say - mostly historically now, luckily for scabs - that this is grounds for physical assault.
others would say that this rhetoric against strikebreakers is simply ‘bullying,’ or even ‘racist,’ which is shameful behavior in its own right.
the striking workers - who are fighting for improved working conditions, better pay/benefits for themselves and their families, safer staffing ratios (which means better patient outcomes), and more autonomy at work - are out of options; and by using the strike, they are utilizing the only leverage they have left: they are withholding their ability to work, or as Marxists like to call it, withholding their labor power. this should be fairly easy to grasp.
many of the strikebreakers - who are getting their bag - are travelers, meaning they pick (usually among many options) short-term work contracts all across the country wherever there is a ‘need.’ these nursing contracts, if you can believe it, are quite lucrative - paying upwards of several thousand dollars per week. and there’s a reason for this: hospitals will pay scabs more now in order to save cash later, when labor unrest dies down and wage rates for staff nurses stay stagnant because of scabs (despite historic inflation).
yes, the bag-getters can be quite sympathetic - that’s one of the chief ways they rationalize their suspect behavior, both to themselves and to onlookers. one of their favorite tactics (which just so happens to coincide with classic anti-union propaganda, funny how that works) is to cite ‘patient abandonment.’ how noble! who will care for the patients!!!!!! (curiously, when they leave their old gig for their new bag, the patients they indubitably abandon for their new assignment don’t seem to count.)
all this is important because if we are to grasp the idea of the strike through a Marxist hermeneutic, we’d realize that - especially in an industry like healthcare - when workers withhold labor (and there ARE safe ways to do so), they are grinding to a halt the functional epicenter of value-creation.
Adam Smith and David Ricardo, 2 Boss Babies of 18th-19th century classical political economy, put forth their own value theories regarding labor - at times unexpectedly based, at times pertinaciously bourgeois. we could maybe talk about that some other time, but the economy is kina boring.
in his critique of political economy (known widely as Das Kapital, or just Capital, if you’re a normal person), Marx puts forth his own Labor Theory of Value. the LTV is a theory of value that centers labor as the determinant of economic value - more specifically, the LTV holds that economic value is determined by the ‘socially necessary labor time’ required to produce goods and services.
simply, it means that labor creates all value!1
[why does this matter, who care, i’m too hot to pay attention to this, etc.]
well… if you take away the value-producers (like, say, if they go on strike)… how else could value be created for the hospital, who relies on profits for its continued existence (welcome to Healthcare, USA, baby)?
i suppose the hospital could automate their work, rendering their labor obsolete. but the question remains: doesn’t labor create the machines that would eventually automate work?2 (LTV strikes again! also, nurses are unlikely to be automated any time soon).
i suppose you could ask the hospital executives and administrators to put on some scrubs and start actually producing healthcare in their stead. oh hang on, they don’t know shit about medicine? oh dip is this tru guys???? wait if that’s the case, why do they keep most of the income and make all the decisions?????!!!!!?????? eh don’t let me get in my zone on this one. i’ll skip this detour for now.
oh, that’s right: i suppose the hospitals could just replace them.
for someone to say something like “strike assignments allow for strikes” or “calling us scabs is bullying” or “striking is a privilege” is to completely misunderstand the task at hand. it fails to see that workers who are organizing to strike are simply responding to the persistent bullying coming from their employers, who, by virtue of their ownership of the means of production, control said production and the conditions of their employment. if it smells like ressentiment in here, then i invite you to stop redirecting your guilt onto striking workers who are trying to improve their lives, as well as those attempting to show solidarity with them.
what do you think the point of a strike is, anyway? aesthetic posturing? Spectacle? views and likes?
okay, i’ll just tell you the obvious. the point of a strike is to freeze value creation. no value, no profits.
so when strikebreakers show up for strike assignments, contra to the requests of striking workers, they are not ‘allowing’ the strike to continue (the absolute hubris of that thought, lmao) - they are allowing value-creation to continue. hmm, i wonder who that benefits? [mr_burns_rubbing_hands_together.gif]
when strikebreakers are called scabs: YES! THAT IS BULLYING! THAT IS MEAN! AND THAT IS THE POINT! YOU ARE REACTING TO SOCIAL FORCES IN A SHAMEFUL WAY! YOU ARE TURNING ON YOUR OWN, WHICH INDEED MAKES YOU A CLASS TRAITOR! YOU IN FACT SHOULD FEEL BAD ABOUT THIS! IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE CALLED A SCAB, THEN DO NOT CROSS THE PICKET LINE! CONSIDER TAKING A TRAVEL ASSIGNMENT AT A HOSPITAL THAT IS NOT STRIKING OR PLANNING ONE! IF YOU WANT RESSENTIMENT, I GOT PLENTY RIGHT HERE!
how is striking a privilege when the most downtrodden and cast-aside have historically been the ones who’ve won the most demands for a better future? striking is not a privilege - it is a long-meditated, calculated risk among a collective force. do you actually understand history besides whatever your K-12 education told you and what you heard while falling asleep to the History Channel?
i ask again: whose side are you on?
and if you decide to take that strike assignment anyway: what would you prefer to be called?
we’re not going to call you heroes
we’re not going to call you friends
we’re DEFINITELY not going to call u late for dinner3
ASAB - ALL SCABS ARE BASTARDS (i’m workshopping this still)
i’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, but quickly: BLACK PEOPLE ARE NOT A MONOLITH.
when you talk about the ~lived experiences~ of some black nurses not being comfortable or welcomed in workplace organizing - valid. yes, i agree, racism still exists, and it has largely been deployed to the advantage of capitalists who will use any means necessary to stoke tensions and division among workers who otherwise probably have much in common. but racism within a union is not BECAUSE of the union’s existence - racism is a historically contingent phenomenon integral to capital accumulation over the last 250 years of Western global dominance. racism aids Capital - so if everyone joins the union, that acts as a force AGAINST capital - and necessarily, AGAINST racism. and if the unions are exhibiting signs of racism, then that’s a conversation and process that needs to be undertaken. the task then is to take it seriously, educate each other, and dig it out - not reject union organizing altogether.
and on the flip side, don’t forget to also bring up the fact that black workers are overrepresented in union organizing across the country. because to ignore the latter and center the former isn’t the gotcha you think it is. it’s a yes-and situation. and also, please don’t ask us for data to back up our claims (which we can surely procure, and so can you with a little effort) when the only thing backing up what you’re saying is word-of-mouth anecdotes and some instagram poll you made a vague reference to.
here’s a brief examination of unions before i wrap up.
generally, unions are the fuckn shit
true, not all unions are the same
but, the reason for this is that any union worth its salt requires the rank and file to BE ACTIVELY INVOLVED, not to just expect everything to be done for them by the union leadership. we already have a system like that anyway, and it’s - as you might expect - wildly unpopular, abhorrently undemocratic, and badbadnotgood: it’s called ‘representative democracy.’
“my workplace isn’t unionized, and i still get good pay and benefits.” yeah, because your workplace has to stay competitive with what unionized shops are offering. a rising tide lifts all boats, friends.
listen, a union isn't IT - but unions (and labor organizing generally) got the most receipts. so get organized.
the 40 hour work week? labor organizing.
the weekend? labor organizing.
benefits? labor organizing.
workplace protections? LABOR. ORGANIZING.
do you really need to get your bag at the expense of others just trying to get their due?
just want to be clear here that value ≠ price. we can discuss the so-called ‘transformation problem’ separately.
“Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.” - Marx, Capital vol. 1
one of my fav recurring patient jokes!