Call for Hospital Crisis Solidarity - Labour Day and Beyond!
This call is a response to rank-and-file health care workers feeling alone and abandoned as they experience an unprecedented crisis of working conditions and service provision in hospitals.
** THE PROPOSAL **
The primary idea is to hold autonomous events adjacent to hospitals, as hospital workers arrive and leave work at shift change time (for example, if afternoon shift change is at 3pm, the event could be from 2-4pm).
Some possible examples:
* A community BBQ picnic where the hospital workers can stop by for a quick meal and mingle with supportive community members;
* A 'Speakers Corner' where hospital workers can record a quick video or written note to be shared online;
* An action leafletting pedestrians and holding signs/banners visible to cars passing by;
* Or whatever else is inspiring to do.
This opportunity is for each and every city and town where a hospital is located. The call originates from the situation in Ontario, but applies across Canada.
There is no centralized decision-making for this; it requires individuals and organizations to step up as appropriate, to organize events customized to local capacity and circumstances. Please see the bottom section, "Tips and Considerations for Organizing" for further inspiration.
And to be clear:
(1) The suggestion is for events *near* hospitals, for example across the street or in a nearby park, not obstructing anyone from accessing the hospital - but in view if possible.
(2) #CovidIsNotOver - Along with mismanagement by government, COVID is a primary cause of the hospital crisis, and events should have COVID precautions implemented and communicated.
** THE PURPOSE AND POTENTIAL **
These #HospitalCrisisSolidarity events can gather people together, in shows of support and solidarity with hospital workers. This provides a morale boost, a possibility for hospital workers to mingle with supportive community members, maybe even be offered a meal (if it's a BBQ picnic event), and it can also draw more relevant media attention to the situation.
This is way for people, including organizations and union locals, to do something solid in person respecting the current health care crisis. Health care workers are unable themselves to take job action to force change; it is also demoralizing for people in general to not be taking action - or only virtual action - as the crisis deepens.
Such a gathering can also facilitate informal conversations amongst attendees toward possible future actions and community-building. And it is a way for organized labour to demonstrate their material relevance to these struggles through these events.
** MAKING IT HAPPEN **
This idea requires autonomous initiative, relatively quick time frames, and a level of risk-taking; it also requires strong communication and coordination. With the situation we face, it is worth doing and it is possible to do, wherever there is a hospital or alternate relevant location.
To help make happen:
* Communicate this message ASAP – to relevant organizers, to local councils and unions, and more broadly – by direct email, over email lists and social media*, and re-posted on web sites; also through printing off pamphlets or posters. Who knows who it can reach, and who might take up the initatiative. (*Use the hashtag #HospitalCrisisSolidarity, or possibly a provincial version, for example: Ontario = #HospitalCrisisSolidarityON)
* Actually talk with people about this, whether in person or by phone. Are they concerned about how the hospital situation is now, or what it might become? What do they think people can do about it? Think about bringing this topic up if you find yourself starting to talking about, for example, the weather or sports or the latest TV program.
* Depending upon your positionality:
(A) If you are a member of a union or organization, get the idea on the agenda of the decision-makers, and bring it to the awareness of other members.
(B) If you are a decision-maker in a union or organization, see how you can make this work, including with other community partners.
(C) If you are a non-affiliated community member, see how you can support an existing initiative, or initiate an action yourself.
See further tools and tips in the next two sections.
This solidarity action idea will only work successfully if people understand and communicate the value of doing this, and make it work!
** TOOLS FOR COORDINATION AND ORGANIZING **
The following tables of listings are crowd-sourced documents allowing people to post relevant info and to see what others have posted.
This empowers decentralized decision-making, knowledge-building, and connection. But they are only as useful as the number of people who know of them, and who use them.
Please do check back on these tables in the days leading up to Labour Day, and the weeks afterwards, to keep updated on what is being posted and planned.
* Local contacts looking to organize something
A list of individuals or organizations willing to take the lead in making something local happen, but without capacity to do it all themselves. Look here to see if someone's added their name to contact where you are, or consider adding your name if no-one else already has.
View table: https://airtable.com/shrEFPIXYVmTsBINJ
Add an entry: https://airtable.com/shr9vGReCm8qYzFTp
* Confirmed event listings (including Labour Day actions)
Once an event is planned and details are public, they should be added here so people will know about them. A second section in this same table includes listings of already-planned, non-hospital-focused, Labour Day events across the country (September 5)
View table: https://airtable.com/shr9EPdZ2wJkbM6aS
Add an entry: https://airtable.com/shr2QU7CzgXwL85n8
* Print materials for use as handouts and posters
PDF files can be uploaded here for people to print copies of and distribute at upcoming Labour Day events, at Hospital Crisis Solidarity events once they're happening, or in any other circumstances (at other community events, with random people you meet during the day, or leave a few at your workplace or in good community spots).
View table: https://airtable.com/shryJTwuggetu4Z7a
Add an entry: https://airtable.com/shrRRcFcs6VVJCccr
* Media coverage from actions and on the crisis overall
This is a two-section list for links to (1) media reports and self-made media about #HospitalCrisisSolidarity events, once they start happening; and (2) any general coverage of the hospital / health care crisis that's worth highlighting.
View table: https://airtable.com/shrkzKOVYEEU1dMmN
Add an entry: https://airtable.com/shrtBHbd71Ntzlw1T
Questions or other correspondence about these listings, can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
** TIPS AND CONSIDERATIONS FOR ORGANIZING **
This call originated in thinking about the traditional Labour Day march and picnic in Ottawa: What if, instead of marching in Centretown and having a BBQ at McNabb park, there was a march along Smyth and a BBQ across from the General Hospital, or a march along Carling and a BBQ across from the Civic Hospital?
But the timeline was too short for Labour Day, so the call is for events whenever they can be organized, and wherever makes sense, and whatever ideas for an event that can be pulled off.
(1) Ideas for events
Even if they aren't leading the organizing, union locals can be approached for support in the form of financial, in-kind, organizational, and communication support. Grocery stores and local radio stations may also be willing to offer support, as they often sponsor community BBQ events.
Think to involve kids in the plans for the event, maybe even in the planning!
Weekend afternoons may be the most opportune scheduling option, in terms of accessibility for the most people, if you are hosting a BBQ/picnic type event. Weekday afternoons or early mornings may be the most opportune for smaller events that are aimed at being high-visibility (large signs, etc) to catch some rush--hour traffic. Etc.
If the event will have a 'Speakers Corner' for hospital workers to record short video messages, maybe have at least two people with cameras to lessen any lineup that may form. Also have clipboards with paper and pens for any workers who would rather stay anonymous, but could do their message in written form. Plan how to best post these messages online - and once they are up, the link(s) can be added to the Media Coverage table above. Also get contact info from everyone who leaves a message (if they want) so you can send them a link once it's posted.
If the event includes food, it can make the link with the struggle of Migrant Farm Workers in Canada under the Temporary Foreign Workers / Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, who grow and harvest some of the food we eat. Three workers died earlier this month, according to Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), and Jamaican workers in the SAWP wrote a collective letter likening their conditions to systemic slavery. It's always good to make the connections between struggles and strengthen solidarity.
Events do not need to be endorsed by the unions of hospital workers - there are a number of reasons it makes sense to not put this responsibility on them - but be sure to send them notice, even ask questions in advance, and definitely request they ensure their members are aware of when the event will be happening and that they are invited to stop by. (In Ontario, relevant unions would include RNAO, ONA, SEIU Healthcare, OCHU/CUPE, and OPSEU; contacting the union locals is important, and they can let you know who else might be good to reach out to).
Web posts with event details can be created at mediacoop.ca, reddit.com (in the appropriate subreddits), on Facebook, and/or wherever else makes sense. Wording from this general call can be used and customized as desired, when creating a description writeup to use in the event post. Once posted, the link(s) can then be added with the other details into the Events Listing table above, to make it easy for people to find and share with their networks.
Contacting local (non-hospital) unions and organizations to partner on the event, or simply to help publicize the event, can help a lot. Think of who this issue is relevant is especially relevant for, but don't limit it to that. The list of Labour Day events in the Events Listing table provides one source of potential contact(s), either the contact info listed, or by being at the action on Labour Day and talking to people in person (maybe print some pamphlets to spark conversations). Making sure local media know the details about the Hospital Crisis Solidarity event you're holding can also be important.
-- end of post --
** ADDITIONAL NOTES: **
This post at the Media Co-op website will continue to be revised with any updates over the coming weeks, and is thus the primary link to use for sharing this call.
Also, a static (non-updating) version of this call posted at the north-short.info website is available for adding comments without requiring an account or log-in.
If someone can create a French translation of this call, a link to that can be included here too.