FILIPINO WOMEN PROTEST WITH THOUSANDS IN OCCUPY WALL ST. MARCH ALONGSIDE UNIONS AND COMMUNITY GROUPS IN THE STRUGGLE AGAINST CAPITALISM AND THE PROTRACTED GLOBAL ECONOMIC DEPRESSION

News Release
October 8, 2011
References:
Irma Salvatierra Bajar, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment-NYC, email: fire.nyc@gmail.com
Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA-USA, email: gabrielawomen@gmail.com

FILIPINO WOMEN PROTEST WITH THOUSANDS IN OCCUPY WALL ST. MARCH ALONGSIDE UNIONS AND COMMUNITY GROUPS IN THE STRUGGLE AGAINST CAPITALISM AND THE PROTRACTED GLOBAL ECONOMIC DEPRESSION


NEW YORK, NY—On Wednesday, Filipino women of grassroots organization Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), under the banner of GABRIELA USA, a member organization of the newly formed International Women’s Alliance (IWA), joined a mass rally and march to Zucotti Park, the site of the 3-week-long Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York City. The rally and march, organized by community organizations and labor unions, drew in thousands of participants and has been the largest demonstration since the launch of Occupy Wall Street. The rally commenced at Foley Square where more than fifteen public sector organizations and unions, including the United Federation of Teachers, United Auto Workers, and Transit Workers’ Union, gathered with other community and labor leaders to protest against income inequalities and poor public education in New York City.

FiRE marched with fellow BAYAN USA Northeast member organizations, Anakbayan New York, Anakbayan New Jersey, and the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, as well as with member organizations of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON). This Filipino contingent joined the “New York Communities Contingent” which included People’s Justice, Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, Picture the Homeless, and FIERCE. FiRE members chanted “The banks got bailed out. We got sold out,” carrying signs reading “No to Imperialist Globalization. End U.S. Economic Intervention.”

Malou Logan of GABRIELA Australia, which is also a member organization of the International Women’s Alliance, is visiting New York City and joined the march. Of the march she stated, “I joined the march in New York as an expression of my support, and to represent the voice of the Filipino women of GABRIELA Australia and MIGRANTE Australia. Wall Street is the financial capital of the world, the epitome of corporate greed that sucks all the profits labored by the immigrants and citizens of third world countries. We as immigrants in the U.S. and in Australia are forced to leave the Philippines to look for decent jobs for our families and the women workers bear the brunt of the financial crisis.”

Monica Moorehead, an organizer with the Women’s Fightback Network, and a steering committee member of the International Women’s Alliance says, “The Occupy Wall Street actions amount to a growing mass rebellion against the global capitalist economic crisis which has already devastated the lives of millions of people, especially women, and promises to destroy the future of the youth. This radicalization of youth must continue to open up political space for the workers, who are losing their jobs, their homes, their health care and their pensions, and the most oppressed, who face political repression in the form of police brutality, cutbacks in social services, and the prison industrial complex. The Occupy Wall Street actions must be wholeheartedly supported and continue to flourish throughout the globe until ‘Occupy the World’ becomes a reality, not just a slogan.  This dynamic movement inside the U.S. has been inspired by righteous occupations in Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, Spain and Wisconsin–many of them led by women.”

Irma Bajar, Chairperson of FiRE-GABRIELA USA, stated, “Women in the U.S. and all over the world have been fighting against capitalist exploitation, patriarchy, and multiple intersecting oppressions and discrimination. The enemy is this unfair capitalist system and imperialism. People across various immigrant communities and people of color have been standing in solidarity with Occupy Wall St. because people are fed up with the injustices and unfair systems.” Bajar continues, “As a Filipino American woman, I can connect the reasons why my mother had to leave the Philippines to the Occupy Wall Street struggle because of the economic conditions and joblessness there. Women are forced out of the country and legally trafficked by the Labor Export Policy that benefits imperialist countries like the United States and big corporations like Dole and Nestle.”

The International Women’s Assembly (IWA) successfully held its First General Assembly on July 5 and 6, 2011 in Quezon City, Philippines under the theme, “Advance the Global Anti-imperialist Women’s Movement! Strengthen the International Women’s Alliance!” FiRE-GABRIELA USA urges other anti-imperialist organizations to join us in fighting against capitalism and imperialism from the level of grassroots organizing expanding to global networks. Class consciousness becomes the basis for women to fight for economic equity, political rights, freedom of association, and to oppose colonial and imperialist wars.

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FiRE endorses the United National Anti-war Committee’s Sat 4/9 Rally!

Filipinos demand
US Troops out of the Philippines
US out of the Middle East
An End to the Balikatan Exercises
To Scrap Oplan Bayanihan!
To End all Human Rights Violations now!

While the major wave of anti-war organizing in US history focused mostly on Vietnam in the 60s, today’s wars take on a different shape in the international sphere.

With bombings of communities in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine, uprisings have spread around the world. As the international community, we must show solidarity with the people of these nations, and ensure that they aren’t left in isolation as imperialist nations, like the US, take advantage of a transforming Middle East.

Covert wars of imperialist aggression take place in the Philippines, as well. The heightened militarization of communities is justified through the annual Balikatan Exercises, or the bombing of civilian Filipino communities in the guise of war games between the United States and the Philippine military forces. Also, under Oplan Bayanihan, the Philippines’ war on terrorism, the Balikatan exercises are used to harass, disappear, and murder teachers, activists, journalists, organizers, and other community members, including women, children, and the elderly.

For women, any time there is an increase in military presence there is also an increase in forced prostitution, trafficking, cases of violence and beatings, and rape, such as in the case of Lance Corporal Smith, when he raped a Filipina named Nicole. Sex-subsistent economies surrounding military bases become the more common practice, as opposed to creating viable industries and sustainable forms of employment which would not leave Filipina women as vulnerable to exploitation.

With increased military presence all over the world, wars of imperialist aggression urge the formation of a strong and united anti-war coalition. As GABRIELA USA and FiRE NYC, we’ve endorsed the United National Anti-war Coalition’s, or UNAC, Rally this Saturday, April 9th at Union Square in New York City. Along with 500 other local, national, and international organizations and groups we demand all

US Troops out of the Philippines
US out of the Middle East
An End to the Balikatan Exercises
To Scrap Oplan Bayanihan!
To End all Human Rights Violations now!

Hope to see you at Union Square , this Saturday, April 9th at 12noon!

No Security for Those Who Safeguard Our Health: The Effects of the Economic Crisis on Queens Nurses

Maria is a Filipina registered nurse who lives in Elmhurst, Queens. As part of the 16 Days to End Gender Based Violence campaign, we interviewed Maria about the closing of St. John’s Queens Hospital as a result of the economic crisis. Below is her oral history.

St. John’s Queens Hospital in Elmhurst closed on February 23, 2009. I don’t know how many people were laid off with me. Thousands, maybe. They said it was because of bankruptcy. St. John’s was a private hospital and it started to ask the federal government for help to survive the crisis, but they didn’t receive enough. Maybe $2 million. I’m not sure. The problem for the hospital was getting reimbursements, like from Medicare and Medicaid and other insurance companies. Mostly from insurance. If the insurance did not pay the hospital, well then walang pera/there’s no money. No money to pay for supplies, like linens, and instruments like catheters. How can you give service without the supply? And there are a lot of hospitals here. The federal government can’t give money to all the hospitals. It’s like you give all the services, but it doesn’t come back the same. You don’t get paid for the services you gave.

The hospital hired consultants who traveled from all over the country, like Texas, kung saan/wherever, to come see what the problem really is. How come there is no money? Ano talaga ang problema ng organization?/What is really the organization’s problem? But think about how many figures the consultant makes. We have to pay them still and provide amenities during their stay. The consultant stays for a year, then the hospital hires a new consultant again.

The whole hospital was affected when it closed. Everyone from top to bottom, even management. We were an 1199 hospital. Now, there are some people who work there since they were 18 years old, 20 years old. That was their home base until now when they are in their 60s. When the hospital closed, the retirement age is 62. So you get financially penalized for the unexpected closure na ‘yan. Let’s say you’re 61, at gusto mo na mag-retire/and you want to retire. There is a deduction in your retirement plan.  Instead of getting 100% of your benefits, you only get some. Not unless you go to another 1199 institution. But since you’re 61, who is going to hire you? It’s not our fault na nagsara ang ospital/that the hospital closed. Some were only short of turning 62 by 4 months, but there was still reduction sa retirement benefits nila.

I don’t know what happened to them. I think the hospital gave it anyway even if they were short a few months. I think they gave the whole benefits. What I’m talking about is if you’re older. Do you really wanna start a new job at 61? Who will hire you in this job market right now? There is also a freeze in hospital worker hiring. Meron akong kilala/I know someone, she used to be a clerk at St. John’s, but now she can’t find a job. She can only volunteer at a hospital and she lives off of unemployment benefits. She’s 50-something years old. What’s nice sometimes is that 1199 gives assistance in finding a hospital. They match you to an employer hospital. Pero ang problema diyan/But the problem with that is the older people, that they were forced to retire.  What can they do?

Tapos, you’re comparing benefits. St. John’s is an 1199 institution, right, so their medical benefits is different from NYSNA (New York State Nurses Association). Ngayon, with NYSNA, if you get a prescription alone or go to the doctor, meron kang co-payment/you have to pay a co-payment. Kaya ang mga kumare ko, sabi nila, “Ipasok mo na kami sa  _________ Hospital!”/So my girlfriends said, “Get us a job at _________ Hospital!” _________ Hospital is also an 1199 hospital, so if we get jobs there, we have no co-payments. They felt the hardship of the closing in the cost of their medication. I feel it in the bills I have to pay. I have to tighten my belt. But do we have a choice? No. Noon, pagsinabi mo na ikaw ay nurse, madali ang kumuha ng trabaho. Ngayon, oh…waiting list./Back then, when you say you’re a nurse, it was really easy to get a job. But now… you’re on a waiting list.

I already had another job at _______ Hospital. Actually, I was working at three hospitals at the time of the closing. So you have to get a per diem job.  Kaya nung nagsara/So when it closed, I was just lucky that I already had that job at ________. How about yung wala/those that didn’t have a per diem job? My kumare, if I didn’t get them the job at _________, where will they get a job? How many medical personnel were laid off? How many hospitals closed prior to us? Parkway, Mary Immaculate, St. Joseph’s, St. Mary’s… The hospitals weren’t able to survive. For all the nurses laid off, how many other hospitals were left to absorb us: Elmhurst, North Shore Forest Hills, Mount Sinai Astoria, Jamaica, Flushing, New York Queens? And competition is stiff right now. Sampung nurses pupunta sa isang ospital/Ten nurses go to a hospital, and they only need two. I had a co-worker, she only had an associate’s degree for nursing. Not a bachelor’s. She got really sick, because of the stress from the hospital closing. She was 55 years old. Sabi nya/She said, “Who will hire a 55 year-old without at least a bachelor’s in nursing?” And then imagine if she did find work. Starting all over again is stressful too.

Poverty, limited job opportunities, and the Labor Export Policy in the Philippines push 3000 people out of the country in search for work abroad.  More than 50% of them are women.  In the United States, 13.5% of Filipino women are nurses and other health diagnosing and treating professionals.  Out of all Filipino women living and working in the local New York/New Jersey area, 30% of them are nurses and other health diagnosing and treating professionals.  Based on the 2000 Census, they are overrepresented in this occupation compared to the general population.  The hospital closings in New York in 2009 affect a significant population of Filipino nurses and their families locally, nationally, and in the Philippines.  Not only were jobs lost, but access to medical care was also severely cut in the working class, immigrant, and people of color neighborhood communities that faced hospital closings.  Among Filipino migrants, it is a wide belief that nursing is a viable occupational option for economic well-being. Its value is facing a shift during the economic crisis, however, when jobs, even in the United States, are becoming more and more scarce.