Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thoughts on the division of labor

I got written up this past week for "rolling my eyes and having a disgusted look on my face," as well as taking too long to take the weights of the residents at last minute orders by my new power-tripping charge nurse. These extraneous, ridiculous reasons were the real reasons why they wrote me up, but she claimed that I had broken the rule of eating crackers in the residents dining room, which actually, everyone, including the nurses do. I guess I am sorry I broke the wrong rule at the wrong time, the one of a gazillion trillion rules that are made to be broken and enforced only to impose control when the bosses see the necessity for it.

I LOVE rolling my eyes at the charge nurse and pissing her off:) I cant help, and in fact I make sure that everytime I say my ritualistic "bitch" under my breath after interacting w them, it is inaudible to their ears. But  they are so evil and racist!!! I just dont think I deserve to be written up for it. So begins my little battle w them. I am trying to get them to revoke the write up.

I have been having some conversations recently, of how there is an emerging "healthcare worker" subjectivity. Paul Romano's American Worker was powerful not only because it described the self activity of workers, but because it resonated with the experiences that hundreds of thousands of workers were experiencing on their own jobs, revealing the texture of their working lives, frustrations, emotional and mental states of minds in a way that even a super dope theoretical piece would not be able to do . If healthcare is the new auto of US industry, it is not surprising that the texture of life under a authoritarian, careless, profit mongering system of commodified care, would generate similar experiences.

M. recently make a joke that I thought was insightful as well. He talked about how people back in the day would wear carpenter pants as a fashion statement. He was saying, maybe if there are big political movements within healthcare, people might start wearing scrubs down the road as signs of their fashion statements.

Not that I care much about fashion statements -- I desperately need one! :) But more so because the subjectivity of healthcare workers -- the many different layers of it, not just doctors and nurses, but CNAs, housekeepers, Medical Assistants, EMT, etc etc, is something that is so rich and exciting to discuss and observe and gather! This is the best of recognize and record! And if we are able to contextualize that certain subjectivity and experience, within the structure of capitalism and understand that relationship to be dialectical, that workers ourselves can also play a strong part in altering, it would be such a breakthrough for demystifying this system, depersonalizing and de-internalizing our individual stresses as responses to the system...

Anyways, 2 thoughts on division of labor in the nursing home

- the shower aide position used to not exist. the CNAs used to be the ones who would give the showers to residents. they now created the shower aide position after we went through that tedious struggle with them...and now they are trying to make it a different "category" from regular CNAs. Shower aides can leave earlier, as soon as they are done with the showers -- they dont need to help the CNAs either.
The effect of this:
they save money -- they spend less money on the shower aide because the hours are decreased

they systematically deskill the CNA position -- so where in the past we would be giving showers, possibly doing rehab physical activities with residents, now we are just cleaning and toiletting. this gives them a pretext to say: "Why are things difficult? You dont need to give showers anyway, there is less work to do!" AND also a pretext to say: "Since this job requires less skills, you can make less money."

This is part of a broader system of how division of labor had been used as a mechanism for creating race and class divisions within the field of nursing. Again referencing works by Evelyn Nakanno Glenn and other healthcare/reproductive labor historians, the history of the division of labor, of certifications (coached under the pretext of needing skilled work) has alot to do with white supremacy and the subjugation of working class women of color.

This also provides insight for why the nursing application processes are so difficult and intense. Wouldnt it make so much sense for workers who are in the lower rung of the healthcare industry, to be learning/interning with their nurses and have that be a way for people to gain entry into nursing school? But no, you have to go through this entirely external process that looks at your fucking GPA and not work experience, that looks at just a bunch of certifications and how well you jump through bureaucratic loopholes, rather than having some easy way for workers who work full time in a healthcare setting, to have easier access to education. Given the history of licensing and cerification as a mechanism by the all-white American Nurses Association (ANA), the focus on licensing and cerification as part of nursing ladder/track, is aimed not primarily at skill development, but at keeping certain people OUT of the field, and keeping them IN subjugated positions.

Last observation, is how I feel like if my work as a CNA was not just about toiletting people, but also about organizing activities such as bingo, bowling -- right now work that is done by the all-white, higher paid "activities" people who order us CNAs around-- then at least the work would be more joyful and I would actually be paid to build relationships with the residents. Right now, relationships form on stolen time on the job -- because of our self activity as CNAs, because we care about the residents in a setting that tries to make us dehumanized and uncompassionate. At work we say how we have to not be seen talking or relaxing with a resident cos the bosses will see that as slacking off and make us do extra work as a result. But the living conditions of the residents, and the working condtions for us, are so formed by the way the division of labor is structured. It does not need to be like this. I dont actually have to see the residents as only a bunch of diapers needing to be changed at specific times.

Remember how in American Worker, Paul Romano says that the auto workers manufacturing the cars say they would never drive any of that crap that they were building for sale? Among my coworkers, everyone says: Please shoot me before I end up in this position of living in a nursing home.
This, is how we feel about our workplace and our labor. What kind of deep alienation is that?? If we didnt have the economic pressures of having to make a wage to support ourselves, pay the mortgage, pay off the loans etc, I feel like healthcare workers could be at the forefront linking up with disabilities justice people to envision a better system of elderly care that is humane, loving, compassionate.

Last thing: I think in our world today, the categories of economism and political struggle are insufficient, even as they are still important!, as measures for assessment of political work. I think we need a new category that takes into account the ways individuals internalize the stresses of living under capitalism. This is already a terrain that the capitalists enter to increase our productivity, which mnay workers internalize, and individualize (therefore being hardworking by capitalist standards makes you a worthy person and being unemployed makes you crappy and lazy). Our work needs to also crack down the hegemony of capitalism in shaping peoples' internal emotional and mental judgements about themselves. I dont know what to call this. But I know its important for the experiences of healthcare workers where the systematic failures of commodified care are internalized as guilt and dehumanization for workers.

Going on a hike soon. Hello Portland and good, smart, dedicated revolutionaries who help me think through these ideas!

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