L.E. Ikenga, American Thinker, April 2, 2020
For the last two weeks my cellphone has been ringing non-stop as healthcare recruiters from all over the Northeast have been trying to contact me. Pay rates for RNs, LPNs, PCTs, and CNAs in New York City have almost doubled seemingly overnight and they keep going up. Salaried doctors and nurses already on staff are facing some pay cuts, but NYC hospitals and nursing homes are desperate, and many recruiters are about to make a killing adding desperately-needed support staff that deal directly with patients. Something’s not adding up.
Less than a month ago, at the now infamous Elmhurst Hospital in Queens where patients with the Chinese virus are reportedly dropping like flies, the same recruiters were only willing to pay nursing assistants and patient care techs the federally mandated minimum wage with zero medical benefits, zero paid time off, and zero opportunities for a pay raise or professional advancement.
To put this into perspective, just a month ago, a person pouring hot beverages at an upscale coffee house or bagging groceries at a high-end food emporium in New York City made more money than a healthcare worker who was exposed to some of the same chaos and life threatening illnesses as is being reported on the news today.
The 24-hour news cycle shows Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo falling all over themselves to commend the “bravery and selflessness” of New York City’s frontline medical personnel. But why has it taken this pandemic for all of this praise and money to be heaped upon people who have been overworked and underpaid for years?
The answer is simple. Most of these workers are Third World transplants that form an endless pool of disposable low-wage labor for New York City’s nursing homes and hospitals. Many of them, yes even the RNs, have very low literacy skills; and having barely passed their licensure exams, they will put up with anything to keep their jobs. No amount of abuse is too much. And in fact, most of them are locked into their pre-Chinese virus wages, which means they are risking their lives and those of their loved ones for $15.00 an hour in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
However, the despicable ways in which these medical workers are treated notwithstanding, there are other issues that make this topic somewhat challenging to deal with. Unfortunately, it is impossible to draw attention to the conditions that these people are subjected to without drawing attention to ways in which they contribute to their own suffering and to the suffering of others around them.
For one, these workers tend to have complete disregard for professional standards. Second, because they are willing to work for cheap, healthcare facilities are reluctant to hire actual Americans with standard literacy skills; and third, since they tend to be ignorant of and apathetic towards the state labor laws, they enable abusive behavior from foreign born superiors — behavior that would never be tolerated by acculturated Americans. Although what these immigrant medical workers have to deal with on a daily basis is quite profound and needs to be addressed, one first needs to talk about how these people contribute to their own wage stagnation and why they are treated by healthcare agencies and many direct employers like slave laborers.
When I first started receiving calls about a week ago to work permanently at Elmhurst Hospital, even though the money was very tempting, two things made me decide against it: my health and the prospect of working with these low culture immigrants, mostly women from the Caribbean (Jamaica and Haiti), Africa, and the Philippines. My apprehension was two-fold. These women tend to be unhelpful, verbally combative and sometimes even outright refusing to speak English on the floor, making their medical units a multicultural nightmare. Their indifference to professional protocol also means that they can put your own license at risk. I have personally witnessed medical directors coming close to being suspended and investigated for careless mistakes made by medical subordinates who lied and covered up to save their own hides.
Careless mistakes happen because these workers tend to be very easily distracted, with very short attention spans. The chief contributor to all of this is that most of them are unnaturally addicted to their cellphones, using every free moment to check social media accounts, make calls, and to watch insipid videos. In most unionized facilities in New York City (1199 SEIU), walk onto any medical unit, especially in the nursing homes, and you will see bells ringing non-stop and patients in distress. But somewhere on the floor you will also find a cluster of nursing aides and nurses laughing loudly while watching videos until a supervisor is forced to come to the floor to crack the whip. In union houses they are very difficult to get rid of, and in non-union houses a flock of new hires is always waiting to take the place of those who have just been cut off. It’s a no-win situation.
Americans like me stick out like a sore thumb among people like this, which is why you see so few of us on these units. Various forms of subterfuge are used to discourage skilled Americans from applying for these jobs. Proper English grammar skills, both written and oral, are not seen as an asset, they’re seen as a threat. Being able to relate to patients in a professional manner instead of inspiring a calm and positive working environment, inspires jealousy. And advanced technical knowledge or even trying to maintain cleanliness and order is met with antipathy. Based on my experiences, I am convinced that one of the reasons that the Chinese virus has spread so rapidly in the city’s hospitals and nursing homes is because many of these workers have poor hygiene habits. In my observations, they use bare hands to do almost everything, with scrupulous hand washing rarely taking place. Being around people like this literally gives me the willies, which is why, again, I have turned down numerous offers.
In the end, workers like this who are simply not willing to raise their professional game tend not to have a leg to stand on when it comes to rate increases or being treated with respect. Their lack of interest in professional advancement is what continues to keep them at the bottom of the food chain in the medical field. But the effects of their dysfunctional behavior are very far reaching.
Socialist Dems like Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo know that the heartbeat of far-left New York is heavily dependent upon this kind of disposable and civically ignorant labor. Those workers who have managed to attain American citizenship overwhelmingly vote Democrat as CNN and MSNBC are the televised mainstays in most medical facilities. Their hatred for President Trump is rabid because they see him as anti-immigrant.
Thus, the mayor and other politicians like AOC never encourage this group to aspire towards attaining higher skill sets to meet market demands and making more money. Instead, they frame their plight in the language of division: the proletariat vs the bourgeoisie; business owners against the working class; President Trump against The Immigrant. Third World people who come from socialist countries with authoritarian leaders are very comfortable with understanding their lives in this way. This is how political jujitsu works.
There is a pandemic going on that is helping to move this vital issue away from the close scrutiny that it deserves. The Democrats have managed to talk out of both sides of their mouth regarding this issue, demonstrating their absolute best identity politics skills. They are teaching the master class how to keep the boot on the necks of the working maggots, as they feign compassion for the very people that they are crushing.
On the one hand, they pretend that they want the best for these people, like making more money and access to best that they city has to offer. Frontline workers this, frontline workers that. On the other hand, the politicians need these people to stay poor, uneducated, and to be filled with despair, or else they are out of a job. That’s just how the game works because no one is willing to call their bluff.