Organizing for human rights as a nurse, during a pandemic

By Priyank Jindal, Philadelphia Healthcare Rights Committee

When I was a kid, the community college near me was offering free LPN classes, so my mom enrolled and got her degree, eventually going on to get her RN. I remember her graduation vividly.  I saw women with their families proudly beside them and I, too, was so proud of my mom. Growing up, it meant a lot to see my mom practice her independence and go to work everyday. Later, both my sister and I followed in her footsteps to become nurses. 

At the beginning of the pandemic I saw myself, my coworkers and my peers putting our lives at risk to do our jobs. I also saw how the interests of capital and big business were put before the lives of people in such a concrete way. The world has the resources to make sure that everyone has medicine, food, and housing, but the economic system we live in doesn’t care. Our current system is based on extracting profit from us to make a select few very wealthy. These conditions have always existed, but the pandemic highlighted them in an unprecedented way. I have seen the brutality of a system that left imprisoned folks to contract COVID and die with no health precautions, evict people in the middle of a pandemic, and workers forced to leave their jobs with no union protection due to lack of PPE. As much as I was enraged I also felt helpless about the power we had as a group of dispossessed people to change these conditions. 

I have been involved with activist work since I was young – working for immigrants’ rights or working with youth. Once I became a nurse I found it harder to plug into organizing work, so it’s been several years since I’d been involved in a mass-based organization. Then, a  friend sent me Put People First! PA’s (PPF-PA) Statement and Demands on the COVID-19 Pandemic. The demands were very clear, comprehensive, and resonated with my own feelings of anger and helplessness. I started looking into the organization more and really liked PPF-PA’s orientation towards organizing the unorganized. I also felt that, as a nurse, it was my responsibility to use my position to organize my peers and coworkers around the conditions we were facing. 

It’s important to build strong organizations that are based on the needs of everyday working people. In times of crisis, like the pandemic, these organizations can provide us with a way forward that continues to build political clarity and political power of the dispossessed. We don’t have the vast resources of capital, but we do have the power of the masses. The current system is based on exploitation of our labor and it is a parasite that is dependent on us to survive. The only way we will harness our power to defeat the current socioeconomic system is to organize. Separate we are weak, but together, united in our actions, we can exert our power and overthrow the current system that dehumanizes us all. This is why I joined Put People First! PA. 

Always Forward, Never Back!!!

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