Culture of Sociology

A month or so ago the New York Times published a piece on the comeback of the “Culture of Poverty” in research, and latently, in popular social imagination.

A month or so ago, I really wanted to write about this; my anger and frustration with the limiting perspectives in the discipline I “belong” to or am “trained” in and my fear about this rhetoric prevailing over years of other good studies of culture in sociology that have over again rebuked this strain.

And then, of course, busy ate me up.

When I posted this on my FaceBook, my comment that accompanied it was something to the effect of–“How predictable. Just when an economic crisis is settling in and aggravating lives, the idea of blaming people whose backs bear the burden of unemployment, retreat of the state and social services comes up.”

A colleague replied that he believed in studying cultural sociology to elucidate the different ways inequality outside of economic strategies.

I’ve been simmering on that comment, and the implications of this article for a month. Here are some questions that I have in a bulleted list because god forbid I write any coherent paragraphs:

  • I think studying culture in sociology is extremely important. But I can’t help but think about how culture and economy constrain each other, among other things that constrain those. I wonder why people keep separating these categories that are core in the rubric of neoliberalism. In sociology, why do we think when someone is studying economy, we’re not studying culture?
  • Neoliberalism circulates in culture. If and when sociologists study culture, in a perspective of just showing how people live, and deriving theory inductively from the data, then are we not reproducing that neoliberal culture and bottling/booking it up for secondary consumption? And more importantly, who gets to consume it?
  • When did the culture of poverty ever stop as the way governance shapes how marginalized people are treated?
  • In what way is sociology in service, intentional or unintentionally, to neoliberalism?
  • Why do sociologists, both critical and mainstream, feel like they are not?

Sometimes, the culture of sociology upsets me. But other times, most times, I feel like the potential in scholarship and education is limitless. And, yes, I’m ending on an optimistic point so that I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time in graduate school.

Harvey “Crises, Geographical Disruptions and Uneven Development of Political Responses”

Seminar 1 – September 1, 2010

For next week’s seminar, we all read David Harvey’s “Crises, Geographical Disruptions and the Uneven Development of Political Responses,” which I’m sure will be available on davidharvey.org.

I found that this reading, after a summer of turning my brain into a bowl of oatmeal at the beach, at the movies, etc., was a definitely a good way to come back to school. Here are some points that I thought were quite interesting and helpful, both politically, for analysis of the sustained crisis, and, academically, for those of us who are theorizing the crisis as it meddles and explodes in the lives of people who live in the world:

In the first part of Harvey’s essay, he breaks down the many explanations provided for why the crisis happened:

  • the failure of regulation, like state regulation in the financial sector or controls over the “shadow banking system” or regulation of “big institutions” (not really sure what this is)
  • ignoring the many warnings that markets don’t correct themselves or the hypothesis that crisis is the self-correction of free markets
  • the crisis lies in the inherent depravity of some nations and cultures, the doings of what President Lula referred to as, “white, blue-eyed and out-of-touch-male world of Wall Street”

Harvey says its a little bit of all. I think what’s helpful about this breakdown is that it get to the core of what conservatives and neoliberals point to as the root of the crisis. Of course, later, Harvey discusses the arrival of “systemic risk” in the discourse of economists trying to fix the crisis, which to Harvey, sounds a lot like Marxian analysis of chronic problem of capital–crisis. But its helpful to think about these explanations because these are the very ways politicians, still wedded to free market capitalism and authors of current racist, xenophobic policies that shape work in the US and globally, are thinking about fixing things.

Harvey then lays out a historical-geographical timeline about the current crisis which can be found here. Basically following economic insulation of particular nation-states from 1945-80, deregulation of finance capital in the early 1970’s ala Thatcher and Reagan, mobile capital and the onset of globalization, rise of international competition and a shift of power to E. Asia, effectively 2 corollaries of power that arise from that accumulation of dispossesion and the primacy of finance capital over goods, the dependence on debt and bubbles!

Always useful info, always a good reminder.

Then, he is heavy into Marx, (which I love!). “Capital, Marx insists, is a process of criculation and not a thing.”  He re-establishes in this essay that capital’s main concern is to circulate and sustain growth, aka accumulate. And in the context of the crisis he notes “potential blockages” in the circulation of capital:

  • “State-finance nexus”: the problem between finance and production capital
  • Workers organizing
  • Running out of nature to exploit (even thought Harvey argues that nature’s limits are often defined socially)
  • Labor process and laborers slowing that process down, on purpose
  • Human wants as potential barrier, the reason why capital is always in search of compound growth and innovation
  • The last one, I’m not so sure, I understand but its called “Capital Circulation as a Whole”–damn, how could that be a potential block to capital? Ahhh, I wrote capital too many times!

Ok, 2 more things.

Harvey states that, “Capital moves its crisis tendencies around geographically as wella s systemically.” And he points to how the crisis happening in particular locations didn’t affect others in some locations. For example, the burst of the mortgage bubble in So Cal, Arizona, Florida, etc. didn’t really touch Canadian and E. Asian financial institutions because the systemic dispersion of finance capital, and its disorganized organization, developed unevenly.

Last, in his theorizing about a “left alternative,” he states that the problem left movements must contend with is “compound growth for ever is not possible.” That probably sounds annoyingly decontextualized. But earlier in the essay, he argues that “tomorrow’s growth creates the effective deman for yesterday’s expanded product. The effective demand problem today is coverted into a problem of finding profitable new investment opportunities tomorrow.” He’s arguing that this logic is not sustainable.

Therefore, he recounts Marx’s “co-revolutionary theory,” a dialectical unfolding of seven facets of the body politic of capitalism, which I will not state here because its 7 more things to type.

But basically Harvey is arguing that if the identified problem is as stated above and, the currently, failings of past movements and revoutions occupy and are obstacles to left movement-building, what we need to recognize is the need for a coherent anti-capitalist, revolutionary movement. He ends his essay with a sweet thought for a Friday afternoon, “why not also say, ‘another communism is possible’?”

 

Migrante International

If you are or you know anyone that is a migrant and is in need of help, please go to Migrante International’s new online complaint form: http://migranteinternational.org/?page_id=1187t

Prison Industrial Complex (Immigrants included)

Yesterday, Ruthie Gilmore said, “If we want to understand the prison industrial complex, we have to talk about capitalism.”

Today, I echo her and add that if we want to understand how capitalism will expand the prison industrial complex we have to look at how the neoliberal state is looking for more black and brown bodies to sequester as surplus populations.

Immigrants are the new markets for prisons, Arizona is the new stomping yards.

‘Gender Gap Index’ Not Reflective of True State of Filipino Women

“A glaring proof that Filipino women are still living in oppressive conditions – even though the country ranks high in gender-based indexes – is the increasing number of victims of violence against women, most notably, gang rape,” said Lana Linaban, secretary general of Gabriela.

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Marian Acosta-Doydoy, 30, married with one child, did various jobs on a contractual basis. She was already working for two years as a sales clerk in a boutique shop and was up for regularization until she got pregnant and was forced to resign.

“They terminated my contract because I’m pregnant. Their policy is that a sales clerk should be single,” Doydoy said.

Acosta-Doydoy worked for various companies. She worked for five months as a cashier at Value Point supermarket, but her contract was not renewed. She worked at an electronics firm for five months and her contract was never renewed. She worked as collator in a health care company. She was removed from work nine days before her contract expired because the company terminated the services of the manpower agency that hired them. In her recent job as a coordinator, her contract was renewed three times. “They renewed my contract every five months because of my performance,” Doydoy told Bulatlat. But the company offered a maximum of three five-month contracts so she was removed again.

Doydoy is only one of the many Filipino women who have no choice but to agree to work as contractual employees. And their dire situation keeps them disempowered.

In the recent Gender Gap Index by the World Economic Forum (WEF), thePhilippines ranked ninth in countries where women are “empowered”. The Philippines is also the only Asian country to make it to the top ten.

The WEF is an independent, non-profit international organization. It is composed of top business leaders, international political leaders, selected intellectuals and journalists. The Global Gender Gap Index was developed in 2006. It uses Gender Gap subindexes such as economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.


Marian & Kalai Doydoy

However, Gabriela said the system of ranking is misleading. The WEF uses quantitative measures without looking into the qualitative aspects. In the category of economic participation and opportunity, for example, it merely computes how many women are in the workforce without considering how they are being treated in the workplace.

Lana Linaban, secretary general of Gabriela said WEF’s figures might be accurate but it does not dig into the real situation of women. “The WEF concluded that the gender gap is getting narrower and that there is equality between men are women but in reality that is not what is happening. Additional burden such as child rearing, doing household chores and abuses are not looked into in the survey.”

Gabriela said in a statement that the high ranking the Philippines received in the Gender Gap Index should not be mistaken to mean that Filipino women have been fully empowered nor have been freed from oppression. The Gender Gap Index simply measures the “gender-based access to resources and opportunities in individual countries” rather than “actual levels of available resources and opportunities”. For example, it could only tell that less women trail behind men in access to rights such as education. But it does not show the fact that the widespread poverty in the country has prevented millions of children, both male and female, from having access to education. It might reveal that more women are in high positions in companies, but it does not show that the eroded domestic economy has rendered millions of Filipinos, especially women, jobless.

Women Still Living in Oppressive Conditions

Linaban pointed out that even though more married women compared to married men have jobs, it does not mean that these married women are free from abuse. “They may have jobs and might even earn more, but they still do the household chores, take care of the children’s needs, and worse, still suffer maltreatment.”

“A glaring proof that Filipino women are still living in oppressive conditions – even though the country ranks high in gender-based indexes – is the increasing number of victims of violence against women, most notably, gang rape,” Linaban added.

According to the 2009 data of the Center for Women’s Resources data, there were 9,797 cases of violence against women. One to two children are also experiencing violence every hour. There are nine children being raped every day, while there are six to seven battered children every day.

“The most recent gang rape of a volunteer nurse in South Upi, Maguindanao is a grim evidence of this reality,” said Linaban. “During the same month the rape in Maguindanao happened, a woman was forcibly taken in a van and raped by three men in Quezon City. Aside from those cases that hit the news, Gabriela also received an increasing number of unpublicized cases of gang rapes. In 2008, there were six cases that we handled; seven cases in 2009; and eight cases from January to September in 2010. “Worse, most of the victims are minors.”

Meanwhile, Doydoy, now unemployed, is again looking for a job. It has become a cycle, she said. She is now preparing her papers for her application for employment in Dubai. (Bulatlat.com)

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Population pill

If you’ve ever been to the Philippines–well, Manila, at least–you’ll agree that it is one packed, overpopulated place. The Guardian in the UK agrees.

So, Gabriela Partylist (the only women’s partylist, representing women, by women) has introduced, House Bill 3387, one out of 6 reproductive health bills so that abortions can be provided safely and, because they don’t want to come off too strong against the Catholic church, they are proposing for one day off for each month of a woman’s pregnancy so she can see the doctor. (In my humble opinion, they should really have more time off..)

I know its bio-politically weird to offer medicalization to resolve the social and geographical problem of people living on top of each other, because that’s what Metro-Manila looks like. But it’s a step towards helping women gain more autonomy over their bodies. I’m for that.

Insecure Workers, Secure Labor Brokerage State

Last week, I was alarmed to see that the brand-spanking new Aquino administration put OFW assistance on the chopping block to be cut. The Inquirer reported that last year’s P50 million legal assistance fund would be cut to a meager P27 million this year. Why was I surprised?

Because, as you may have noticed, I’ve been reading Anna Guevarra and Robyn Rodriguez’s book these past few months while I’m writing the book review for both books and I was thinking about what kind of labor brokerage system would cut its own institutionalized regulation of migration.

Yes, I know that neoliberal immigration policy requires the cutting of social services for any and everyone but I thought that the management of migration would top the list of a neoliberal state, such as the Philippines. Cutting assistance for their biggest money-making machine seems crazy to me. Why would they do that? Wouldn’t they want to have some contingency plan for the very migrants that are turning the wheels of long-failing national economy?

Of course, the response of workers is fury and outrage.

And then yesterday, on Bulatlat, I read some news that a group of Filipino women migrants in Dubai were jailed for their expired visas when their negligent employer abandoned them in inhuman conditions. These women who were brought to Dubai to work as “cleaners and office assistants” and trying to keep things together when their boss took off were called into question because male members of Filipino community were aiding them medically and with food.

The sad truth of the 46 women in Dubai is that their migration and deportation spins on the formidable axes of gender and unstable jobs in the informal labor. They got shipped to Dubai to work because they were women and they’ll get shipped back to the Philippines, essentially, because of their suspicious womanhood.

Then, synapse.

Perhaps the cuts on legal assistance, leaving a (gendered) migrant population vulnerable is complementary to the unstable, insecure, informal jobs that demand for their labor. That leaving migrant workers out there in the world without help, ensures the security of the Philippines as a permanent revolving door for global workers.

Same problem, different places

“Nearly 190 million people, about 3% percent of the world’s population, lived outside their country of birth in 2005.” says the mighty NY Times.

I’ve been thinking about how this “migration” problem isn’t just a Filipino thing. Duh, Val. But really, what I was thinking about is how Filipinos aren’t alone in the problems they face in and during migration.

Yup, just like any good sociologist would do.  I’ve been trying to categorize different themes that where migration becomes a contradiction. Well, migration under a neoliberal political and economic climate, to be specific.

I mean how many states are wishing to be better labor brokering institutions, how many governments are aspiring to be good wells of indispensable and disposable labor, and more importantly, how many people in the 3rd world are looking to get out via migration, how many families are getting shafted because of it, how are countries sustaining the absence of its citizens.

Here are some themes I’ve come up with:

WANTING TO STAY HOME, NEEDING TO GO

Malaysian people sound a lot like women in my research who desire to stay home but realistically cannot.

SURVEILLANCE AND THE DISCIPLINE OF MIGRANT BODIES

One thing I thought that was super helpful when I read Foucault was when he wrote about the disciplined subject and the surveillance of population. Sure looks like that in China.

MIGRANTS AS CULPRITS

http://www.altoarizona.com says it all.

There’s more but they’re hiding in my brain.

Lesson of the day, pals: Migrants of the world have, now more than ever, many things that they are experiencing together, albeit apart. We, immigrants and migrants, have to stand together.

Here’s a good way to do that: IAMR3. Peep.

Making Cake

A cake is hard to make. It is a calculated science of measurement and timing. That’s why I’ve never baked one, at least from scratch. But making cake has another meaning, in hip hop, it means to make lettuce, cheddar, skrella…money. This is also a science. It is also a calculated science of measurement and timing. Both for workers and employers, nation-states and capital.

Last week, the New York Times covered the Philippine phenomena of OFW and remittances. It seems like every 8 months or so, someone in the times writes about this particular topic. In the four years, I’ve lived in New York, I’ve collected some 15 articles from the Times and one cover story from the Times magazine.

I can’t really complain. I think that the fact that remittances went up by something like $10 billion dollars in under a decade is something to be impressed about and written about, since it is on the backs and sweat of millions of Filipinos working overseas that the Philippine national economy is floating. And the authors from the Times do a fair (but not critical enough, for me) job in scrutinizing the state for its systematic production and brokerage of global laborers. Other people do and are doing that research and critique way better (see Guevarra and Rodriguez‘s new books, learn em’!)

But what I wonder about when I’m reading these pieces on the times is the very social contradiction that OFW (Overseas Foreign Workers) or migrant workers face, when they go home, when they don’t, when they choose to leave, when they have to leave, when they send money back, when they don’t, I mean, you get my drift.

There are so many pros and cons to the situation of migrant labor in the Philippines. As demonstrated by AUTHOR, we see that remittances don’t only support families but it also builds community centers and supports infrastructure like schools.

But all in the same breath, the words “lazy” and “arrogant” become affixed to families of migrant workers. Parents that go abroad to support their families are stigmatized, valuing money over their families and obsessing over status symbols. They are judged for begin able to afford the things they once couldn’t but not being there to enjoy it. Sayang is the word in Tagalog.

For migrant workers, at least the ones who I’ve organized with and grown to love here in NYC, this sounds really lose-lose. They’re already away from their family and working ridiculously exhausting jobs here in the US and still, they are the “bad ones” for leaving homes in the Phils.

I think, and I really want to write about this in my dissertation, that its the idea of family (the heteronormative, catholic, feudal-patriarchal, colonial type) in the Philippines that dig migrant mothers and fathers into this deep whole of social contradiction.

I think another is what Anna Guevarra calls the “social heroism” hoisted upon migrant workers by the Philippine state, that then has no real substantial meaning outside of remittances, migrant workers’ investments into their hometown infrastructure (a responsibility the neoliberal Philippines state abandoned long ago) and the reputation of the Philippines as a productive 3rd world “developing” into another kinda world country via docile and disciplined global workers. And obviously these three are really only about the state as a fixture in neoliberal development.

And of course another is those agencies, like Atikha, mentioned in the article. The agencies, employment, finance management, etc., the intermediaries and mini-neoliberals that are constitutive of the labor brokering state that is constitutive of global policies of migration as development.

The last sentence of this most recent article states “They’re fully furnished with plasma televisions and ovens, but there’s no one to bake a cake.” Cake, huh? Its apparently more complicated than just buying ovens.

Ain’t nobody said that makin’ cake was easy, anyway? In hip hop terms or in baking terms.

Racism & Homophobia in a Ring

A lot of Filipinos, friends and otherwise, have expressed their disappointment and sheer disgust for Floyd “Money” Mayweather on their respective interwebs interfaces. And rightfully so.

Manny is an icon in contemporary Filipino culture. He’s a great fighter. Sometimes people misunderstand why he’s a congressman, and sometimes I think its because he’s got money and therefore, following Filipino corruptionary, he should have some power.

Still, young and old, FilAms, Filipinos in the Philippines and Filipinos everywhere, really, love him because he put us, our face, our country back in the American popular, mainstream culture like no one has been able to before.

The contention around the anticipated and suspended-in-sports-promotion-purgatory Mayweather and Pacquiao fight has always been about race and masculinity. I remember a conversation between me and an African American friend of mine, and he said, “I love the Pacman! Manny is an amazing pound for pound fighter, but…I gotta go with Money Mayweather because we gotta stick together.” I said, “Right, right.”

But what ain’t right is when people are racist and say racist things. And Mayweather did that. And that’s wrong.

ESPN writer, LZ Granderson, writes an amazing commentary about, 1) how Mayweather’s apology is an afterthought and insincere, and more importantly, 2) how his racist epithets are excused by Black organizations and Black leaders because he is, in fact, Black. Granderson makes a good argument that highlights how people of color, not just Black folks, internalize and distribute racism as well.

But this whole debacle is also dripping with homophobia and masculinity.

Jamilah King of the trusty and always on-point Colorlines also provides a provocative commentary on the situation highlighting that Mayweather apologized for everything but his homophobic slurs. And why would he? All he was criticized for in popular media and the surrounding technologies was his racism, not so much on the homophobia he so effortlessly used and probably immersed in as an athlete.

The practice of hegemonic masculinity in this particular incident is through violence, homophobia and sexualization of another man. And it is all informed by the different ways brown men are pitted against one another in a roped cage for the amusement and entertainment of others. This is no current phenomena. It’s an old trick in the white supremacist, patriarchal, heternormative book: divide and conquer.

The racialization of masculinity in boxing has had one of my friends call it, “The Oppression Olympics.” Everytime 2 brown men are slated to fight one another in the ring and they happen to be Black versus Filipino, or Mexican versus Filipino, or Mexican versus Puertorican, there always seems to be this triumphant claim to nationalism and ethnicity that have people ready to ‘rep their set’ and say disgustingly hateful things to the ‘other.’ We (Filipinos) all participate in this, especially during a Manny fight–thinking that if we all send him good thoughts all at the same time that it’ll make him stronger. Or if we chant his name at the same time from our living rooms in California to Tondo to New York and Hong Kong, that his opponent will hear us and he will collapse from our global booming voice. But really, at that moment, we’re really hoping that the other (insert ethnicity) contender will lose and all we can see in our narrowest target is that contender, their brown face, their nation, their people. And we want them to lose.

This affect of hate and pride, puffed up chests and grunts are part of a masculinity that can only be a loose iteration of hegemonic masculinity, a masculinity of power, capital, control (political and economic). It’s about a horizontal violence against other ethnicities. It’s about a violence that not only puts a contender to the ground for 10 seconds, but its about a violence that reduces that contender’s body into the weakest being: a homosexual, an effeminate, the feminine, the deviant.

But, then I pause, and really ask, for whom is all this hatred stirred up for?

It’s really a produced and reproduced cycle of people of color exacting hate and violence on one another because they are who one another sees in the ring, in the streets, in the bodegas, in the neighborhood. I wish I could say that Mayweather’s remarks about Manny can stay in the business of boxing ring, but unfortunately, its bigger than that.

And perhaps, someone, should remind both Mayweather and the Pacman that regardless of if they fight or not, violent masculinity is still tearing up my brothers out there in the street, day in and day out, uStream or not.

Un-Warren-ted Assumptions

Last week, wrote a bit about the Filipino nurses in California, via California Nurses’ Association (CNA) filing a lawsuit against California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) about hiring discrimination against Filipino nurses.

After the news of this discrimination suit spread through local and national circuits, Warren Browner, the CEO of CPMC released the below letter to Terry Valen, the organizational director of San Francisco’s Filipino Community Center and the co-signed folks who are in support of the campaign.

Today, I’m writing about the assumptions Warren Browner writes with in his letter response to the case and campaign, and his blog posting about the issue. You might want to browse through that as well, here.

Dear Mr. Valen,

Thank you very much for your letter sharing your concerns. It’s unfortunate that you waited until after the news conference to ask us about these claims. Had you approached us earlier, we would have been able to reassure you that the California Nurses Association’s allegations are ridiculous and based on non-existent numbers.

As you know, many of the nurses at our St. Luke’s Campus, and at our other campuses and medical clinics in San Francisco, are Filipino. We are honored that our nurses choose to work at CPMC and greatly value their skill, compassion and commitment to caring for our patients. We are also proud of our long history of diversity in hiring and our commitment to being an equal opportunity employer. We would never discriminate against any individual or group, nor would we allow any member of our staff to order anyone else to do so.

The allegations made by CNA are serious, but they are also dishonest and without merit. The union claims that, based on CPMC’s own numbers, it can show a pattern of discrimination in the hiring of Filipino nurses. But those numbers do not exist. We have no way of knowing how many of our nurses are Filipino. We know how many are Asian and can show that 66 percent of the nurses at St. Luke’s today are Asian by self-report (up from 63 percent in 2007) but we don’t know how many are Filipino any more than we know how many are of Chinese or Japanese or Korean origin. We do not ask about country of origin.

In the news release that we sent out in response to the allegations, we quoted two Filipino nurses who have worked at St. Luke’s for a combined 31 years. Both were shocked and dismayed at the union’s desperation in making those claims. Here is what our nurses had to say:

Emilia Maninang RN, Clinical Nurse Manager in the Skilled Nursing Facility/Sub-Acute care unit at St. Luke’s: “I have worked at St. Luke’s for 19 years and no one has ever told me not to hire Filipino nurses. I’m Filipino, and if I had heard anyone say that I would’ve been appalled. I think the claims are part of CNA’s agenda to try and make CPMC look bad.”

Rose Duya RN: “When I heard the allegations made by the union I thought, ‘They must be desperate.’ I’m Filipino, most of my colleagues here at St. Luke’s are Filipino and I have been to many of the other CPMC campuses and have seen many other Filipinos there as well, so I don’t see how the union can make those claims.”

It’s also important to note that Emilia Maninang is on the hiring committee at St. Luke’s, so she would certainly know if there was any policy not to hire Filipino nurses. She says no one ever said anything like that to her, and if they had, she would have reported them.

The truth is the union is making these claims is to cover up its failure to win a contract for its nurses despite three years of negotiations. We recently offered to give our nurses a 2 percent raise. We believe the nurses deserve the raise for their hard work and dedication to patient care. However, union leaders have fought against our offer to provide a raise to nurses and we believe their discrimination charges are designed to divert attention from their own failure at the bargaining table.

We share with you in having a deep and abiding disgust at any form of discrimination and we welcome an investigation by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. We know it will show that the allegations are false and without any merit and that CNA made these false claims knowing full well the numbers they were citing were concocted.

We stand by our record as an employer committed to diversity. Our goal is to attract and recruit the very best employees who reflect the diversity of our patients and our City.

I have let all CPMC employees know exactly how I feel about this issue, and encourage you and the co-signers of your letter to read what I wrote (http://talktowarren.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/some-are-harder-than-others/).

I hope this addresses your concerns and answers your questions. If you would still like to meet with CPMC, please contact Kevin McCormack atmccormkd@sutterhealth.org or 415-600-7484.

Yours truly, Warren Browner, MD, MPH CEO, California Pacific Medical Center

Here are 5 things wrong about this letter and Mr. Browner’s weird and patronizing blogpost:

1. This letter is condescending. Don’t call a concerted, community effort to bring to light an issue that is obviously of utmost importance to them, their families and their livelihood “ridiculous.” Because then you’re ridiculous.

2. A “long history of diversity in hiring” in an institution that has over 50% Filipino employees is not diverse hiring. It is an investment in hiring of cheaper labor, cutting cost and working in cahoots with a country (the Philippines) and its labor export policy for extracting migrant labor for American niche economies. More broadly, induced migration due to the underdevelopment of a country, like the Philippines, coupled with a “labor-brokerage” system (see Robyn Rodriguez‘s break down of that there) means that first world, ahem American, needs for service and health industry jobs are met with priority.

3. Mr. Browner is engaging in a very familiar ‘management’ tactic of putting workers against workers. Just because there are 2 other Filipino nurses who were willing to co-sign on to Mr. Browner’s defense, doesn’t mean discrimination isn’t happening. It means that discrimination is nuanced, and perhaps multi-faceted in the forms it takes and the scope it reaches.

4. Hatin’ on the unions and demonizing the good work they do to maintain the rights, wages and welfare of workers isn’t gonna make you look like a fair boss. It only makes you look like a type of employer who is threatened by worker power and collective bargaining power.

5. Mr. Browner, just because you’ve been to the Philippines and have eaten your share of lumpia doesn’t mean Filipino nurses are not discriminatorily exclude nurses in new hiring cycles under your administration. In his blog post, I’m not sure if it is in some effort to prove his allegiance to the islands, and therefore to the Filipino people, thus Filipino nurses. Mr. Browner writes an unnecessary and patronizing write-up of his tour of the Philippines where he points to tourist destinations and food as a notes to his public about his appreciation for all things Filipino. This is exercise in multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism as some sort of proof of awareness of the country is, at best, insulting and, at worst, voyeuristic.

Can’t get a break: Story of Filipina migrant workers

Often, in the spheres of the Global Forum of Migration and Development and/or the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency, icons of migrant workers are those that look like the pictures below. Smily. Shiny. Happy. Eager. 

But in the real world, the one that’s not smily. Not shiny. Migrant workers are dealing with some really complicated issues.

Most recently, in California, Filipino nurses filed a discrimination lawsuit against Sutter Health-California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) and St. Luke’s Hospital in the Bay Area. Administrators claimed that they were told not to hire Filipino nurses. Even though, Filipino nurses comprise more than half of nursing staff in any given hospital in the Bay Area. And heck, many hospitals in any major city in the US.

A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure to view an uncut version of the documentary, “The Learning” by Ramona Diaz. It’s a moving documentary about Filipino teachers from the Philippines moving to Baltimore, Maryland to work, their struggles with being away from home, the transition of dealing with American students and, America, and the contradictions in the process.

A couple of days ago, Colorlines magazine writes about an alarming trend among Filipino migrant workers in the US. Michelle Chen writes, “Filipina workers just can’t get a break these days.” Damn right.

There’s definitely something up with Filipina migrant workers and the type of discrimination they’re facing in the US.

I’m gonna think and sleep on this more tonight. I’ll write through it tomorrow morning.