Low-level organising in a hospital

A hospital worker named Malcolm's account of collective organisation and counter-information in the workplace.

Submitted by Steven. on October 16, 2009

One day the three hospital workers I lived with showed me a memo the hospital put out announcing a picnic for the staff. It said you had to bring your own food. The administration thought they were doing all the workers a great favor sending them this invitation to a bring-your-own-food picnic.

We took the memo and reworded it so it said the hospital would provide steaks and a bunch of other stuff. We sent it through inter office mail so it went to every station in the hospital. Supervisors took it as a real message and posted it around their departments. Within a few days, the administration sent out a message saying, "Disregard all previous messages about the picnic. There is still going to be a picnic. The kitchen workers will be cooking up hamburgers and hot dogs." It went from bring-your-own-food to them providing it.

The hospital circulated another memo about everyone having to help cut labor costs. We replied to it by sending out one suggesting that the best way to cut costs was to move the hospital to Korea. We listed all the options for moving and some people read it and halfway believed it, then realized it just wasn't possible. It was one of those jokes that get to the heart of the matter.

The hospital puts out two magazines, one called Pulse and one called Pulsebeats. The first is internal, for employees, and the other is for the community, although it probably never gets out of the hospital. Because the memos we put out were well-received, we took Pulsebeats and turned it into Deadbeats. It was a complete parody of the official magazine.

Deadbeats was circulated and quickly became popular at the hospital. "We don't care" buttons were made and proudly worn by workers. Other hospital workers contributed material and another issue came out. Unfortunately, there were only two issues. The administration got wind of Deadbeats. They seized the mail room and searched all the mail packets to stop its distribution. The second issue was the last issue but a lot of people at the hospital still flash their "We don't care" buttons.

The stuff we did was well received. We only got negative reactions from one or two people. One nurse who made a comment like, "They must have too much time on their hands." I think that nurse was administrative and her job wasn't on the line.

It was a way of gaining leverage in different employee situations that were going on. They were cost-cutting and when they started to see all the sarcasm, they tried to do something that wouldn't get as big of a rebellion going. Judging from the stuff that was coming out, they knew they had to do something.

Text taken from Sabotage in the American workplace: anecdotes of dissatisfaction, mischief and revenge from www.prole.info