Vienna health workers protest on May Day

Under the slogan, “Care beaten down: we're standing up!” ["Pflege am Boden – wir stehen auf!"], dozens of health workers from different Vienna hopsitals, and solidarity activists, staged a stunt during the traditional Austrian Social Democrats' May Day march. The action was organised by the group CARE Revolution Vienna, which is largely organised by us and also by comrades from the group Arbeiter*innenstandpunkt [Workers' Viewpoint], who produce the “Heartbeat” [“Herzschlag”] bulletin in the Vienna General Hospital (AKH).

We gathered at the CARE Revolution stall at 9am opposite the Burgtheater, to hear the speakers and chants. Then we marched up past the stewards towards the stage and the Social Democratic Party leaders, to make them aware of the situation that health workers face. At a pre-agreed signal (“Care beaten down!”), we all laid down and a short statement was read out. With the chant, “Care beaten down – we're standing up!”, the health workers rose up, literally and symbolically, and marched towards the stage. The whole action was very motivating and empowering for everyone involved – whether they had been active for years, or on their first demonstration. While [Social Democratic Mayor] Häupl looked on in bafflement, we raised placards bearing slogans like “No choice? Hospital strike!” or “Häupl spend 22 hours on a gurney” [a reference to patients being left on gurneys in corridors overnight due to bed shortages], to widespread applause from many on the demo. About 15 minutes later, we repeated the action on the ring road, because City Health Commissioner Sonja Wehsely was walking nearby. This time, the Social Democratic party staff reacted swiftly and whisked the politician 100 metres back from the flash mob in the march. For such people, any confrontation with the critical grassroots is unthinkable!

The RSO has been doing industrial work in the health sector for years. By distributing our monthly workplace bulletin, “KLARTEXT” [“Loud and Clear”], we heard lots of people saying things like “you guys are right, but there's nothing we can do.” We think: together, we can do something! And this action was a good example of just that. Above all, what's important to us is: we stand for self-organisation of workers in workplaces, and against leaving politics to representatives. Left activists from the outside can support, co-ordinate and suggest political perspectives. And we stand for long-term and continual work. We want to build up relationships and trust, and make ourselves useful. In that sense, we are making a call to the rest of the left too: make yourselves useful!

We will need to be in it for the long haul, because attacks on the health sector as well as against social standards more generally are going to get worse. We will need courage because their smears against protestors and people who resist will get worse as well. And we will need support, your support, because we want to be much bigger than we are. This system makes us sick. Let's fight for our health!