SAVE SAN LEANDRO SUPPORTERS UNITE! WHAT?
Someone tell SF Weekly if you want to stoke the potent mixture of ideologiy and nationalism, the recipe of the day is fundamentalist Islam, not communism. That’s soooo 1950, comrade. If the post-nuclear war holocaust of the 80’s miniseries “The Day After” didn’t spook you then the follow-up “Amerika” where the Soviets overthrew the U.S. government didn’t make you think your Datsun-driving, Crystal Pepsi-drinking neighbor harbored Marxist tendencies, either.
Then why did SF Weekly’s Matt Smith paint a well-meaning, yet assuredly shadowy activist group attempting to save St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco and San Leandro Hospital from being gobbled by Sutter Health, with such crusty Cold War descriptions in last week’s edition? Because the newsweekly may have had more economic reasons in mind.
The article attempts to link the Physicians Organizing Committee, a small band of well-informed, sometimes militant supporters of San Leandro Hospital, to the National Labor Federation (NatlFed). Some believe the labor organization has political ties to the communist party, but Smith ups the ante with wild accusations grounded in reading too many Cold War-era comic books than evidence..
“Historically, the stated goal of NatlFed is one that would likely even discomfit the Bay Area liberals the organization targets for recruiting: the violent overthrow of the U.S. government,” he writes. Ever been to Berkeley?
Other than numerous attempts to slip in nuggets of vintage Red Scare hysteria, Smith says the Physicians Organizing Committee and, by extension NatlFed, have never been charged with a crime and hilariously never accused of committing an act of terrorism. He cites lawyers who find nothing untowards by the groups other than their tactics grounded in common labor activism with a modicum of secrecy.
The Physicians Organizing Committee and the member cited in the article, Brian Tseng, have been ubiquitous at numerous meetings in support of San Leandro Hospital. Tseng, in particular, is known to be very passionate about keeping both hospitals functioning. A political consultant in the East Bay once told The Citizen, “Don’t get in an argument with that guy.” Make no mistake, Tseng is no shrinking violet.
It is not uncommon for volunteers to read pre-written statements in public hearings. Like the doctor, these people appear to have no idea what they are reading as they stammer over phrasing seen for the very first time. While the prose is illuminating and informative, they strike some observers as odd in their orchestration.
Some supporters, not affiliated with the California Nurses Association (CNA), say SF Weekly and Smith have shown a decidedly pro-Sutter/anti-labor stance in their coverage of St. Luke’s–the San Francisco version of the fight to keep San Leandro Hospital from closure. In it, Smith describes various gambits on the union’s part to stymie Sutter’s drive to transform the region’s hospital system.
The imagery of shadowy conspirators lurking in the shadows does not end with Smith’s prose, but is contained in a recent letter from an elected official in the East Bay. Fast forward to last week and Eden Township Healthcare District Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar’s “Letter to the Community” says essentially the same thing when he fingered fellow boardmembers, the community and unions as threatening the entire health care system. “The two Board members, encouraged by vocal supporters and labor unions in San Leandro, are secretly attempting to have the District attempt to rescind the agreement with Sutter Health which was approved by the District after five public meetings in 2007 and which lead to Sutter’s commitment to rebuild Eden and support San Leandro Hospital,” said Ratnesar.
If you need more evidence to believe SF Weekly is holding the bag for Sutter look no further than this pro-business statement: “David-versus-Goliath fulfillment of beating back a large corporation can confuse activists into thinking that victory comes when Goliath either dies or leaves town — even though exiting giants may take with them things the city badly needs,” wrote Smith.