By Emily Hannon
Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center employees fighting for their rights | Photo: Indeed.com
On April 1, Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Pennsylvania released a statement that 34 of its residents had tested positive for coronavirus. Since then, the virus has continued to spread, and Brighton is now operating under the assumption that all of its 800 residents and staff members have the disease. Per official records, at least three residents died from the virus last weekend, but a source told The Times that the death toll could be as high as 13 as of April 13.
Many staff members have quit out of fear for the safety of themselves and their family. Ten employees at Brighton have already become infected with the virus. Matt Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, which represents workers at Brighton, said he had received reports that some of the employees “believed they were forced to work in unsafe circumstances and walked off.”
Failure to meet health code standards
Brighton has a history of failing to meet health code standards, which no doubt contributed to the spread of the disease. In 2019, U.S. Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey listed Brighton as one of 20 nursing homes in Pennsylvania that “consistently underperform.” The U.S. government website medicare.gov gives Brighton a “below average” overall rating, with a health inspection rating of only 1/5 stars.
Brighton is even flagged on the website as having a history of abusing its residents. Health code violations recorded in September and October of 2019 include failure to maintain infection control, failure to discard spoiled linen and dressing, and failure to maintain adequate hand-washing facilities.
In an interview last year, Yarnell claimed that “flat funding, low wages, short staffing and high staff turnover have created a spiral of declining quality” at Brighton. On indeed.com, dozens of reviews for Brighton can be found by former employees, most often giving a one-star review of their experience working there.
Complaints on the website include: “[they] don’t care about the patients,” “the building is filthy,” and one particularly insightful review: “No official training. Just figure it out on your own. […] Salary pay is a joke, lunches deducted you don’t get, lengthy hours you don’t get paid for at all but it is expected you stay to get work done. Severely short staffed daily. Minimal care is provided. It is all about pleasing corporate and the might[y] dollar. And absolutely nothing about the patients. The place is archaeic [sic], filthy and dilapidated.”
The workers of Brighton know where the money is going that should be paid to the employees and spent on the residents’ care: to the corporate owners. Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center has for-profit, corporate ownership. While the workers of Brighton are risking their lives on the front lines of the pandemic, the mysterious figures behind BL Capital Group Holdings LLC, DNS Group LLC, and Fair Oaks Family Holdings LLC rake in the profits.
This thievery has long been justified by a capitalist ideology that pretends the capitalists are the “risk-takers.” But where are these capitalists now, while the workers risk their lives to save the lives of others? The truth is that workers take all the risk, and workers make the world run. There is no need for a capitalist class, and all the corporate owners of Brighton have done is degrade workers’ conditions and sanitary conditions to such a point that the lives of 800 people are at risk.
The events unfolding at Brighton are a frightening sign of what is to come if the working class doesn’t organize to defend ourselves. In Pennsylvania, 518 residents living in long-term care facilities have tested positive for COVID-19, according to data released Monday by the Department of Health. Nearly 600 health care workers have also tested positive for the virus in Pennsylvania.
The U.S. government has left workers to die without any protection from the coronavirus. The government has emphasized individual responsibility and social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus, but won’t even supply the basic items that citizens need to perform proper hygiene, such as masks and hand sanitizer, or even ventilators and protective equipment that medical and hygienic staff desperately need. Meanwhile, charlatan Donald Trump is spreading misinformation and confusion with his denials of the reality of the threat and his dangerous snake-oil cures.
It would not be difficult for the U.S. government to do what needs to be done to save lives: using the Defense Production Act, the government could demand that major industries start producing the items we desperately need: ventilators could be made by General Motors, masks could be made by factories that make clothing, and so on. Socialist states such as Cuba and China have already adapted their production at the drop of a dime to produce essentials such as masks. This is the difference when the working class in power, where the state defends the interests of the working class against the capitalist class, not vice versa.
Here in the U.S., the eyes of the working class are being opened like never before. Class warfare has taken on a literal meaning for many people in the U.S. in a way they haven’t experienced before. Using indoctrination and propaganda, the U.S. ruling class has long convinced the average worker that their experiences of violence and exploitation are not real; it is an “invisible violence” so-to-speak, and its most visible forms such as racism, sexism, LGBT+ bigotry and poverty are blamed on “human nature” and other absurd notions.
On the side of the workers or on the side of the capitalists
Now the working class can see clearly that the bourgeoisie is to blame for these manifestations of violence, for the dismantling of workers’ protections, and the degradation of human rights. The capitalist class will always leave us behind, and the question is not whether we side with the liberal or conservative wing of the bourgeois parties, but whether we are on the side of the workers or on the side of the capitalists. The capitalist class is organized, and so must we be. Only by organizing in a revolutionary workers’ party like the Party for Socialism and Liberation can the working class unite against those who wish to exploit us. Join the fight for socialism, join the Party for Socialism and Liberation.