Keyword
in
Collection
Date
to
Download Folder

0 items

Houston Breakthrough 1980-04
Pages 14 and 15
Citation
MLA
APA
Chicago/Turabian
Houston Breakthrough 1980-04 - Pages 14 and 15. April 1980. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. August 28, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/4490/show/4477.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(April 1980). Houston Breakthrough 1980-04 - Pages 14 and 15. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/4490/show/4477

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough 1980-04 - Pages 14 and 15, April 1980, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed August 28, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/4490/show/4477.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

URL
Embed Image
Compound Item Description
Title Houston Breakthrough 1980-04
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date April 1980
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Physical Description 32 page periodical
Format (IMT)
  • image/jpeg
Original Item Location http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Pages 14 and 15
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name femin_201109_559n.JPG
Transcript smoking campaigns or early detection things like breast self exams and looking for the seven warning signals of cancer. That's just where the money's been. There's been a lot of pressure for researchers not to look at other kinds of preventative measures. ME: But the foundations will pay for doctors who are treated like magicians. SI: Right, you run in, and lie fixes it. Medical people like to be thought of as magicians. ME: How do you differ from the mainstream? How did you get into medicine in the first place? SI: In my freshman year of college I thought I'd like to be a doctor. I really wasn't sure. I had never known any physicians. My parents hadn't even gone to college, much less to medical school. I really didn't know anything about medicine and my advisor, an English major, told me, "You don't want to go into medicine. That's too hard. It will ruin your life as a woman. You're going to want a normal life. You'll need time for yourself and your family, to be a housewife." I got furious. I said, I'll show him. I'll go to medical school. That's how I ended up. I was always interested in it. At first I was interested in psychiatry. I started a major in psychology, then switched to basic sciences and ended majoring in biology. But I always thought medicine was an interesting pursuit. During my years in medical school I got really disillusioned and discovered that people didn't go into medicine to help other people. My whole idea had been to be like Florence Nightingale, just go out and take care of people. It seemed so nice. ME: Where did you go to school? SI: My medical school was in San Diego. People were treated like experimental animals there. They were used and abused and I really became disillusioned with the whole process. I was almost ready to quit school when I joined a group called the San Diego Coalition for Safety and Health. There were all kinds of workers in the group. One woman had been trying to get compensation for a back injury she got while working as a waitress. There were construction people and a motley crew of nurses and medical students. We would meet and try to help workers with whatever technical skills we could muster. In the meantime, they taught us about the kind of hassles they faced on the job. I found it fascinating, a field of medicine I had never met in school. ME: Isn't there any occupational health training in medical school? SI: My entire training in medical school was with an orthopedist who saw a lot of people who had job-related back injuries or other job-related health problems. My introduction to occupational diseases was him telling me in clinic that any worker that comes to you with job-related problems is malingering until proven otherwise. In fact, he gave everybody with compensation forms a psychological test, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Test. You had to prove to him that you weren't faking it. That was the sum total of my training in occupational medicine, other than doing the extra activity with that other group. We'd get together once a month and talk about the kinds of problems these people were facing in their workplaces. I did a little reading and we did some screening, some educational sessions, and we passed out pamphlets on the problems of shipworkers for example. It was a whole process of learning one particular field where I might be able to use my skills and actually benefit someone. You see, the major clientele of hospitals are elderly women. They're the people who can afford to come sit in the clinic and wait three hours to see somebody about their health problems. You very seldom see active working people there unless it's an emergency. So the whole idea of reaching healthy people, and trying to prevent them from getting sick in the first place, really appealed to me. ME: How did that lead to working for the union? SI: After medical school f went to the Public Health school in Boston and got some more training in occupational medicine. In Cambridge, we were concerned with the problems of industrial pollution coming into the community. The working people turned around and said, "Hey, you think this is bad—you should see what I work with." So we started up this whole other field, looking at particular work problems. It was through the School of Public Health in Boston that I met Tony Mazzochi, the vice president of OCAW. He and the union arranged for some people to go do some electives with OCAW. I wanted to go to one myself but I couldn't. So that's how I met Tony. Last September I was in a complete panic about not knowing what I was going to do when I finished and I sent a letter to an old friend in San Diego. I told her I was going to be looking for a job. and she must have told Tony—and that's how it happened. I find that workers tend to minimize problems they have. They say, well, we think there's a problem here with cancer, but don't more people die of cancer anyway, because they're living longer now? When you talk about the general community, you're talking about people who are more susceptible than workers. Young children, infants, old people, people already diseased are being exposed to the same substances that make workers sick—albeit at lower concentrations. ME: Did you pick Houston to come to, or were you sent here by the OCAW? SI: Actually I chose to come. I picked Houston because this is where the District Union Director's office is and it's been really helpful and supportive. ME: Since Houston is so big, a lot of people think they are far away from what happens on the Gulf Freeway. Now they're facing threats from the wind carrying benzenes—is their water being poisoned by the refineries' pollutants too? SI: I discussed this at length with some people from the Air Pollution Board. I was very interested in the pollution in and around the Ship Channel area and how it was being monitored. The people in the Air Pollution Board told me, and I assume it was true, that the main concentration of pollution is around the Ship Channel area. But often, in the afternoons, there is shift of wind that takes all the stuff from down here and puts it up around in the northern sections as well. Pollution risks are even higher now during the strike, since inexperienced personnel are running the refineries. In addition, we are talking about more than just a basic health threat. We're talking about communities as a whole and we're talking about subsidizing companies who are doing all this polluting. You're talking about health costs, you're talking about just general clean-up costs that are borne by the society but are racked up by companies who aren't forced to take responsibility. ME: The strike by the OCAW may illustrate that. It came up over health issues, right? SI: Well it's not totally helath issues but our union does have a history of being very interested in health issues. Back in '73 there was a strike which concentrated totally on health and safety issues. During that strike there was a coalition between environmental groups and community health groups where lots of different people got together and generated a lot of interest in their efforts to get a safer work place. They understood that the community around the refineries was affected directly by the level of safety in the industry. There are three strike issues now and the whole conflict wasn't only about a two-year contract. The main issue is dental and health care benefits, which they're holding out for now. But in addition there are also wage and vacation issues. They started out by asking for full medical coverage but have negotiated down to much less than that. What I would really like is for the union to get enough for me to go and work for them, to subsidize me. ME: What are you doing out there anyway? SI: Basically I'm helping the workers define their problems and consulting with them on a medical basis. I would ultimately like to provide direct medical services to the workers. That is, a workers' clinic where the workers hire and fire the doctors and medical personnel—a medical service where they can raise issues and questions about job-related health problems without the fear of losing their job or getting transferred to another job. ME: Do the workers feel like you're not a real doctor? Do they think you're a social worker? SI: When I first started I used to get a lot of questions: are you real, where did you come from? Now I think they respect the fact that I had a certain amount of training, that I'm willing to work with them and their problems and to speak to the locals. I've been in some places where people told me it was the first time a physician ever set foot inside a union hall. For many of them it's the first time they ever had someone with professional training at their beck and call. I think it's good. It's a new experience for them. ME: Do you think it will change their view of doctors? SI: There is a lot of distrust of doctors and it has a long history behind it. I don't think that will change much. They may become aware of the potential of what might be in for them in medicine, especially if they have some power and control over it. I would ultimately like to see a union- and worker-controlled medical system where the doctor's responsibility is in fact to the patients and not to some company employer. In Cambridge, I started a clinic like that when I was in training. I provided a service for workers to get assessed for possible job-related problems. But again that was a clinic run by a hospital and we had to charge for it. Although we had a large clientele we were limited to the kind of people who could pay for it. And if you find anything it's damn expensive. I am talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars for evaluation, accurate evaluation. ME: Would you like to run a free clinic? SI: The medical problems in this country are tremendous and when you provide services in a free clinic, you find all kinds of problems. I learned that whenever you look at medical problems, you always have to look at the broader picture as well, at society as a whole. People have nutritional problems, housing problems. I worked in a free clinic and found people who would come to the clinic and not have enough money to buy the medicine you prescribed. A workers' clinic is a whole different thing. The workers would control their own medical care. It's a different philosophy. I think this is only possible through unions. ME: Well, are the sands of time running out for unions? SI: In Texas? There's a lot of sand . . . ME: It's been a right-to-work state. The Gulf Coast is beginning to catch up and ever SI: Yes, there's a problem with that. The general public's view of the union is that they're like corrupt politicians. L.G. Moore and Brilab, things like that always get a lot of press. The good things unions do, like working for health and safety issues which affect members and the whole town as well, never gets in. Unions support blood drives, churches and that sort of thing but never get the press for it. The image of the union is bad, especially in a town like this where companies are so powerful. ME: What's the union representation elsewhere in the state? SI: We have a lot of small groups in West Texas. Locals are everywhere but they're mostly small. ME: How do these locals survive if the company is anti-union? Do they go along to get along? SI: We do sit across the table from management. We may cooperate, but we are across the table. We have fairly strong union locals working for better safety and a better life out there. ME: You have a double stigma, I mean not only as a union member but also as a woman. Are you talking union blues, is the union a good boss? SI: I love working for the union. There 14 HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH exceed New Jersey as a big cancer center. Petrochemical pollution in the air has caused this increased danger." - Sharon Itaya are no better people as far as I am concerned. But it is predominantly male, 95 percent down here, and that affects leadership. Being a woman and working for the union has broadened my perspective on what medicine is. It's a lot more than taking care of people when they are sick, or just monitoring diseases as I did in my medical training years. ME: What are some of the incidents with the strike involving safety and health? SI: Well, these are just some that happened in this area in the last month. Last February 6 there was a sulfur dioxide (S02) leak attributed to Stauffer Chemical. It was contributed to by Charter Oil, which, according to newspapers, had a simultaneous leak, a problem with a fuel converter. S02 is an irritant which causes respiratory problems. At high levels it causes death. On February 12, there was a fire at the Union 76 Refinery near Nederland, Texas, in which one man was fatally injured, another burned. On the same day, an explosion and fire at Amoco. Texas City, killed two men. Then there was a fire, February 18, at Arco, Houston, with no serious damage. ME: Could you tell me about yourself? SI: Well, I was raised in a small town in California, Stockton, which is in the central valley. It is the home of Maxine . . . Maxine who wrote Woman Warrior. It's the only thing that it's famous for. My dad was a barber. He lost his shop when there was this huge redevelopment so he went back to school. My mom started going back to school when I was in kindergarten. She became a school teacher. My dad also became a teacher later. I went to Radcliffe College in Boston. That was in the 60s and early 70s. ME: Boston was lively then. SI: Then there were anti-war marches, building occupations. And classes. I graduated and went to medical school in San Diego. I took part in a lot of groups, and in the feminist movement when I was in medical school. It was part and parcel of the whole unrest that led to the anti-war movement and other movements. It came out almost simultaneously. It was a real inspiration to me in medical school to think that a lot of women who had gone before me had tried to get into the professions, tried to get into medical school and that that was the reason I got in. I was fortunate to be there at the time. There had been so many that had tried to get in and had been kept out. The women in medical school were very aware of that as we tried to assure administrators that we weren't going to run out and get pregnant and drop out of medical school. We felt we had a legacy from the generations. ME: Was it a lasting breakthrough? Do medical schools still admit a quota of women? SI: I haven't been directly in touch with my school but I hear that 25 percent of the students now are regularly women. But you still don't see many women in positions of leadership. One thing that I worry about is that a lot ot women get in and seem to take for granted all the struggles that got them there. They identify closely with the male leadership. When I was in school ... ME: Back in the golden days. SI: Back in the good old days, we had a fairly strong woman's group. We worked very hard to educate our colleagues about their attitudes toward sexism and what they did to their patients. I met women, patients, who had no idea of birth control and their daughters didn't either. When you got pregnant and couldn't afford it, you had to get an abortion and that's all there was to it. Most of the medical students were racist as well as sexist anyway, they would talk of the patients as an Ml or OYOYOY (/// to indicate Hispanic women in labor and OYOYOY to indicate Jewish women). ME: Have you visited our splendid Texas Medical Center? SI: Yes, I've been in and out trying to find support for my worker's clinic idea. From what I've seen, it is white . . . male ... upper middle class . .. I've had a few run-ins with the company and the company doctors. I met with company-hired doctors and spoke with them about workers' health problems. They agree when we cite a problem but then nothing is done because medical decisions are compromised between them. My parents worry about me here. The only thing that got out about the strike was that some foreman in Louisiana got of fed. They tell me to lock my door behind me. ME: Well what things about Texas jarred your sensibilities? Anything? SI: You should have talked to me a few months ago about it. I used to rant and rave. Now I'm getting used to it. Morris Edelson is a general assignment reporter for the New York Times. APRIL 1980 15