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Working people’s blood for sale — prices lower than ever!

Published Dec 19, 2009 5:36 PM

The United States is one of a small number of countries that allow the sale of human blood plasma for profits. Across the country, countless workers are selling the yellowy substance found in their blood to the pharmaceutical giants of Wall Street.

Just as automobile capitalists seek to drive down the wages of U.S. autoworkers by forcing them to compete with workers in other parts of the world, now the blood profiteers of the pharmaceutical industry have moved their area of exploitation to near the Mexico-U.S. border, where workers are transported from Mexico to sell their plasma.

Esmeralda Delgado is one of these workers. She makes a mere $60 a week for having large amounts of her blood removed, then stripped of plasma and pumped back into her veins. It returns to her body chilled from having been filtered. (New York Times, Dec. 6)

As Delgado sits on a bed at a plasma collection facility in Eagle Pass, Texas, letting her blood slowly fill up a bag, she and her fellow workers/donors can look up at a banner that reads, “Save Lives. Earn Money. Feel Good.”

To Delgado and her fellow immigrant workers, “feeling good” probably means not starving to death, not being evicted from their homes, not seeing their children go to work as child laborers, and the rest of the “perks” derived from selling a natural human substance for the profit of corporate capitalists.

And the corporations get to “feel good” with the profits they make as part of a $12 billion business. The compensation that the workers/donors receive, officially for their “time” and not their blood plasma, is often a mere 10 percent of the value of the products manufactured from this essential part of human anatomy.

It is doubtful that workers like Delgado can afford to receive health care from the medical corporations that happily suck out their blood on a weekly basis. However, corporations that buy human plasma from desperate workers also have other means of making profits. Baxter International, for example, was recently prosecuted for jacking up prices for intravenous solutions. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said the company “published inflated average prices for its IV solutions, at times exceeding 1,300 percent more than the real price, which caused Kentucky Medicaid to pay substantially more than it should have.” The company reached a $2 million settlement with the state in July. (Business First of Louisville, July 2)

The plasma center in Eagle Pass, near the Mexican border, owned by Talecris Biotherapeutics — a wing of Cerberus and employer of former Vice President Dan Quayle — recently cut the compensation for its worker/donors from $80 to $60. More working people are desperate for money, so, like “the reserve army of labor” that forces down wages, a reserve army of plasma donors is created as jobs fade away, homelessness soars and desperation becomes part of everyday life in the age of crumbling capitalism.

At least 15 plasma centers are located in border cities in Texas and Arizona. Talecris’ four newest plasma centers have also been built along the U.S./Mexico border, where workers are willing to sell their blood plasma at much lower costs.

Karl Marx long ago identified the proletariat, or working class, as a group of people with “nothing to sell but their labor power.” It seems now that jobs are fading away and workers are suffering horribly, the capitalists can still pull more profits out of the misery and toil of those they oppress. It seems that human blood, like all else within the capitalist system, is not only a commodity, but one that can cheapen and diminish in value, as the profits of the rich soar ever higher.

The Black revolutionary Malcolm X seems to have been literally correct when he said, “Show me a capitalist. I’ll show you a bloodsucker.”