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
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
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.”
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