Labor Day, which we celebrate tomorrow, originated in the 19th century. Back then, working conditions were abysmal for common laborers, and the holiday came about to support their fight for decent hours, fair pay, and safe workplaces. The ultimate result was an implicit social contract, supporting workers’ rights.
The COVID pandemic has tested that social contract. Frontline workers have been hit especially hard, for example in grocery stores, food processing plants, and restaurants, where employees can’t work remotely or escape to the countryside. Too many have been forced to choose between their jobs and their health, and too many have become our patients.
Thankfully, workers in medical centers have fared better, especially our own. Once we understood the threat, we provided all employees, not just clinicians, with PPE, testing, and vaccines. By any measure, our hospitals are safe places to work.
This weekend, let’s do something special for our co-workers by acknowledging their indispensable work. Too often, when we honor “healthcare heroes,” we neglect the true heroes, the frontline workers who keep our patients clean, who transport them to tests, who serve them meals, who scrub the floors, who guard the entrances, who answer the phones, who keep the lights shining and the water flowing. They’re the lifeblood of our hospital.
On this Labor Day weekend, let’s thank our healthcare partners. Their mission—a labor of love—is inseparable from ours. We’d be nowhere without them, and they merit our support and recognition. Let’s also honor the contributions of workers everywhere by advocating for their safety and wellbeing, which all people deserve.
Happy Labor Day, everyone.
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PS Tomorrow night is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Wishing a happy, sweet new year to all.