Tenacity, Versatility and a Will to Survive Help Surgical Technician Linda White Overcome Financial Challenges Due to COVID-19August 11, 2020
Just a few months ago, Linda White had a predictable work schedule and she was making a good salary as a surgical technician at St. Petersburg General Hospital. She had reached a comfortable stage in her life. White was able to pay her mortgage and other living expenses and she had time to enjoy her grandchildren. She was living the American Dream until the coronavirus surfaced in Florida. The life-threatening virus made doing the job she loves a risky venture because it is such a highly contagious disease. The pandemic also prevented wary patients from coming into the hospital for elective surgery. As a result, White’s hours were drastically reduced. Eventually, all elective surgeries stopped leaving White fearful she wouldn’t be able to make ends meet.
“The first time I got a paycheck it was so little I cried,”said White. “I don’t want to lose my home.”
Her initial shock and fear gave way to resolve because as the breadwinner of her family, she knew she had to find additional work. So, White opted to work in other departments in the hospital. She did any assignment that was available including cleaning toilets, in order to get enough work hours and pandemic pay so she could pay her mortgage and other bills.
“I did what I had to do,” said White who is the sole provider for her houshold which includes her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. “I would have worked at Dominos if necessary so I can feed my family.”
White has worked odd jobs, shifts and hours. She has answered call lights, conducted COVID-19 temperature screenings for anyone entering the hospital and she has cleaned the emergency room. Her schedule has been exhausting and unpredictable. On one occasion, when she was confused about her ever-changing work schedule, which could have led to her being ineligible for pandemic pay. She reached out to her union delegate for help and together they were able to resolve the issue. Being a member of 1199SEIU, reaffirmed what she always believed, “unions are indispensable.”
“I have worked in healthcare for 17 years,” explained White. “Throughout my career, I have been a part of a union because I know workers have more power when we unite and fight together for our rights.”
White is a member leader with 1199SEIU, the largest healthcare union in the United States. She and her coworkers have rallied together to demand the hospitals where they work give them the
personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to protect themselves and their patients. White is also a member of the HCA bargaining team. She’s dismayed that HCA has ended pandemic pay, which helped her and many colleagues stay afloat. The company is also threatening layoffs despite making $581 million in profits in the first quarter of 2020.
The number of COVID-19 cases have spiked in Florida. White says this trend is evident at her facility where there has been an increase in the number of patients and staff testing positive. White believes PPE is being rationed because she’s only given one mask per day. It’s a very difficult situation but White still finds the work she does incredibly rewarding.
“I still get teary eyed when I hold the patients’ hand and tell them you’re going to be fine,” said White. "That’s my paycheck.”
White says the challenges she and her coworkers have faced during this pandemic is another reminder of why it’s so important to vote.
“We need to elect candidates who will hold hospitals accountable if they don’t provide workers the protection they need to ensure the safety of workers and the patients we care for every day.”