Editorial: No Way to Treat Our Heroes

September 13, 2021

Healthcare workers risked it all to save the country. Management needs to stop playing with our lives.

Screen Shot 2021-09-13 at 10.14.06 AM.pngFor more than 18 months, healthcare workers have led America through the COVID-19 pandemic. First, in March 2020, during the darkest days of the onset, the faces of weary caregivers lit the way to hope and to a time after the pandemic. And as the country fell into lockdown silence, it was the steady but exhausted, voices of healthcare workers that reminded us there was a way forward. And again now, as the delta variant rages among the unvaccinated and hospital beds are filling up and stretching caregivers to the breaking point, it is our healthcare workers who are doing the work of education, connection, and community building to help reduce vaccine hesitance and save lives.

For the last year-and-a-half, along with sirens and the cries of the sick and bereaved, the word hero rang through the national conversation. Everywhere, every day, a television talking head reminded us—those who needed no reminder—that healthcare workers are heroes and how very, very grateful we should be to them all. There were photo ops and camera glare. Scrubs became the new superhero uniform. While the sentiment was appreciated, it wasn’t news. Caring is and always has been our superpower. The lives we save each day are a testament to that. We don’t need capes or letters on our chests.

But what we do need is to be able to pay the rent, feed our kids, or keep the lights on. While we were have been lauded as heroes and showered with confetti and nightly applause, we have been fighting. Fighting exhaustion. Fighting to stay alive. Fighting for the lives of our loved ones afflicted with COVID. Fighting to educate our communities. And fighting the longstanding systemic inequities that are keeping people from getting life-saving healthcare and vaccinations.

Caring is our superpower. The lives we save each day are a testament to that. We don’t need capes or letters on our chests.

We’ve also been fighting for basic personal protective equipment, hazard pay, and legislation and resources to secure our jobs and industries so the healthcare services are there for the future generations who will undoubtedly need them.

Too often, we’re fighting management. In New York State, hundreds of thousands of hospital and nursing home workers are fighting for fair contracts. In addition to the Group and Greater nursing home negotiations, 1199ers are bargaining for our “gold standard” agreement with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes. Both sets of talks opened with employers crying poverty—nothing new in this very new COVID world. Still, it’s hard not to be dismayed at such a display of callousness toward the very people who risked their lives to keep their institutions functioning day during one of the darkest chapters in modern American history.

So, you know what? We’re going to keep fighting. We’re not going to let any caregiver be nickeled and dimed or disrespected. We’re going to make sure that every boss everywhere knows that this is no way to treat our heroes.

1199 Magazine | July - August 2021