Labor Day: Creating a Healthy Work Culture  

When I think of Labor Day I remember the working class heroes who have built our society and have won so many of the rights we enjoy: paid holidays, overtime compensation, child labor laws and the ability to come together as a voice for fairness.

Today I read that President Obama passed a measure for seven paid sick days for federal employees.

Healthcare Starts with Self-care
Healthcare Starts with Self-care

This shows there is still much work to be done to ensure fair practice that protect workers from harm. It seems ludicrous for someone to go to work sick because they can’t afford to take a day off thereby, infecting everyone else at their job.

What about nurses? I know many, myself included,  who work or have worked when they were sick because there weren’t enough co-workers to cover the shift.

Everywhere I look, hospitals aren’t hiring  enough nurses. Hospitals depend on nurses to work overtime to cover unfilled nursing positions because , ironically, it’s too expensive to pay for employee healthcare benefits.

Nurses work hard and need time off to recover from the demands of our job. It has become the nurses code of honor to work extra shifts to provide respite for each other. Yet, this unspoken rule spreads the work pool too thin to cover sick leave, especially for minor ailments like colds.  So it has become prevalent for bedside nurses to work even while sick .

Managers try to deter this behavior by scheduling nurses weeks in advance to prepare for slim weekend and holiday coverage. Yet, because a hospital census can be so unpredictable, there are always circumstances where shifts need to be rearranged to balance the experienced nurses with new nurses to provide mentorship and optimal care for the patients. No one knows better than a nurse that short staffing puts patients in jeopardy making it a real guilt trip to call in sick.

This holiday, I am taking a moment to recognize  the nurses’ responsibility to ensure fair work practices that protect others from unnecessary exposure to sick workers. We didn’t cause this nursing shortage, we didn’t create the uncertainty of situations that demand we adjust our schedules, but we can cure this dilemma.

Nurses can change the unrealistic expectations we put upon ourselves and our profession by sharing the awareness that we must advocate for our own health first. While it seems a brave and admirable sacrifice to work while mildly ill we are exposing these germs to other people’s immune systems  that may cause a life threatening situation.

Sure, we can pass more laws to ensure worker and public safety but it’s faster and cheaper to create a healthy work culture. To start, I must walk my talk and present myself as fit to do a good job. Instead of manipulating a co-workers by demanding that they defend a sick call, I have started creating a culture that protects and encourages nurses to be strong and healthy by saying, “I hope you feel better.”

The Koch Brothers Celebrating Labor Day is Like a Man Having a Positive Pregnancy Test

positive pregnancy test
positive pregnancy test (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having  a baby is the hardest work in the world. Ask any mother, she’ll tell you. That’s why I’m suggesting that women celebrating Labor Day remember that giving birth is hard, giving birth to change is even harder.

Before labor unions  started in America most folks worked twelve hour days, six days a week. In many countries workers still do, some goods sold in this country are made by children who are literally chained all day  to sewing machines. Thank you  to all the workers, who came before me, for coming together with the support of unions to improve our lives.

The cost of raising a child, shoot, even the cost of delivering a baby has many mothers working outside the home. This dilemma has occurred since the days of Adam and Eve when Eve decided to become a quality control worker for the apple industry.

Even then, Adam got a higher salary because he took the credit for taking the first bite.

It was only when World War II forced women to take on the jobs normally maintained by men, that women got a taste for fair pay. I wonder, if men had to carry and give birth to babies, would it be legal to take on another job outside the home? After all, isn’t raising  children to be  adults who will care for future generations enough?

As the late Mary Ivins once said:

“Although it is true that only twenty percent of American workers are in unions, that twenty percent sets the standards across the board on salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts.”

If you like the modern day conveniences of epidurals and disposable diapers, thank science.

If you like observed holidays, 40 hour work weeks, a living wage, benefits and humane working conditions, thank the American Labor Movement.