D9 Conference Highlights Health Care Workers

The health care sector is an important part of the fabric of District 9 and one that needs more recognition and support so it has the chance to grow, District 9 Director Dan Flippo told the 730 participants at the district’s annual education conference.

And the conference, held last week in Destin, Fla., provided a great opportunity to do just that.

For the first time ever, health care workers had a dedicated breakout session devoted to addressing one of their biggest concerns, workplace violence.

The class, which was open to workers from other sectors, also provided a venue to discuss the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, legislation that would help protect heath care workers on the job.

The health care council and the union more broadly have been working hard to push Congress to pass this act, and over the course of the conference, representatives from the Rapid Response department were able to collect 700 new postcards to elected officials asking them to vote yes. 

District 9 health care coordinator Kim Smith, who herself worked as a member of a rescue squad and EMT during her 23 years at the Westvaco paper mill in North Charleston, S.C., said it’s important for people outside the health care sector to understand the unique challenges health care workers face.

This is obviously significant when organizing, but it’s also helpful for leaders of amalgamated locals so they can understand the needs of their health care units.

“There were a lot of people who didn’t know about a lot about the health care sector, but they were very receptive,” Smith said.

In a strange twist, Smith’s training as a first responder came in handy at the conference, as not once but twice she was called upon to address allergic reactions, and even had to inject someone with an Epi Pen.

“It’s ironic that at the conference where we’re really kicking off our focus on the work of the health care council, I had to use my EMT background,” said Smith. “That will definitely be one of the most memorable parts of this conference.”

“Each of our districts demonstrates its commitment to the health care sector a little differently,” said USW Health Care Coordinator Tamara Lefcowitz, who led the workplace safety session at the conference. “But that’s what makes our council so strong. We’re all using our resources to pull in the same direction.”

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