As healthcare workers, we have dedicated our lives to saving the lives of others. That made it even more painful for so many of us to witness the disturbing murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis. Mr. Floyd’s killing was the most recent in a string of murders of unarmed African Americans who did not pose a threat to anyone. The death of Breonna Taylor, a healthcare worker who was needlessly gunned down in her own apartment in Louisville, hit particularly close to home. Breonna Taylor could have been our co-worker. George Floyd could have been the patient we never got to care for.
All of this is playing out in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic which has not fallen equally across society. African-Americans have died from COVID-19 at a rate close to twice their representation in the population, the result of historic inequality, disproportionate poverty, limited access to healthcare, and higher representation in the ranks of essential workers who have been required to work during the pandemic.
At SEIU-UHW our mission is Healthcare Justice, which means quality, accessible healthcare for everyone provided by respected caregivers everywhere. Achieving Healthcare Justice requires us to fight against racial discrimination in healthcare, employment and all aspects of society.
We work for racial justice by raising wages and expanding healthcare coverage to low-income families everywhere which disproportionately include people of color. We take action to ensure that the systems which disproportionately serve people of color, including Medi-Cal and dialysis care, actually work to improve the health outcomes of communities of color. We are fighting to make sure all healthcare workers have access to personal protective equipment and that front-line workers don’t lose jobs and pay while hospital executives get bailouts and multi-million dollar salaries. We’re building Futuro Health which will provide access to good healthcare jobs to tens of thousands of people from communities who have not previously had access to educational paths to quality jobs. We want to ensure that caregivers reflect the communities they serve and can provide empathetic, culturally-sensitive care. We’re advocating for making testing widely available and utilized in communities of color. We’re working to elect healthcare champions at every level of office who will fight for social, economic and racial justice. We’re building alliances with other organizations fighting institutional racism. And we are joining with millions of Americans who are raising our voices and demanding that #BlackLivesMatter.