On October 20, the Cal/OSHA Standard Board unanimously voted to adopt the first workplace violence prevention standard for healthcare workers in California. Our hope is that this Standard will be used as a template at the national level.
In 2010, Ingela Dahlgren, RN, and Kathy Hughes, RN, attended a rally to honor the memory of Dona Gross, a psychiatric technician at Napa State Mental Hospital, who was strangled to death by a patient while at work. This atrocity was the latest in a string of violent incidents which inspired the beginnings of a workplace safety movement which continues today.
While focused effort under strong leadership underpinned this successful campaign, the true heroes in the battle for a safe work environment are all the nurses and the health care workers in this great state of California.
Sharing their personal accounts of attacks, threats, and harassment in the workplace, healthcare workers retold their stories before the Cal/OSHA Standard Board to bring attention to the urgent need for regulatory change. These heart-breaking stories propelled the Cal/OSHA Standard Board to approve improvements in their regulations governing the management and operation of healthcare facilities throughout California.
This new Cal/OSHA Standard applies to most employers of nurses, health care workers, and the communities they serve in California. With this new regulation in place, Cal/OSHA is ready to implement workplace violence prevention measures in California and soon for the rest of the U.S.
The men and women who shared their stories are to be applauded for motivating the Committee to consider the importance of this issue at a very personal level. For the last couple of years, many SEIU Locals and the California State Council have supported our campaign financially and by actively participating in our rallies and events. We are very grateful for all their support and encouragement. We want to thank you again for your participation over the years!
Hopefully you as the SEIU Nurse Alliance membership, are aware of the extraordinary effort that the most vulnerable workers in our community, namely, the night-shift men and women on the property maintenance (Janitorial) staffs throughout the state took a bold stand against workplace harassment and abuse at the hands of unscrupulous supervisors and managers. Our sisters and brothers in SEIU’s USWW locals bravely followed through on their promise of a 5-Day-Fast at the State Capital.
It would be reasonable to expect that visits from State Insurance Commissioner and Candidate for Attorney General, D Jones, and the signing of AB1978 would have satisfied the publicity goals of these fasting janitors. Yet while this high-profile, high-risk demonstration of resolve was successful in giving voice to a vulnerable population, it also transcended the original meaning of the protest – namely, to show the Governor, and the people of California, the spirit of Ya Basa!, beyond the current and emerging law of the land. These demonstrators, even though AB1978 was signed into law on day 3 of the fast, persisted as planned for the full 5-days. This demonstration of resolve, signified to all that changes in the law, while necessary, are incomplete. It’s the change in consciousness that were after.
Nurses from SEIU Nurse Alliance of California collaborated to provide medical support and spirited encouragement to the fasting janitors. “This is what community is about, we help each other in times of need. Those of us who were unable to participate in the fasting were able, in our own way to show support for this cause by sharing our stories, listening to their personal testimony about their xperiences of surviving various forms of abuse, harassment, or attack” said Ingela Dahlgren, Director of SEIU Nurse Alliance of California and fellow surviving rape victim. “It was a very emotional experience for me because in supporting the needs of these incredible women I relived the memory of my own survival story.” She continued.
Members are encouraged to closely watch this issue evolve going forward. Governor Brown’s decision to enact AB1978 as law is an important start, but by no means an end to the struggle for workplace safety for night-shift janitors. Here are some important links to follow:
Press Release Covering The 5-Day Fast in Sacramento
Blog Post detailing Justice for Janitors campaign
In March of this year, unrelenting members of Local 721 accompanied by other professions including: Social Workers, Medical Case Workers, Surgical Technicians, Physical Therapy Aid, Licensed Vocational Nurses, Registered Nurses, and Nurse Practitioners shared with Dr. Katz, Department of Health Services for Los Angeles County, their alarming stories of overt bullying and silent retaliation at the hands of managers.
Following-through with action, Dr. Mitch Katz put management and administration on notice by circulating a memo condemning bully behavior in the workplace.
“As a testament to his commitment and genuine interest in making immediate strides in creating a bully free DHS, Dr. Katz sent out a department wide memo on May 2nd condemning bullying behavior and asking DHS employees, including management and supervisors, to join him in pledging to treat all workforce members with dignity and respect.”
And it doesn’t stop with Local 721. In June of this year, the Joint Commission published downloadable guidelines which further clarifies how “bullying” is to be defined, identified and treated separately and distinctly from illegal harassment.
SEIU Local 721 demonstrates how standing together, we remain strong in this blog post showing how MLK Outpatient Center’s CEO responded to the Dr. Katz memo by endorsing and expanding the message specifically to this facility.
“…Our primary focus should always be patients first. But, we cannot properly care for our patients if we are not respectful toward one another. I know that we can do it…” – Cynthia Oliver, CEO
Kathy Hughes, RN was given the closing quote in an article which appeared on the June 19th in Business Insurance(1).
“We want what we’re doing in California to be the template and the driving force behind, hopefully, getting something similar to this done nationally because I don’t think people realize the prevalence of workplace violence in health care,” Ms. Hughes said.
This quote echoes a central theme of the 2016 Legislative Conference in Sacramento “Nurses Leading the Way to Healthier Communities”. SEIU Nurse Alliance of California members can Click here, or check email to see the full article.
(1) Business Insurance is the authoritative news and information source for executives concerned about risk and the impact on their business.