By Hoda Mohamud
I was seven the first time I decided I wanted to help people for a living. I was barely old enough to understand the world around me but knowing enough to understand that people need help. I remember telling my family all about my plans to help everyone in the world. My plans were no less honest in their intentions, I wanted to help people, in any way that I could. This calling to help as many people as I could, carried on throughout my life, manifesting in ways that have been unexpected but rewarding.
I am currently a part of the team at NeighborCare Health, a nonprofit organization that is committed to providing accessible and quality health and dental care for everyone. A significant number of the patients we serve are part of the lower socio-economic bracket, including individuals without a stable home. NeighborCare is an organization that works to give back to the community and does so by a wide margin. This is done by not only providing accessible and quality health and dental care, but also through the school program, where we educate individuals on proper dental care and provide free exams. I’ve found the education work to be just as rewarding as direct patient care, because it allows me to teach and help people who would otherwise be unable to get the care they need. It speaks to the seven-year-old me that wanted to help as many people as she could in any way that she could.
Working with a diverse group of people makes the place feel welcoming to everyone. The most enjoyable part is making the patients happy, despite this, there are quite a few challenges. We have a high staff turnover rate, and it often feels as though the management prefers the business over protecting their staff. We are made to feel as though we are machines, forced to work with shrinking numbers and increasing patients. It has created an environment where stress runs high and breakdowns are frequent. We have asked the management to step up and help their staff and provide support, but what we have seen has been too small to make a sizeable difference.
On December 2017, around closing time, the managers told the front desk staff that they must reapply for their jobs or be laid off. Only half of them were rehired, and the others were laid off with no prospects. It felt as though management was refusing to see us as anything beyond our production; they refused to see us as people. Many great staff members left, impacting our patients.
We knew we could not let this continue any longer. So, we formed our union in SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. As frontline staff, it’s our work and dedication that make NeighborCare a great place for everyone who needs care to receive it. The future of our clinics, our patients, and our families is in our hands. That’s why we are standing together in union to advance our proposals that build a strong future for us and our patients. Working collectively with my coworkers, I am living my seven-year-old self’s dream of helping people in ways I could never have imagined before. I even had the opportunity to speak to the Somali Health Board about our efforts to win a contract, earning their support in our struggle. Because I am part of a union, I can make the world a better place for workers, patients and my community. We are united for the NeighborCare mission. I have faith in my coworkers that together we will win this contract and inspire more workers like us to stand up and have a voice.
Hoda Mohamud is currently a part of the team at NeighborCare Health and a Union Leader at SEIU Healthcare 1199NW