October 15, 2012

United Healthcare Workers

Over the last week I have had the wonderful opportunity to talk and cook with groups of United Healthcare Workers from San Francisco's South Bay and the Sacramento Valley.  25-40 at a time.  For one of the sessions, simultaneous translation were going on in Hmong, Spanish, and Russian.  Between me, the translators, and interaction with the audience, the sessions were lively with much being shared.  These workers represented many different hospital systems, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities.

Janelle Green is a Kaiser Permanente colleague from KP's Office of Labor Management Partnership who did a masterful job as the MC.  When she asked the union workers why their health mattered, many replied it was to set an example for the patients.  When asked what can unions do so well, they all said organize and mobilize.  They also shared that a majority of each of the four audiences had a fmaily member with diabetes and they told stories of the serious consequences of diabetes.

Janelle and I challenged them to organize their fellow workers, their churches, their communitites, their PTAs and their families to eat more healthy food and to prepare fresh whole foods whenever possible.  We talked a lot about the the money that can be saved by doing more simple dishes at home.

Now, of course, there were some in the group that already cooked all the time.  Natalia has 10 children and her family never goes out for dinner.  I asked her to cook with me up front of her coworkers.  The majority of the people in the room rarely sharpened their kitchen knives.  I asked how many put air in the tires of their cars --- all hands went up.  One woman has a 5.0 Mustang and she proudly talked about the 38# in the front tires and the 42# in the rear.

Natalia sharpens her kitchen knives on a stone every day.  I said I only did it about every two weeks.  She said "You don't have 10 kids"

We all learned something about each other in these sessions.