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Hippocratic Oath or Oath of Hypocrisy?




Both of my legs came out from under me, but it was my left knee that twisted painfully and bore the brunt of the accident. I landed hard. My entire backside was doused in mop-colored water.

An ice machine had been leaking for nearly three months creating a pool. I wish I could call it a puddle, but when a person can drown in the water they fall in, I’ll refer to it as a pool.

I felt like a real idiot after it had happened. I mean everyone knew that the LAKE of water was there. Servers, cooks, the chef and even the restaurant management of the Hyatt Andaz hotel knew to be wary of this certain area, but as minds go, mine was somewhere else — but came crashing back to reality within an instant.

The week after the accident was filled with doctor’s office visits, crutches, anti-inflammatories and a meeting with a representative from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (CAL-OSHA).

This happened over a year ago but, interestingly, one side affect of my workplace injury is that I embrace and work with my union, Unite Here, Local 11, to boycott Hyatt and hold it accountable when it comes to on-the-job injuries.

A study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine examined a total of 50 hotel properties from five different hotel companies and found that Hyatt housekeepers had the highest injury rate of all housekeepers in the industry when compared by hotel company.

In 2010 Hyatt housekeepers filed multi-city injury complaints with OSHA, reporting injuries on the job at 12 different Hyatts employing 3,500 workers. OSHA or its state counterparts have been receptive to these complaints and have issued 18 citations against 11 Hyatt hotels and three against a Hyatt subcontractor, totaling $118,125 in penalties — while alleging violations of safety regulations that protect housekeepers and other employees.

Last week, Taylor Harless, a boycott organizer for Local 11, asked me if I’d like to join a special delegation with a few other volunteers to visit a man by the name of T. Warner Hudson III, M.D. Dr. Hudson is the President of American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. ACOEM claims to be the nation’s largest medical society dedicated to promoting the health of workers through preventive medicine, clinical care, research and education.

Sounds like the doctor and ACOEM would be a perfect fit to support Unite Here’s boycott of Hyatt, right? Nope.

ACOEM, despite its knowledge of Hyatt’s abuses, has planned its three-day American Occupational Health Conference in April at the Hyatt Regency in Century Plaza and the organization hasn’t budged from its decision, despite visits from union members, along with leaflets and letters sent from other healthcare professionals asking it to support the boycott.

Of course, I took this personally.

Taylor, myself and a few other volunteers from Unite Here decided to pay a visit on Dr. Hudson, who is Medical Director of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Occupational Health Facility. We entered UCLA’s Franz Hall, where Dr. Hudson has his office. We got lost in a corridor of hallways and mazes when a man behind us spoke out.

“You guys all headed up?”

One of the volunteers turned her head around and beamed.

“Dr. T. Warner Hudson, so good to see you!”

He seemed confused at first. He also couldn’t do much with his hands because he was holding a large container of brownish-red soup. There were no handshakes. Taylor pointed to me.

“Doctor Hudson, this is Jim, He’s a Unite Here member. He’d love to chat with you.”

I have never seen a man’s expression fall to such depths so quickly. We all got in the elevator with him. I’m sure he had the most uncomfortable elevator ride of his life. He listened to me with a pained, impatient face.

I went over my issue and told him why it was important to support our boycott. He got so flustered he missed his floor, which gave me more time to describe my injury in detail.  On second thought, maybe I should’ve have pushed all the buttons to all the floors.

His face seemed to grow redder and redder. I swear I saw veins pop in his eyeballs. I stepped back to avoid the splatter.

The elevator door opened. Doctor Hudson raced to his office, the soup sloshing in its container. He whirled around in the archway. He denied getting any emails about Hyatt’s workplace injury statistics.

He shrugged. He winced. He sighed. And finally he retreated back to his personal office.

“What about your Hippocratic Oath?” Taylor called out as he closed the door.

No response. Just a lot of confused and shocked faces of receptionists and nurses who watched and then asked us to leave.

“You want to do another delegation next week?” Taylor asked.

“Sure.” I said.

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