I once was part of a union group that was taken on a tour of a new high-tech hospital. Our guide was an earnest young woman, a physician, who had been elected as the union leader by all the workers in the hospital. To our surprise, the first place our delegation visited was deep in the basement.

Pushing through double swinging doors, we found ourselves in a cloud of steam in the hospital’s laundry, surrounded by the scores of workers who were responsible for sanitizing the unending stream of linen. The doctor explained, “These people are the basis for all the good we do here at the hospital. Their hard work insures the clean conditions and materials our patients need for their recovery.”

This visit took place in 1983 and I have long forgotten the name of the hospital or that of the wise young doctor, but not her important point. It’s probably not a coincidence that this recognition of the important role of workers in the health care system took place in socialist Cuba.

Hospital laundry workers are also health care workers, and they deserve the respect, compensation, training and safety equipment that goes with that designation. Without their contribution no health care facility in America can do its job.