Most people are familiar with groundbreakings, ceremonies that involve hard hats, fancy shovels, and a lot of photographs, to commemorate the beginning of major construction projects. In a novel twist on the traditional ceremony, the INOVA Health System held a bricklaying ceremony Monday to celebrate the beginning of construction on the INOVA Women’s Hospital and the INOVA Children’s Hospital at INOVA’s Fairfax Hospital on Gallows Road. The bricks that we “laid” were giant red, white, and blue LEGOS that became a wall as they were laid one on top of another. The choreography was something to behold. The bricks had to be placed in a specific order, interlocking the studs just so; otherwise, the structure would tilt or collapse. There was a lot of laughter as we juggled the big plastic toys and grinned for the cameras.
The new construction will complement the new South Patient Tower, which is nearing completion, and will enable hospital staff to provide state-of-the-art medical care for patients. New labor and delivery rooms, neonatal intensive care, pediatrics, and oncology services are just a few of the services that will be offered in the new hospitals, which also will have all private rooms. A special guest, Maureen McDonnell, wife of Virginia’s governor, reiterated her commitment to women’s health with a heartfelt reminiscence of her own surgery for a benign breast tumor as a teen. Nearly all the women in the audience sported a blue ribbon that said “I am an INOVA Woman.” All of the INOVA Fairfax Hospital services will continue during construction, but the Grey Entrance from Gallows Road is closed. Traffic can access the hospital campus via the new Wellness Boulevard on Woodburn Road.
Labor Day seemed to get short shrift this year, as it fell right in the middle between the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. Many speakers in Tampa castigated teachers and union organizers, while several speakers in Charlotte were union members who said they lost their jobs as a result of Bain Capital buyouts. What may have been lost in the rhetoric was the basis for Labor Day: the dignity of work, and a fair wage for that work. Although active labor union membership has declined from about 20 percent of the labor force a few decades ago to about 7 percent today, the effects of organized labor has transformed the workplace and work life. Health benefits, sick leave, paid vacations, safer work environments, and the eight-hour day are part of today’s life due, in large part, to the advocacy of the labor movement on behalf of workers. Both of my grandfathers were union members, and I have long appreciated the fact that, after decades of hard work on the docks and the railroad, they, and my grandmothers, enjoyed a quality of life in retirement provided by their union pensions. That’s what I remember every Labor Day.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]