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November 6, 2019

Boston Magazine: Boston Medical Center Workers Are Protesting Melania Trump’s Visit

Wednesday, First Lady Melania Trump is bringing her much-lampooned “Be Best” initiative to Boston—but she will hardly be welcomed with open arms.

In response to Trump’s visit, about 250 BMC workers are participating in a “Stand-In for Solidarity” from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday on the Moakley Green. The stand-in, a silent event, is meant to reflect participants’ support of BMC patients, many of whom have been aversely affected by Trump administration policies.

“Our BMC affirms the dignity, respect, and basic needs of every child, including their absolute right to be with their family,” reads a graphic several BMC employees shared on social media before the protest. “Our BMC does not privilege the demands of those in political power over the best interest of our patients.”

Trump’s Be Best initiative focuses on wellbeing, internet safety, and opioid abuse. According to a White House press release, Trump, along with HHS Secretary Alex Azar, is coming to BMC to learn about the hospital’s Cuddling Assists in Lowering Maternal and Infant Stress (CALM) program, developed to treat babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. She will also be briefed on the status of several other programs BMC has developed to assist pregnant women with Substance Use Disorder and their children. Trump will then meet with children and families who have been successfully treated at BMC.

In response to the employee pushback, BMC CEO Kate Walsh sent a message Tuesday to BMC’s 6,000 workers, explaining why she agreed to host the First Lady. “The First Lady of the United States asked to come here because we are leaders,” Walsh wrote. “We are doing important, impactful work. It’s my hope that this visit will lead other providers across the country to offer the types of effective, non-stigmatizing treatment and programming that we provide here at BMC. As important, it is also my hope that the visit will be a unique opportunity to share our values of respect and inclusion with federal leaders whose policies have a significant impact on the vulnerable populations we are dedicated to serving. Nothing is more compelling than seeing firsthand the life changing care our staff provides to patients and families every day.”

The letter goes on to say that Walsh hopes employees “will stay focused on your individual job duties, as you do every day.”

As the stand-in got underway, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley tweeted her support of the employee protest. “With each passing day, this administration, led be HHS Secretary Azar, continues to the undermine the efforts of the incredible staff at BMC and health centers across the nation by stoking fear, limiting access to maternity and reproductive health care, and allowing providers to refuse care to patients in need,” she said in a statement. “For the thousands of vulnerable patients—especially immigrants, people of color, and new moms and babies with serious health concerns—today’s visit is more than just a photo op. It’s a chance to remind and educate the Secretary and First Lady of the ways in which our medical centers work to eliminate disparities and ensure that all people, regardless of income and immigration status, have a fundamental human right to health care.”