Spectrum Health makes history, gives holiday pay on MLK Day


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Spectrum Health leadership is taking action by reinforcing their commitment to diversity by paying employees to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. outside of work.

A spokesperson for the health system’s office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion says paying employees on MLK Day for the first time is not entirely about additional compensation. She said it’s more so about giving workers the opportunity to take the day off and find a way to spread King’s message.

“You know, you hear people say, ‘put your money where your mouth is,’ and so that’s really where we are,” said Valissa Armstead, director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Spectrum Health. “It’s a great opportunity to just continue to build the momentum of how we can continue to infuse unity.”

Though Monday is the first time the payment goes into effect, it was announced last October.

Hospital leadership said it’s a part of their anti-racism pledge they issued following the social unrest around the George Floyd killing.

“We have a heavy emphasis on ensuring that we create a space of not only inclusion, but a space of belonging, and this was one way to do that,” Armstead said.

Armstead observes the holiday by reflecting King’s legacy. She said this year marks the 55th anniversary of King’s comments expressing, “injustices in health care are the most shocking and inhumane of all forms of inequality.”

While MLK Day becoming a paid holiday at Spectrum Health is just one way to spark change, workers said it’s a step in the right direction.

“It truly is not a moment, it is a movement,” Armstead said.

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