The three declared gubernatorial candidates ran for health care workers in Midtown on Wednesday. Members of one of the largest health care unions, the 1199 Service Employees International Union, have been working without a contract for the past month, and candidates have rallied to support the workers.
Although singer Farmer Nappy warmed up the crowd with fun music and dancing, the topic quickly got pretty serious when the healthcare workers gathered, who have been working without contracts in private retirement homes since it expired on October 1st.
âWe have worked throughout the pandemic and we are still working. We deserve a fair contract and send the message to the leadership that we are now united, âsaid Judith Wallace, 1199SEIU member.
Thirty-three thousand employees represented by 1199SEIU currently work without a contract at 250 facilities in New York City.
1199 is a powerful union and a force in Democratic politics. Governor Kathy Hochul was one of the first speakers to address the crowd.
âI am looking at the angels of God here on earth. You are the ones who every day during the darker days of the pandemic, when people were in pajamas, you dressed and went to work, into the fire, âHochul said.
Two other officially declared candidates for governor were also present, including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who officially launched his campaign on Tuesday.
âI know there comes a time when words aren’t enough. When thank you is not enough. You also deserve to feed your families, âsaid Williams.
But it was Attorney General Letitia James, also a candidate for governor, who got to the heart of the retirement home topic.
It was his office that released a report in January showing that former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration underestimated nursing home pandemic deaths by nearly 50%.
James said institutions should not blame workers.
âWe know it’s government policies that have failed us as a city and a state. You have experienced a great tragedy. And this tragedy was caused by a failure of the government, âsaid James.
1199 and other unions will seek additional benefits in next year’s state budget, which is due in late March. This puts Hochul in a good position to deliver, as the state is bursting with cash. Not only is there federal money, but the legislature raised taxes for the rich last year.