It was an historic event for 1199SEIU members in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley. For the first time, caregivers from a group of eight hospitals, nursing homes and clinics came together for one spectacular event--- “The Car Caravan For Justice In The Workplace”
On May 23, more than a hundred 1199 members and their families and friends expressed their anger at their employers and concern for their patients by organizing a car caravan that began in New Paltz, traveled through Poughkeepsie, and finally landed at a rally in Legion Park in Rhinebeck. The 95-minute, 60-mile tour passed by each of the eight facilities. With horns blaring, their cars and trucks were adorned with signs that said, “Be Fair To Those Who Care”, “Justice In The Workplace” and “We Are The 99%”.
Tamoya Norwood, an emergency room tech at Vassar Brothers Medical Center explained: “Whether we work in a hospital, a nursing home or a dialysis clinic, our concerns are the same. Our employers have been violating our contracts, and attempting to break our bargaining units and our spirit. They are creating obstacles for us in providing the quality care our community deserves. We are showing strength in our unity today and telling management that enough is enough.”
The common issues faced by the workers include being forced to work short-staffed, resulting in safety issues for both caregivers and patients; employer-denied vacations; and paychecks with miscalculated time and wages.
“Quality care is our priority—we love our jobs and we love our patients,” said Evelyn Ringgold, a worker at Dutchess Dialysis Center. “I participated in the caravan to remind all of our employers that quality healthcare depends on the well-being of dedicated caregivers and we deserve to be treated fairly, with respect and dignity.”
The final rally stop was filled with high spirits. Over 50 cars were welcomed by cheers, chants and 1199’s favorite anthem, “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.” After opening prayer and song by Pastor Alfred Payne, Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, Poughkeepsie Common Councilwoman Ann Perry and SEIU United leader Gerry Lyons revved up the crowd. Other speakers included 1199 members from each facility, students from the Occupy movement in the Hudson Valley and rousing remarks from Executive Vice-President Lisa Brown.
The Mid-Hudson Valley 1199SEIU caravan participants are healthcare workers at Dutchess Dialysis Center, Ferncliff Nursing Home, Lutheran Care Center, Mountain View Nursing Home, River Valley Care Center, The Pines Nursing Home, Vassar Brothers Medical Center and Victory Lake Nursing Home.