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Tuesday, November 10 is a National Day of Action in the Fight for $15 movement. 1199SEIU members are coming together with labor and community activists in the Hudson Valley* to join thousands more across the country in calling for higher wages and union rights for all. The campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour began as a series of small protests by fast food workers three years ago and has grown into a national movement of low-wage workers, from nursing home and homecare workers, to retail and airport workers. This Tuesday, low-wage workers from all sectors will simultaneously rally in about 270 cities. In New York, Governor Cuomo has pledged his support for a $15 minimum wage for all workers.

* Poughkeepsie, New Paltz, Newburgh, Kingston, Highland

Tuesday’s rally is part of 1199’s on-going effort to lift low-wage healthcare workers and their children out of poverty and to ensure good jobs in order to protect quality health care.

“What is our moral character?” said George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “Are we a place where the lucky take all, and the left-out have nothing? Or are we going to be a place where all New Yorkers – working people, immigrants, students, artists, musicians, seniors – can build a life with security, fairness, opportunity and dignity? In one of the richest states in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, this is the central moral question we have to confront.”

Why are healthcare workers concerned?

•A disturbing corporate trend in the nursing home industry shows that long-term care facilities are being bought by private investors, who are putting profit before the mission of providing quality care. This business model, purchasing nursing homes for equity and then reducing employee wages and benefits to turn a profit, has had serious consequences. These employees cannot support themselves and their families with substandard wages and without economic security. Many are forced to work 2 or more jobs, or work elsewhere, creating short staffing — a major problem with serious consequences for workers and their frail and elderly residents.

• The healthcare industry is rapidly changing, with more jobs shifting out of hospitals to outpatient settings and homecare. Many healthcare employers either have already, or are planning to make these new jobs low-wage positions, without benefits and without a union. Diminishing the sound and reasonable healthcare standards that 1199SEIU members have fought for--over decades-- is a big step backward in protecting quality care and good, stable community-based jobs.

“No one who works full time should live in poverty. No matter the kind of work, a job should provide the means to a decent life. No job should keep people in poverty or struggling to make ends meet. I know this from personal experience. I worked in housekeeping and now I am a recreational aide working directly with the residents,” said Tommy Stevens. “I am still always worrying about paying the next bill,” said Stevens, who works at River Valley Care Center.

Isela Delacruz, an EKG tech at Vassar Brothers Hospital, said, “No one person working full-time for the current minimum wage can afford rent in the Hudson Valley or anywhere else. A $15 minimum wage will help – and also help the economy because people who have been struggling will be able to pay their bills on time, and spend more money in the community on food and other essentials — and even have a little extra to go out — get a treat for the kids or themselves.”

1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America.We represent over 400,000 nurses and caregivers throughout Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good, stable jobs for all.

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