BRONX FIRE TRAGEDY UNION RESPONSEMarch 2, 2022
1199SEIU swings into action when a group of members are struck by a catastrophe
When 1199 learned of the terrible blaze that claimed the lives of 17 people when it ripped through a Bronx apartment building, the Union feared the worst.
The Bronx is home to many thousands of 1199SEIU members and it was safe to assume that some of them might have been affected. A rapid investigation found that there were, in fact, 11 Union members living at 333 East 181st Street, where the blaze occurred– largely because of a combination of inadequate up-keep and enforcement of the building’s fire safety measures. Most of the members affected were home care workers who have been moved to local hotels while repairs were being made.
In situations where a group of members or their families are struck by a tragedy, whether it be a catastrophe at home or a natural disaster in another country, the Union always tries to find a way to help. In this case, to assist with the replacement of damaged property, the union issued each of the displaced members with a gift card worth $500.
Mercedes de la Cruz, a home care member with the agency Cooperative Home Care Associates, was among those displaced by the fire. She was not home at the time, but her boyfriend had to flee. The fire alarm did go off, but because a combination of poor maintenance and enforcement of fire safety standards, the alarms went off on an almost daily basis, she reported.
“I appreciate the gift card from the union,” said de la Cruz, who is hoping to be allocated another apartment, “It will be helpful in buying the new things I will need.”
In addition to the gift cards, Union staff were asked to donate the dollar value of some of their accrued vacation time. At press time, the total amount donated stood at $20,000.
The Union is working with community leaders to address the long-term issues that contributed to the tragedy. We understand that there are too few affordable housing options in New York City and those that do exist are often not kept up to code. 1199SEIU routinely advocates for tenant rights and housing affordability.