Taking Over 5th Avenue

October 13, 2022

1199ers turn out in force to demonstrate once again that New York City is a union town!

5thAvenue.jpgMarching under the banner “Workers Leading, Workers Rising”—roughly 1,000 members and officers surged onto 5th Avenue to show solidarity with emerging unions at the Labor Day Parade in New York City on September 10th.

It was the biggest turnout in memory, organized in recognition of the newly-formed Amazon Labor Union’s historic win in Staten Island, and the equally impressive union organizing by Starbucks Workers United, Trader Joe’s United and many others. The atmosphere amongst NYC’s workers was buoyant.

Sarah Louis, a Gift Planning Senior Specialist at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and one of the leading worker activists who helped inspire her coworkers to form a union with 1199 in April, said, “It is important to show solidarity because we are only as strong as the weakest amongst us. We cannot do anything without including everybody. We are only strong if we act collectively.”

Longtime Union Delegate, Hugo Roman, a Patient Service Representative at the Ryan Chelsea-Clinton primary health care clinic in Manhattan added, “A lot of people think that unions are outdated, but we’ve seen time and again that there is a need. It is really important to show ALU and the other emerging unions that we have their back. We need to show everyone what a union can do.”

It wasn’t just New York City members who turned out for the celebration of labor power. Colleen Taft, an LPN at the Fort Hudson Nursing Center, travelled all the way from Fort Edward, NY, near Lake George, to march in solidarity with emerging unions. “We know from our own experience in Upstate, New York that the only way we can keep winning strong contracts as union members is if we make sure to stick together,” said Taft.

Audrey Stokes, who has been a Delegate and CNA at Park Gardens Nursing Center in the Bronx since 1978, could not agree more. “We want equal rights for everyone and if you don’t have a union you can’t get them,” she said. “Management will try to put you down all the time. But if you show solidarity they have to back down and give you what you want.”


“Management will try to put you down all the time. But if you show solidarity they have to back down and give you what you want.”

– Audrey Stokes, Delegate and CNA at Park Gardens Nursing Center, the Bronx

The solidarity with emerging unions was flowing both ways. Tristan “Lion” Dutchin, an Amazon warehouse worker who helped lead the successful organizing effort at company's massive Staten Island warehouse, rode on one of the 1199 floats. “I’m here to show support and solidarity with healthcare workers and workers across the globe,” he said. “We’re in this together.”

As mega-billionaires and major U.S. corporations seek to derail the gains of organized labor, destroy workers’ organizations, and drag the country back to a time when there was no hope for democracy in the workplace— workers are turning out in record numbers to fight back.

“People across zip codes and industries have come out and supported 1199SEIU over the years, so it’s important that we show up for young workers from places like Amazon, Trader Joe’s and Starbucks in the same way,” said Michele Lebby, a Behavioral Health Associate at South Oaks Hospital in Bayshore, Long Island.

1199ers know more than most what it takes to build and maintain a powerful union, but also what that means for the membership.

“As an 1199 member who has advanced in my career three times because of union support—I stand for a workforce where young workers can grow in their careers through secure benefits, especially affordable or no-cost educational opportunities,” said Starr Madden, a Family Support Specialist from BronxCare Health System.

1199 Magazine | September / October 2022