Health care workers take a knee at CMH

June 11, 2020

By Nora Mishanec, Columbia-Greene Media

HUDSON — Health care workers took a moment Thursday to take a knee outside Columbia Memorial Hospital to protest the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police.

Between 20 and 25 staffers and community members participated in the vigil by kneeling outside the emergency room entrance for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck while arresting him on May 25.

Dr. Clifford Belden, CMH’s chief medical officer, participated by kneeling silently on the sidewalk alongside CMH staffers.

Belden said the vigil sends an important message from the health care community.

The vigil was organized as part of a nationwide effort by the 1199 Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers East, known as 1199 SEIU, the union that represents more than 850 health care workers at CMH, including registered nurses, technicians and staff members in the housekeeping, maintenance and dietary departments.

X-ray technician Robert Anderson said his experience as an activist during the AIDS crisis taught him the importance of speaking out.

This is an important moment for the county to wake up, said Anderson, who participated in the vigil on his lunch break.

Anderson was joined outside by several other members of the hospital’s radiology department.

The vigil was a moment to recognize the injustices inherent to black lives in this nation, said Kim Lyons, an administrative organizer for 1199 SEIU who helped coordinate the event with union members.

Similar vigils took place at nursing homes and hospitals across the state Thursday afternoon, including at facilities in Poughkeepsie and Kingston.

Patient care was not interrupted, as health care workers gathered on their lunchtimes or breaks, 1199SEIU said.