Union Healthcare Workers Take A Knee Against Police Brutality And Systemic Racism

June 11, 2020

By Joe Maniscalco, LaborPress.com

Brooklyn, NY – Healthcare workers continuing to struggle on the front lines of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic spent Thursday’s noontime lunch break invoking the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery — and all the other victims of police violence, both here and across the nation.

In Brooklyn, motorists on Rockaway Parkway honked in support as hundreds of 1199SEIU healthcare workers took a knee in front of Brookdale Hospital for an 8-minute and 26-second silent vigil — the same time Minneapolis cops kept Floyd pinned to the ground before ultimately killing him.

Healthcare workers held the same vigil at Parker Jewish Institute in New Hyde Park; New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan; Bronx Care Health in the Bronx and Staten Island University Hospital on Staten Island.

The somber citywide action also involving the Communication Workers of America [CWA] District 1 and New York State Nurses Association [NYSNA], coincided with similar #WalkoutForBlackLives observances held nationwide this week.

Last week, 32BJ SEIU Political Director Candis Tolliver expressed her union’s support for defunding and demilitarizing the NYPD — and said that the threat of police brutality had members afraid to go to work.

“I believe some of the [NYPD] funds should go to the less fortunate — people that have suffered — especially from COVID-19,” a Brookdale Hospital EKG technician told LaborPress on Thursday. “There’s a lot of depression — it happens in this society.”

Advocates for cutting $1 billion from the NYPD’s massive $6 billion budget want the reallocated money to go to transforming mental health outreach, homeless services and schools.

Earlier this week, hundreds of demonstrators marched over the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall renouncing police brutality and demanding a $1 billion cut to the NYPD budget on July 1.

Outside City Hall Park, some of the families of unarmed people of color killed by NYPD cops, underscored the need to defund the police.

Constance Malcolm, an 1199SEIU healthcare worker who lost her son Ramarley after police shot and killed him inside his own Bronx apartment in 2012, called for Mayor Bill de Blasio to resign.

“Officer [Richard] Haste was allowed to walk because our mayor refused to fire him,” Malcolm told hundreds of supporters. “[Mayor de Blasio] must resign now. There’s too many murders on his watch, and he keeps defending these officers. We put him in office — we’re going to make sure he comes out before his time.”

Carol Gray’s son Kimani was 16-years-old when NYPD cops shot and killed him in March, 2013. The slain boy’s mother said that every time police kneel on someone’s neck or fire a bullet into a Black or Brown person — it’s the family members who feel the pain.

“We have to live this,” Gray said. “It’s a life sentence because of politicians. Why are we giving [police] money? We need money in our communities, we need money for resources, we need money for mental health, we need money for the homeless.”

George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25, sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism. In New York City, Mayor de Blasio responded to constitutionally-protected demonstrations with 4,0000 additional police officers and an overnight curfew that stretched into an entire week. Numerous videos captured NYPD cops brutalizing demonstrators and driving police cruisers into crowds during the unrest.

The mayor, however, said cops had demonstrated “tremendous restraint.” Hizzoner’s own daughter was arrested during the tumult — a fact that did not escape Malcolm.

“Chiara was out there protesting — and she has a right to protest because she’s a Black woman,” Malcolm said. “But I want to ask Mayor de Blasio: Would it be okay for a cop to bash her upside the head like they would do to the protesters? Would he still stand by the cops? Would he still stand beside them if they shot a rubber bullet at her? Would he still stand by them when they Mace her [and] tear gas her?”

In a statement condemning police brutality last month, CWA District 1 said, “There is no in-between. There is no neutral option. The only real way to dismantle racism and build the working-class power we seek is for every worker to take on the struggle for justice for Black people in this country as their own and to embrace actions that “an injury to one is an injury to all” demands of us.”

Brookdale Hospital President and CEO Dominick Stanzione said the fight to end police brutality and systemic racism must continue.

“We cannot let this fight end,” Stanzione told 1199SEIU healthcare workers. “I pray every day that we’re finally at a moment in time when real change is gonna happen.”