Florida’s Largest Healthcare Union 1199SEIU Calls on Governor to Implement Support for Frontline Caregivers

March 26, 2020


Contact: Ed Gilhuly | 305-807-6906 | egilhuly@leftcom.com

Miramar, FL - The following open letter from Dale Ewart, Acting Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, was sent to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on March 25, 2020. Sent on behalf of 24,0000 nurses and other healthcare workers united as 1199SEIU, the letter calls for the following to protect public health and frontline healthcare workers:

     • Address critical personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing shortages in hospitals and nursing homes.

   • Ensure all workers, especially healthcare and first-responders, receive adequate sick time, paid leave and other essential benefits.

     • Issue a statewide shelter-at-home order to stem community spread of the virus.

The full text of the letter follows (Click here for official letter):

March 25, 2020

The Honorable Ron DeSantis
Governor, State of Florida
The Capitol
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399

Dear Governor DeSantis:

Our nurses and other healthcare staff in hospitals and nursing homes have been working tirelessly on the front lines of public health to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and to protect the health of Floridians. But these committed caregivers are afraid and upset that the public well-being and their own safety are not being adequately served by the State.

On behalf of these workers, including the 24,000 represented by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, we first and urgently request that you issue a statewide shelter-in-place order to help stop the community spread of this deadly virus.

Concurrently, we also need broad measures to increase testing to accurately determine the scale of this contagion, and to dramatically bolster the availability of masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure the safety of healthcare workers.

PPE shortages have caused great concern and fear among our caregivers. Even at this early stage of what is expected to be a lengthy public health emergency, we have reached a crisis point in these shortfalls. Caregivers, hospitals and nursing homes did not create this situation, and they can’t solve it on their own. They urgently need the state and federal governments to deliver solutions and support, including decisive moves such as releasing all strategic reserves of these items, improving supply chains and converting factories to the production of PPE supplies, and much more.

In Florida, our specific requests of your office include:

     • Direct all businesses with supplies of PPE to provide them to the Florida Office of Emergency Management for distribution to healthcare facilities most in need.

     • Direct all Florida businesses that have the capabilities to convert and/or immediately accelerate the production of PPE.

     • Increase state funding for the production and purchase of PPE and test kits.

In conjunction with these actions, Florida must:

    • Expand worker benefits such as unemployment insurance.

    • Provide healthcare workers and other first-responders adequate sick leave and paid time off, especially if they’ve become ill on the job.

     • Provide childcare for those with young children.

Protecting healthcare workers is critical, because if they become sick in large numbers due to lack of protection, the whole system to care for the public can collapse. We need government officials to step in and step up swiftly to avert an even greater crisis.

Florida nursing home staff must be treated with particular attention. Already among the lowest paid with limited health benefits and sick time, they face severe challenges. This places their elderly patients – who are at most risk to the virus – at even greater peril. The tragedy in the King County, Washington nursing home – including 23 deaths -- illustrates how quickly the virus can spread among patients and caregivers. The disease infected 81 patients, 34 staff members and 14 visitors in a very short period of time.

This fight against COVID-19 has highlighted the great need for access to affordable, quality health care, and for all workers to have sufficient paid sick time, health insurance and other essential benefits. Unfortunately, it also clearly exposed the lack of preparedness and the slow federal response to the dangers of the virus that allowed it to blow up into this deep crisis. But if correct and comprehensive steps are taken right now, we can reverse this grave threat to our workers, families, communities and economies.

We urgently request your full commitment and support in this unprecedented time of need.


Dale Ewart
Acting Executive Vice President & Florida Regional Director
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East

cc: Secretary Mary Mayhew, Florida Agency for Health Care Administration
State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, Florida Department of Health
Secretary Richard Prudom, Florida Department of Elder Affairs


1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest healthcare union in the country representing more than 450,000 nurses and healthcare workers nationwide, including more than 24,000 in Florida. Our nurses, certified nursing assistants and other healthcare workers care for Florida families in hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities throughout the state.