Heroes act to protect heroes: Essential workers hold vigil, deliver letter to Cuomo’s Midtown office

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Essential workers held a rally/vigil outside of Gov. Cuomo’s Midtown office demanding that he sign the NY Hero Act.
Photo by Dean Moses

Essential workers deliver a letter to Cuomo demanding he sign the NY Hero Act for employment protections.  

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Midtown office has swiftly become the unofficial hub of protests, rallies, and press conferences ever since the embattled head of state faced a slew of sexual misconduct allegations. The afternoon of April 28 was no different as essential workers continue to place mounting pressure on the governor to sign the NY Hero Act.

The scene outside 633 3rd Avenue was more akin to a vigil than a rally. The sidewalk was coated with candles, a large banner, and a gigantic mask with the words “50k+ dead still no protection. Pass NY Hero Act” scrawled over it. Essential workers gathered around the makeshift memorial who have seen the horror the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought.

Protesters wrote, “50k+ dead still no protection. Pass NY Hero Act” on a makeshift mask. Photo by Dean Moses

“Almost 52,000 New Yorkers have lost their lives to COVID-19 and countless others have been wounded, physically and mentally. So many died just because they were deemed essential and had no choice but to go to work. They were left unprotected and ended up paying the highest price as they sacrificed their lives working to keep our city and state running for all of us,” said Flandersia James, a nurse at BronxCare Hospital and member of the New York State Nurses Association, adding: “I am pleading with Governor Cuomo to not waste one more minute and to sign the NY Hero Act.”

Led by the NY Essential Workers Coalition, a statewide group made up of over 75 unions, activists and other groups, the New York Health and Essential Rights Act looks to protect those who have tirelessly worked throughout the dangers of the novel coronavirus from the current pandemic and possible future outbreaks by slapping businesses with fines if they do not employ new measures to inhibit the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne diseases. The bill would also afford workers an opportunity to voice their feelings on protocols through workplace Health and Safety Committees.

After speakers talked about the importance of the Act and paid tribute to the workers who lost their lives over the course of the pandemic, those in attendance gripped a letter addressed to Cuomo and marched to the office’s entrance. Security manager Chris Smith met the activists at the door. Taking the letter, he said, “We will see the governor gets it.”

Protesters handed Security manager Chris Smith a letter urging Cuomo to sign the NY Hero Act. Photo by Dean Moses

The letter pleads for Cuomo to sign the bill as soon as possible, reminding him that as the city’s restrictions ease, workers garner higher risks of contracting the deadly virus.

“We are among millions of essential workers who are risking our lives every day to keep New York safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic is far from over—thousands of New Yorkers continue to pass away from COVID-19 each month, and every day, people in our communities are getting sick,” part of the letter read.