Home health care attendants picketed their union’s headquarters in Manhattan on a rainy Monday afternoon, demanding that the union and elected officials cease 24-hour shifts for workers that the protesters claimed are abusive and damaging to families.
The picket was one of many protests this group has organized since the summer.
About 50 workers gathered outside the 1199 SEIU headquarters in the Garment District, where they called on the union to tell health care companies who employ their workers to stop the mandatory 24-hour shifts. They also drafted a letter to both Governor Andrew Cuomo and President-elect Joe Biden, and appealed to union president George Gresham, seeking their help in abolishing 24-hour workdays.’
The union however, maintains that the issue is “not in their control,” but must be corrected by the legislature.
Home attendant Norma Garcia complained that her shifts caused strain in her family and she was unable to give her children proper attention.
“I was working 24-hour shifts when my children were teenagers and needed a lot of attention,” Garcia said. “I am working 24 hours a day, I couldn’t give them the attention they needed. Enough already! We’re calling on President Biden to show his leadership and support us workers, and tell Governor Cuomo and 1199 to stop the 24-hour day!”
JoAnn Lum, an organizer with the “Ain’t I A Woman?!” campaign, said her group seeks to “end the super-exploitation of women, and hold those benefiting from sweatshop labor accountable–whether we work in garment factories, home healthcare, or offices.”
Zoila Puma, also a home attendant, called the 24-hour shifts “draining.”
“I am here today to say to Governor Cuomo and 1199: stop the 24-hour shift,” Puma said. “I have worked 12-hour shifts taking care of a patient, and it is hard, draining work. I can’t imagine a 24-hour workday. Why does 1199 allow the abuse of women workers like this? We are human beings, flesh and blood, taking care of people who are sick or old, to the best of our abilities. And 24-hour shifts are unacceptable.”
Sarah Ahn, also an organizer for the home care attendants, said we’ve been picketing since the summer because “it’s inhumane and has no place in the 21st century.”
“They are required to do 24-hour work for which they are only paid for 13 of those hours,” Ahn said. “A lot 0f these women talk about the impact on their health, the loss of time with their children, broken families, so we are really calling on 1199 to put an end to that. They really haven’t taken a stand on it. They are actually helping to sustain these policies.”
George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU said he supports workers efforts to be fairly compensated.