Caravan Shows Support For Nursing Home Workers And Social Justice
A caravan of health care union members and supporters traveled to four nursing homes in Miami-Dade and Broward on Monday. The purpose of the demonstration was to support nursing home workers and the Black Lives Matter movement. They handed out personal protective equipment and encouraging words to workers.
The demonstration was organized by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, as part of the #StrikeForBlackLives national day of action supported by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and 50 partner organizations.
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Dale Ewart is the union’s executive vice president and Florida regional director. He said providing support for nursing home workers and the Black Lives Matter movement intersect, because many of the union’s members are people of color.
“There's been far too much cheap flattery of essential workers by calling them heroes but then not paying them and not providing them with the protection they need," he said. "On Black Lives Matter, we need to continue to protest until we get real and structural reform here.”
Ewart said employers should recognize the risks and sacrifices nursing home workers are making and compensating them for it.
“Sadly nursing home workers’ pay is in the best of times low, and often poverty-level wages,” Ewart said. “That’s inexcusable at any time, but to ask people making poverty level wages to additionally sacrifice their lives … it’s too much.”
Ewart said the union is pushing for employers to provide hazard pay as well as maximum protection when it comes to equipment.
“Workers need protection,” he said. “They need masks. Masks that are used the way they were intended, once and disposed of, not reused over and over again.”
Anne-Mercie Blot, a nursing assistant at a long-term care facility, said the pandemic has changed health care workers’ lives, especially those of color. The caravan was an opportunity for her to support fellow workers.
“Every day when we go out, the frustration, because you don't know if you will go home safe,” Blot said. “We were out to show our support, to show them some love, to tell them how important the work that we doing is. We are not alone.”
Blot emphasized that it’s people of color, like herself, who are taking care of the most vulnerable Floridians.
“Our lives matter,” she said. “That’s why we’re out today. To let elected officials, the governor, and whoever needs to know that we were essential before the pandemic and we will be long after.”
Blot said that workers need to be supported with hazard pay, sick leave, health insurance and proper equipment.
“There’s no way we can care or give assistance to elderly residents without protecting ourselves,” she said. “If we are not safe, they are not safe. If they are not safe, we are not safe.”