Hundreds of 1199SEIU members staged a candlelight vigil at Mount Sinai Queens Hospital in Astoria to honor thousands of its members who selflessly sacrifice their health and the health of their loved ones to care for people suffering through COVID-19 pandemic.
The vigils were a way to celebrate the heroic colleagues who contracted COVID-19 and lost their lives, as well as those who continue to work every day without being recognized for their heroic acts.
Union members designated as Town Criers led the crowd in cheers and explained why they were there.
“We are the healthcare workers who have sacrificed and risked our lives while working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” a Town Crier said. “We leave our families behind each day to come to work to care for patients who are unable to care for themselves. We are here to pay tribute to our fallen sisters and brothers who gave their life coming to work and providing care for their patients. We thank them for their dedication and bravery.”
The union members also visited Parker Jewish Institute and Katz Women’s Hospital honoring the memory of George Floyd. Members kneeled for eight minutes and 46 seconds while holding signs reading “Black Lives Matter,” “Time for Change” and “Enough is Enough” during the silent vigil, after which members cheered and went back to work.
Union officials said the vigil, like others held around the city in recent weeks, was during members’ lunch breaks so as not to interfere with patient care.
“Police brutality and an inadequate response to COVID-19 have led to avoidable death and emotional trauma in our communities,” a union organizer said. “While we are on the frontlines fighting COVID-19, protestors were on the frontlines fighting injustice and racism.”
Simultaneous vigils were held at all facilities where 1199SEIU members work in all five boroughs, and in all five states where 1199 represents healthcare workers, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida and the District of Columbia.