On Tuesday, September 6th, dozens of NMASS members testified before the New York City Council to voice their support for a bill to bring an end to the 24-hour workday for home attendants.
Luz Estrella, organizer and home care attendant, described what it’s like:
I couldn’t sleep when I worked 24 hours – maybe only 2 hours – because I had to give them medicine, or cook at midnight for the patient, or because I had to watch my patient all night because she would try to run away. I have an abdominal hernia due to the effort of moving my patient. I have high blood pressure from stress, and I can’t sleep.
Alvaro Ramirez, organizer, Board member and home attendant described how he fought back:
I have worked more than 20 years as a home attendant, always with SEIU 1199 agencies. I worked 15 years of 24-hour shifts, 4 and 5 days a week. One gets sick. I told my agency that I didn’t want to work anymore 24-hour shifts. The agency told me to resign. Many of my co-workers feel pressured to agree to 24 hours to save their union health insurance. I organized with my fellow First Chinese Presbyterian home attendants to reclaim our years of stolen pay.
Rafaela Urena, organizer and current home attendant, was blunt:
There is no kind of rest. I’m not working 24-hour shifts anymore. They wanted me but I said no. It’s such hard work. Patients are in danger.
The actions and testimony of Luz, Alvaro and Rafaela exemplify the work that NMASS, the National Mobilization Against SweatShops, has been doing for the past 26 years. These home attendants and organizers have inspired many youth and other workers to join them in demanding that the government stop the racist violence of the 24-hour workday that puts the lives of workers AND patients in danger.
Now more than ever, people see the need to come together regardless of our race, immigration status, or type of work to fight the exploitation we face at the hands of the developers, sweatshop bosses, and corporate interests—aided by our government. We organize together in our workplaces and our neighborhoods to end the systemic racism and exploitation that gives rise to wage theft, 24-hour workdays, environmental racism and displacement.
We are asking for your support. Here are some snapshots of our current campaigns:
Anti-Displacement Campaign: To stop the government’s collusion with developers and landlords to enrich themselves and displace us, our services, and our jobs, we are:
◆ Organizing with the community to challenge the city’s approval of four high-rise luxury towers on the Lower East Side & Chinatown waterfront in violation of people’s environmental rights.
◆ Protesting the eviction of Chinatown’s largest restaurant, Jing Fong restaurant by luxury developer, banker, and MOCA co-chair Jonathan Chu and calling for the return of the $35 million the museum received from the City to not oppose the City’s plan to construct a mega-jail in Chinatown.
◆ Calling for lower rents at Knickerbocker Village (KV) where after receiving millions in government aid to make repairs, the owner claims repairs are only possible if it sells KV to luxury developer L+M. The N.Y. State Division of Housing and Community Renewal is helping L+M to broker this illegal sale of KV that would displace residents, but KV residents halted the sale!
◆ Working with the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side to demand protection from the rampant real estate speculation and displacement in the community by passing the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) Rezoning Plan.
Home Attendant Campaign: Home care workers and others demand the end to the 24-hour workday.
◆ Besides suffering irreversible damage to their health and family life from working years of 24-hour shifts, home care workers are also cheated of 11 hours of pay each shift. We have helped many home attendants file lawsuits and complaints at the NYS Labor Department. Some from non-union agencies have won settlements. Those from SEIU 1199 agencies, however, are told that their wage claims have been resolved with an arbitration award, averaging an insulting $250 per worker.
◆ On August 31st, 300 home care workers protested for three days at 1199, demanding answers from the union about the award and about ending the 24-hour shift. The following week over 100 home care workers testified at a public hearing to demand that the City Council pass bill, Intro 175, to split 24-hour care into two shifts of 12; and to put a cap of 50 hours per week, to protect the health and well-being of home care workers AND the people in their care.
◆ On October 12th, 200 home care workers rallied at the Department of Labor to demand that gubernatorial candidates Kathy Hochul and Lee Zeldin pledge to end the 24-hour workday, and enforce laws that would split the shifts and recover workers’ stolen wages.
Wage Theft Organizing: Wage theft became even more rampant during the pandemic, lending even more urgency to workers’ demand that the labor law be enforced (Pass SWEAT now!). State-sanctioned wage theft in home care–According to 1199, $6 billion is owed to unionized home care workers in wage theft. Billions more are stolen from non-union agencies and those with other unions.
◆ Wage theft widespread for service and construction workers – “During the pandemic, I was busboy, food preparer, did deliveries, and broke down cartons. I worked 52 hours a week, six days a week, for $50 per day. I’ve done delivery for three restaurants in the last 19 years and all three have stolen my wages. All my friends, coworkers, and family have had the same experience. We need to organize to stop this wage theft”
-Octaviano Vazquez, who’s bringing together restaurant and other workers
We hope you will support our work with a donation by clicking HERE. Your gift will contribute to working people’s ability to come together so we can build a better world for our community and for future generations.
Wishing you the best in the upcoming holiday season, and in 2023.
NMASS Board member