Health and Safety

Healthcare Workers Taste Victory

September 9, 2013
By Marc Bussanich

George Gresham l. with Bill de Blasio at City Hall

George Gresham endorses Bill de Blasio for mayor in May at City Hall

Brooklyn, NY—At Borough Hall yesterday celebrities, labor leaders and elected officials rallied to implore the public to vote for Mr. de Blasio because he's the progressive candidate to beat. George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU, the largest healthcare union local in the country, said he feels like a boxer on the verge of victory but has to be vigilant with two rounds left to fight. Watch Video

Back in May the healthcare workers union, which represents workers in home care, hospital and nursing home industries, endorsed Bill de Blasio for the next New York City mayor. It was the unions' first unanimous vote in over 20 years for a candidate pursuing a major political office. 

Mr. Gresham said on the steps of City Hall on May 20 that the union decided to endorse Mr. de Blasio because he's the most progressive candidate. 

"After 20 years of Republican leadership, he's the voice of working people we need right now," said Gresham. 

In an interview at Borough Hall after celebrity heavyweights Harry Belafonte, Marisa Tomei and Cynthia Nixon spoke on how a de Blasio administration would help change the political discourse and bring progressive politics back into the American dialogue, Gresham said he feels the momentum at his back as the primary is less than 24 hours away. 

"I feel the momentum is for us. I know they are going to come after us with a lot of untruths…But if we keep doing our work…I feel the victory." 

Almost 200,000 members of 1199SEIU reside in New York, and thousands of them have been volunteering for the de Blasio campaign by knocking on doors and informing voters of the mayoral candidate's positions. 

"In the beginning people weren't too familiar with de Blasio, but as our members have been talking with voters they now have a better understanding of what he stands for, which is paid sick leave, affordable housing and good quality health care," Gresham said. 

While volunteering in the field, Gresham noted that voters told him and volunteers that affordable housing and the controversial police tactic of stop and frisk are important to them this election year. 

During the campaign, Mr. de Blasio has criticized the stop and frisk tactic under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration while also claiming it is a valid police tactic. When asked if he thought Mr. de Blasio's position on stop and frisk is contradictory, Mr. Gresham said no. 

"I think as everything else in life we evolve our positions…I have a five-year old granddaughter that inspires me to do everything I'm doing, I wouldn't be supporting him if I didn't think he was genuine on that position. For people of color we can never enjoy the real fruits of New York City as long as that policy exists. I trust him on that."

Follow Marc Bussanich on Twitter marc@laborpress.org

September 9, 2013

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