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Local 420 President Jeers State’s ‘Reactive’ Posture in the Face of COVID-19

September 18, 2020

By Silver Krieger

New York, NY – Carmen Charles is president of the New York City Municipal Hospitals Employees Union, Local 420, DC37, AFSCME. The union represents healthcare workers in NYC Health + Hospitals (H+H), the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). She negotiates on behalf of her members across the city’s 5 boroughs who work in 11 acute hospitals, 5 long-term care facilities, 500+ network of clinics, Riker’s Island and the city morgues.

Local 420 President Carmen Charles.

When asked about the issues currently confronting the Local and its members, Charles said, “The local’s issues in the public hospitals are primarily the shortage of funding from the federal and state government… as well as the unfair reimbursement formula for safety net hospitals. We are also concerned about reduction of headcount through attrition, and the resulting impact of members opportunities for promotions, increase in their workload, erratic work schedules and diminished hours. Another major concern to us is the use of vendors by H+H to cut cost. This is most often resulted in our members being given inferior materials or limited supplies to complete their work. It has also resulted in a shadow workforce of agency workers who are pitted against part-time union members.”

In legislative testimony about the effect of coronavirus, Charles said, “During this pandemic, Local 420 members have treated New York City’s most vulnerable people under the most grueling of circumstances. We have worked long hours, often without the proper personal protection equipment because the people that we are treating are our neighbors and our families. It is a testament to my members’ professionalism, courage, and love of community. My members have provided care to COVID-19 patients with sensitivity and compassion. We have gone above and beyond our job titles to provide aid and comfort to dying COVID-19 patients that are alone and scared. From our experience battling COVID-19, it has become very clear that as a State we need to properly fund our public hospitals to protect our most vulnerable citizens. Part of the reason that we have lost so many Americans to COVID-19 is because we have been reactive in our response rather than proactive. Prior to the pandemic, we lacked the necessary personal protection equipment to protect frontline workers and the general public. As a matter of course, we must work toward stockpiling these materials to prepare for future pandemics and find ways to train the general public on how to properly use personal protection equipment and socially distance. More importantly, we need to be proactive toward protecting the fiscal solvency of our public hospitals.”

She also said, “These past six months have been Local 420’s finest hour, however, we are not without tragedy. Thirteen Local 420 members have died from COVID-19 and dozens of others have been infected. We express our deepest sympathy to their families and all of the families of people that have passed away from this disease.”

AFSCME, Local 420, Hospital Workers Union, was chartered September 17, 1954 and represents a wide range of non-medical workers employed in the New York City Health+Hospitals; OCME, FDNY and DOC. Its primary mandate involves negotiating contracts, benefits and opportunities for advancement, as well as ensuring respect and dignity on the job for approx. 8,700 members employed in 11 acute hospitals, 5 longterm care facilities, 5 diagnostic health centers and over 500 clinics spread throughout the five boroughs, along with techs and aides in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Fire Department of New York and Department of Corrections.

Titles of members include Ambulatory Care Technician, Behavior Health Associate, Bio-Medical Equipment Technician, Elevator Operator, Institutional Aide, Maternal & Child Care Technician, Nurse Aide, Respiratory Therapy Technician, and Pharmacy Technician. Hospitals served include Kings County Hospital Center, Harlem Hospital Center, Lincoln Medical & Mental Health Center, Jacobi Medical Center, Elmhurst Medical Center, Bellevue Hospital Center, and Coney Island Hospital. 

 

September 18, 2020

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