By INEZ SHARABY
New York State senators Jeffrey Klein and Diane Savino on Thursday rallied with the labor union 1199 SEIU to “fight for $15” for home health workers.
Klein hosted the rally and began by enthusiastically pumping up the crowd, which was filled with healthcare and homecare workers who were fighting to raise the minimum wage from $9 to $15.
“Homecare workers, healthcare workers, you make sure our loved ones’ health needs are met but meanwhile your own financial needs aren’t being met,” Klein said.
He ridiculed the argument of the business community that ithe wage boost would decrease jobs.
“That is complete nonsense!” he insisted. “When you raise the wage to $15 we’re going to create 5,000 new good paying jobs here in New York State.”
Klein, whose mother died in November, had hired a homecare attendant, Sharon, to take care of her in her final days, he said.
“Sharon was not a worker,” he said. “She was family. Because when I was too busy and when my sister was too busy to take care of my mom, it was Sharon who did. When I look out onto all of you, you are all Sharons, because each and every one of you plays such an important role in our lives.”
Savino and 1199 SEIU president, George Gresham followed Klein’s lead and thanked all those who work so hard to provide our loved ones with proper health needs.
Gresham, who is the son of a healthcare provider, quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’ speech to 1199: “There is no such thing as menial work. The only thing that can make the job menial is the lack of compensation that you get from the work. Not the time of work that you do.”
Gresham, along with the crowd chanted, “Be fair to those who care!”
Union members, Sheila Gibson, Alicia Johnson, and Mary Ellen Gibbs got up and spoke about how $10 an hour isn’t cutting it for them. They can’t afford basic necessities. All three of them, like most healthcare and homecare providers are on food stamps and Medicare.
“I love what I do!” said Johnson. “I have four children at home. My daughter, who is standing next to me right now, is epileptic. I need to be home taking care of my children, but instead I’m working. “