April 30, 2020

NYSUT mask donations nearing 200,000

Author: Kara Smith
Source:  NYSUT Communications
disaster relief
Caption: A NYSUT/UUP delivery to health care members at Stony Brook University Hospital. Photo provided.

What started as a simple act of members helping members, has turned into a movement.

Since the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund began soliciting donations earlier this year to purchase personal protective equipment and other supplies for health care members, more than $90,000 in member donations have flowed into the fund and nearly 200,000 masks have been delivered to professionals in medical facilities hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

From Long Island and New York City, to Buffalo, Syracuse and the Capital Region, our health care members have seen and felt the love and support of their union brethren. When they put out a call for help, NYSUT answered.

“Although I’m not surprised that our members rallied in support of their union brothers and sisters in health care, as they battle against coronavirus crisis, I am amazed by the sheer level of generosity,” said Andy Pallotta, NYSUT president. “That we’re facing this crisis at all is unprecedented — but that union members are reaching out, at this level, to offer a helping hand, it’s humbling. Thank you.”


As NYSUT members across the state risk their lives serving on the front lines in hospitals and other health care facilities statewide during the COVID-19 pandemic, NYSUT urges members to donate to the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund. All proceeds will go directly toward purchasing and providing PPE, food and other supplies for health care workers.

NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Philippe Abraham, whose office heads the fund, said “the union’s commitment is ongoing.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we are in this for the long haul,” said Abraham who thanked members for their generosity. “NYSUT will provide as much assistance as possible until we’re through this crisis. We take the safety of our members seriously and we’re proud to offer a helping hand.”

The latest mask deliveries went to Long Island Community Hospital; the Saint Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Suffolk County; SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University; Stony Brook University Hospital; the Westchester Federation of Visiting Nurses; and the United Federation of Teachers.

Earlier donations went to UUP Buffalo Health Science Center; Albany County Nursing Home; SUNY Upstate Medical Center University in Syracuse; and Visiting Nurse Service of New York in Manhattan. Members at NYU Langone in Brooklyn; and Staten Island University Hospital also received masks.

Pulling together the mask donations wasn’t easy. Thanks to generous member donations, the funds were there but finding a reliable PPE source was challenging. The statewide union worked tirelessly to find a vendor that could both provide the PPE that members desperately needed — which remains in short supply — and that met the stringent quality guidelines set by NYSUT’s on-staff health and safety expert.

Although NYSUT sought to purchase National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health certified N95 respirator masks — which provide the best protection and are the most needed — finding a trustworthy source was difficult. The union settled on surgical ear-loop masks with three layers of non-woven polypropylene fabric, which “have a number of uses and should help lower the spread of the virus for anyone working in the hospital,” explained Veronica Foley, NYSUT’s assistant in health & safety and health care. If true NIOSH certified N95 masks had been available, the union would have purchased those.

disaster relief

In countless thank you emails and calls to NYSUT officers, one message rang loud and clear: the masks are appreciated. “Our members are so happy to have access to surgical masks when they need them and to know that their union has their backs,” wrote one UUP Stonybrook leader.

Another, at the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Greater Suffolk, wrote that “during these uncertain times, I can say with certainty these front-line workers will long remember this gesture, and importantly, that it was made possible by NYSUT.”

It’s a contribution the statewide union is happy to make. Abraham notes that the mask donations underscore NYSUT’s commitment to social justice by ensuring workers are as safe as possible on the job. “Social justice work is union work,” he said. “We could not sit by, knowing that our members were at-risk, without taking action.

“I encourage members to keep those donations flowing in,” he continued. “Your donations directly improve the working conditions of health care workers in this difficult and dangerous time.”

As NYSUT health care members statewide risk their lives serving on the front lines during the COVID-19 crisis, the statewide union urges members to donate to the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund. All proceeds go directly toward purchasing and providing PPE, food and other supplies for health care workers.