The New York State Association of Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislators honored the union members of NYSUT, SEIU 1199 and the New York State Nurses Association at the Labor Lunch as part of the caucus’s annual conference Friday.
The statewide unions were recognized “in appreciation of their members’ steadfast services during the COVID pandemic.” And the spirit extended to many other union workers, as well.
Association Chair Latrice Walker, a member of the Assembly from Brooklyn, said, when COVID–19 “shocked our nation to its core,” many workers “didn’t have the opportunity to shelter in place.” A wide range of essential workers “stood on the frontlines and stood in the gap to ensure we could all be in the place we are today.”
Association Chair Latrice Walker, a member of the Assembly from Brooklyn, and Rev. Terrence Melvin, secretary-treasurer of the state AFL-CIO.
In addition to health care professionals and teachers, there are aides and custodians; there are retail workers, transportation workers and sanitation workers, she said. All were honored at the Labor Luncheon.
“We look at this as a labor of love,” said Rev. Terrence Melvin, secretary-treasurer of the state AFL-CIO. “All these individuals who are now looked at as essential workers put their lives on the line.”
This year, the 50th annual legislative conference is different, of course, because it’s all virtual.
In a recorded message, NYSUT President Andy Pallotta told participants that NYSUT members always do important work, in schools and colleges, in hospitals, clinics and home health care, “but it has never been more critical than in the past year. From the first days of this crisis, our members have been on the front lines serving communities across the state, helping contain this deadly virus,” he said.
Pallotta also acknowledged “the more than 100 NYSUT members who made the ultimate sacrifice and passed away from COVID-19 last year.”
The Labor Lunch was hosted this year by Assemblywoman Walker, State Sen. Jessica Ramos, D/WF–Queens, Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner, D–Bronx, and Assemblywoman Karines Reyes, D/WF–Bronx. Melvin was the emcee.
The association was organized decades ago to bring elected officials, stakeholders, the business community, and community and faith-based leaders to Albany every year to advocate for inclusion of communities of color in the state budget process.
Pallotta urged the participating lawmakers to remember the sacrifices these union members have made as they seek to finalize the 2021-22 state budget plan, which is due next week.
“Our members have delivered for students across the state,” he said. “And now, it is up to us to make sure this year’s budget delivers for them.“