On Tuesday, March 21, members of the SEIU 1199 health care workers union, as well as supporters and legislators, marched around the Capitol and down to the MVP arena in downtown Albany. Those in attendance were there not only to celebrate recent union victories, but also to call on the governor and state lawmakers to make sure the union’s interests are represented in the upcoming 2024 state budget.
Once inside the arena, a range of speakers discussed issues that 1199 members are facing, including low pay, and encouraging the state Legislature to include increased Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospitals and nursing homes in the state’s budget, due April 1.
Among the speakers were Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, Assembly Health Chair Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, Executive Vice President of 1199 Milly Silva, and state Attorney General Letitia James.
In a conversation with The Legislative Gazette, Assemblywoman Paulin expressed how “excited” she was that the rally had attracted “thousands of healthcare workers,” and that they “are the people who make it great.”
Aside from the speeches by legislators and union members, the crowd was roused by musical performances by DJ Red Alert, and rappers Rakim (of golden age rap duo Eric B. and Rakim), Fat Joe, and Remy Ma, throughout the afternoon.
Attorney General James spoke following performances by Rakim. She estimated the crowd to be 16,000 in number as she spoke, and addressed the crowd, pledging her support for the health care workers union.
“I have consistently stood with 1199, because you have paid your dues for us, and now we should pay you back,” James said. “We need to raise the Medicaid reimbursement for hospitals, and we need to make sure they have adequate resources because they serve the poor.”
The New York state budget is set to pass on April 1. According to Hochul’s Executive Budget, it will “include $7.7 billion to be spent over four years to increase the home care worker minimum wage by $3 per hour.” The Assembly’s budget proposal reflects this, stating it’s wish for home care worker wages to be $3 over the minimum wage.