Workers’ World Today is a free publication that empowers all workers, regardless of social or political affiliations. Distributed throughout New York City, our paper has a mission to educate workers and provide them with relevant information pertinent to the workforce such as workers’ compensation, discrimination on the job, workers’ rights, and more.
Unionized workers at one of New York’s largest hospital-laundry and medical-uniform companies launched a two-day strike on Wednesday to demand a fair contract and protest illegal threats of termination that are being investigated by the National Labor Relations Board. The employees, overwhelmingly Latinx immigrants who have worked throughout the pandemic, clean and process medical linens for many city-based hospitals affiliated with New York Presbyterian, including Columbia University Medical Center, the Allen Hospital, David H. Koch Center, Weill Cornell Medical Center and Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. They are represented by the Laundry, Distribution, and Food Service Joint Board, Workers United/SEIU.
“Along with the commitment to protections against COVID-19, these laundry workers are fighting for small wage increases, and continuation of a modest pension benefit that costs around 30 cents per hour — a tiny expense that Unitex can easily afford,” the union said in a statement. “Unitex is a wealthy company, reportedly earning $150 million in annual revenue as of 2014, yet its owners are demanding unreasonable concessions that may force employees to strike.”
At a Nov. 11 rally in front of the New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, dozens of union members turned out to raise public awareness of the contract battle.
“I have dedicated years of my life to this job,” said Brigida Vidal, a Unitex employee. “It’s very hard work cleaning and processing gowns, sheets, and other linens for hospitals and nursing homes in New York City. But I am proud to help keep these health-care facilities clean and safe every day, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. We deserve to be treated fairly. We hope Unitex does not force us to strike and prevent hospitals from receiving the clean medical linens they need, especially as COVID-19 infections are increasing.”