August 9, 2012

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Hundreds protest job cuts at SUNY Downstate


Downstate Chapter President Rowena Blackman-Stroud, second from right, shouts into a megaphone as she leads union members from Brooklyn’s SUNY Downstate Medical Center in a chant during a spirited noontime rally Aug. 8 to protest hundreds of job cuts at the hospital.

More than 300 Downstate workers and supporters used their lunch hours to participate in the rally, organized by UUP, the Public Employees Federation (PEF) and the Civil Service Employees Association. Unionists from UUP, PEF, CSEA, the United Federation of Teachers, SEIU 1199, and the New York State Nurses Association took part in the event.

Waving signs and chanting “They say cutback, we say fight back!” UUPers and hundreds of union members cheered as more than a half-dozen state and local politicians and community leaders—including Crown Heights Jewish Community Council Executive Director Rabbi Eli Cohen and Prospect Lefferts Garden Neighborhood Association President Evelyn Williams—stepped up and offered their support to stop the job reductions on a sweltering summer afternoon in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Assemblymen Karim Camara and Alan Maisel, and Assemblywomen Helene Weinstein and Inez Barron were at the rally. So was Assemblyman N. Nick Perry (D-Brooklyn), who won loud applause when he vowed to do all he could to stop the layoffs.

“I’m standing with you this afternoon and were going to be fighting with you,” Perry said, as the crowd chanted “Fight! Fight! Fight!” We are not going to pass SUNY Downstate hospital by. We are not going to stand back and let this happen.”

“We’re here to fight for our jobs,” said Donna Belgrave-Calder, a UUPer and a 13-year Downstate employee. “The community is going to plunge if these layoffs happen. Everything is going to go downhill. A lot of people will be evicted from their homes.”

Hundreds of job cuts at the medical center are imminent as part of a financial restructuring plan announced by Downstate in May. As many as 1,000 job losses could result, which would cause drastic health care service cuts and devastate Brooklyn’s weak economy.

Blackman-Stroud, UUP’s statewide treasurer, led the rally. She shouted instructions to the crowd through a bullhorn and made a passionate plea to unionists to keep up the fight to save Downstate jobs.

“We cannot rest, we must do all that we can to stop these job cuts,” she said.

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