May 10, 2013
Hundreds rally to save jobs, services at SUNY Downstate
UUP President-Elect Fred Kowal fires up the crowd as he calls for the state to save jobs and vital health care services at SUNY Downstate Medical Center during a spirited rally on the steps of the Brooklyn hospital on May 9. Statewide Treasurer Rowena Blackman-Stroud, right, looks on.
More than 1,000 people attended the rally and a series of events slated earlier in the day—a press conference, a church service and a march. Many of them were Central Brooklyn residents, community faith-based leaders, and hospital workers represented by UUP, CSEA and PEF.
At the rally, Downstate supporters cheered loudly and chanted “Save Downstate!” while waving signs that said “Keep SUNY Hospitals Public” and “Save SUNY Downstate.”
Kowal, in his first public appearance as UUP’s president-elect, vowed to fight to protect the jobs of more than 3,300 members who work at the medical center. UUP will work closely with other unions and community groups to keep Downstate operating as a full-service, state-run public hospital, he said.
“This is a healing place,” Kowal said. “This is where we together, make life in Brooklyn better for all.”
Downstate patients also spoke passionately about the need for the hospital. Downstate is more than just a hospital for many patients; it’s the difference between living and dying, they said.
“Without SUNY Downstate, I wouldn’t be here,” said Letisha Wadsworth, a Downstate dialysis patient. “I would be dead. And without the dialysis services and other health services provided by this hospital, the epidemic of kidney failure, high blood pressure and diabetes would be killing thousands within our community.”
Dozens of speakers, including state and city politicians, clergy, union leaders, and Downstate workers and patients, spoke at the rally. UUP statewide Vice President for Professionals Philippe Abraham, statewide Secretary Eileen Landy, and statewide Membership Development Officer Edison Bond Jr. also took part in the event.
Many of them attended an interfaith church service before the rally began. More than 250 people crammed into the tiny Mt. Zion Church of God, a few blocks from Downstate. They stopped traffic as they marched—waving signs and chanting—to the hospital after the service.
Earlier in the day, Rev. Al Sharpton held a press conference on the steps of Downstate, attended by about 200 people. Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Chinatown), and several Brooklyn clergy spoke at the event.
“We cannot accept one more dime, one more job, one more service to be cut from this hospital,” said Sharpton. “Go to where there’s fat and cut the fat. Don’t cut those of us who have already been cut to the bone.”
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