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For Immediate Release
July 22, 2020

UUP, unions rally for ‘COVID pay’ for essential health care workers

United University Professions, America’s largest higher education union, joined with three other statewide unions July 22 in a march and rally to demand hazard pay for members on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic at Stony Brook University Hospital.

UUP members who work at the hospitals marched with hundreds of union colleagues from CSEA, 1199SEIU and the Public Employees Federation in the lunchtime event, dubbed “Heroes not Zeros.”

Speakers at a rally following the march amplified the fact that essential workers at the state-operated hospital—which includes Stony Brook Southampton and Stony Brook Eastern Long Island hospitals—have not received any extra pay for caring for COVID-19 patients, particularly during the height of the pandemic in New York City in the spring.

The unions want the hospital’s administration to urge the SUNY Board of Trustees to provide “COVID pay”—$2,500 bonuses for essential hospital workers—the incentive given to essential employees at hospitals in New York City and those run by Northwell Health, said Carolyn Kube, president of UUP’s Stony Brook Health Sciences Center Chapter.

“Our essential workers are heroes and they deserve to be treated as such,” said Frederick E. Kowal, UUP’s statewide president. “They put their lives on the line every day, working double shifts and extra shifts to care for thousands of COVID-19 patients that flooded downstate hospitals in the spring when New York City was the epicenter of the coronavirus.”

“Our members’ lives have been upended by their heroic response to the pandemic,” said Kube. “Some of our members contracted coronavirus and brought it home and family members have died. People have been redeployed to evening, night and weekend shifts and it was a big sacrifice. I really think that if you value your people, you show them at a time of crisis.”

The workers got support from state Sen. Monica Martinez and Assemblymember Steve Engelbright, who said the employees should receive hazard pay for their heroic efforts.

"Our health care workers and essential employees have been, and continue to be, on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic," Martinez said. "They have worked day in and day out, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week putting their lives on the line. They deserve hazard pay and it's our turn to take care of them just like they took care of us and continue to do so."

"In the midst of a deadly pandemic the risks that health care workers take daily is an amazing display of professionalism, compassion, and courage," Englebright said. "I applaud their brave commitment to the care of our families and loved ones whenever they are stricken with the COVID-19 virus and call upon our public institutions to reciprocate with appropriate pay so that these remarkable employees will be predictably retained and enabled to continue their essential work."

UUP has more than 4,000 members at the hospital. The union represents more than 12,000 members at state-operated hospitals in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse. UUP members also work at hospitals in Western New York.

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 42,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.


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