NYC Home Attendants Rally At City Hall Demanding End to 24-Hour Workday

March 20, 2024

On March 20th, 2024, at 12pm, 25+ home health aides began their hunger strike to end the violent 24-hour workdays.

They were joined by hundreds of supporters at a kick-off rally, calling on Speaker Adrienne Adams to pass the No More 24 Act (Int 615) to end 24-hour shifts, splitting them into two 12-hour shifts. Despite support from City Council Members, and despite six large rallies outside City Hall to call on Speaker Adams to bring the bill to a vote – Speaker Adams repeatedly refuses to stop the violence. This delay means the practice will continue, and generations of women will also see their health and family relations destroyed, especially with the rising number of those who need care. Home attendants feel they have no other choice but to go on hunger strike and will remain outside of City Hall day and night on strike for at least 5 days. 

It is only here in NYC, where the City Council celebrates its historic women-majority, that women of color and immigrant women suffer the longest possible work hours of 24 hour workdays. Nowhere else in the country allows such violence to continue! 24-hour shifts not only cause immense damage to home attendants’ health – they also endanger patients by requiring them to be cared for by an exhausted, sleep-deprived caregiver. 

At the rally, home attendants were joined by speakers from the NY Taxi Workers’ Alliance, striking MFJ workers represented by LSSA 2320, the She Wolf Bakery Union, Amazon Labor Union, Red Canary Song and No Tech for Apartheid. 

During the rally many of the workers from the campaign spoke about the ongoing health effects this work leads to and the many years that these workers have been subjected to these brutal conditions. “Starting today, we will fast for one day, two days, or even several days. It’s not that we don’t cherish our health; we know that hunger striking harms the body and causes great damage to us. But we have no choice … Working 24 hours a day for a long time, our bodies have been tortured, broken down, and full of aches and pains. We cannot care for our children and families. Many of our sisters’ health is destroyed, and they too have become patients.” said Guihua Song, a retired home care worker.

Home attendant on hunger strike Luz Estrella said, “I am doing a hunger strike to finally put an end to the 24-hour workday. I am a home attendant who worked 24-hr shifts for 12 years, sometimes for 14 consecutive days. My health is very harmed. Also, during these years, I was never able to spend one Christmas or New Years with my family. They stole my health and my life, on top of my stolen wages.”

These brutal working conditions are occurring as home health care workers have made numerous sacrifices to keep others safe. “It is a sad day we need to have a Hunger Strike here in front of City Hall, after the home care workers contributed and sacrificed so much during the pandemic and how the city paid them. My fellow workers and I need to be hunger strikers to tell the world what happened in our city and refuse to let the city hall marginalize this struggle to be only for home care workers. What the City Council did by not passing the bill to prohibit 24 hrs work day, it is racist! This not only hurts the home care workers, it hurts all of us.” said Wing Lam, the director of Chinese Staff and Workers Association.

Today, speaker Adrienne Adams continues to refuse the No More 24 bill to leave committee and be put for a vote but hundreds of supporters have come out and demanded this bill be passed immediately. Worker and organizer Guihua Song, said “Today, we are here again to demand that City Council Speaker Adams immediately brings Intro 615 to a vote. We want to abolish this inhumane 24-hour workday and stop the violence against women of color. We call for two 12-hour shifts, allowing us to rest, protecting everyone’s health and family life, and also providing better care for our patients.”

Youth Against Sweatshops member Lily Randall, a hunger striker as well said, “The 24-hour workday, which robs so many home care workers of their health, their time, and their very lives, should be a wake-up call for all working people. To allow such racist violence against immigrant women of color workers to continue would be a grave injustice, to the home attendants who’ve fought for 10 years to end this abuse, and to the future of the working class. Home attendants have taught us that our time, our health, and our happiness are not only worth fighting for, but that they are tantamount to our survival. I am proud and honored to stand here today among the most courageous and determined women I know, and to hunger strike alongside them as we fight to pass intro 615, as we fight to end the 24-hour workday, as we fight for our future. The time is now. No more 24!”

Present at the rally were unions and workers from other fields who recognized the essential need to show support for the hunger strikers and connect the exploitation of their employees with their own. As unionized worker Michael Mangieri from She Wolf Bakery said “As a strong new union we know the fortitude that it takes for workers to come together and put our livelihoods on the line in order to demand change. As bakery workers, we know sleep deprivation: we work early and erratic hours, starting at 3am some days. So we understand how brutal hours can take a toll on our bodies and keep us from seeing our families and loved ones. The fact that these workers have been through so much and are STILL out here leading the fight for better working conditions is inspiring. As we organize to grow the labor movement in the food industry, we can only hope to follow them in their dedication and strength.” Mobilization for Justice Union member Denise Romero Gonzalez said. “All workers deserve to be paid enough to provide for our families but we also deserve to work in conditions that allow us to spend time with them, that provides us with a quality of life and good health. As public service workers and health aid workers, we have held this city and its people together at the seams with our bare hands and bodies, with our sweat, blood and tears.”

The thousands of supporters in attendance made it clear that they will continue to support the strikers until the No More 24 Act is passed. The protestors made it clear that if the city wishes to honor home health care workers for their essential work, then the conditions must be present to work without financial and physical exploitation. “I am proud to be standing in solidarity with you all today, said Zoe Hu, Chair of Graduate Center Chapter of Professional Staff Congress (PSC) . “I am astonished and uplifted by your commitment to justice, and your bravery in confronting these criminal work conditions. Because make no mistake about it, the 24 hour work day and wage theft that results is a crime. And the workers of New York City and its unions must stand with you, you who contribute so much and whose work is so crucial to the lives and health of New Yorkers.

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