April 02, 2020

NYSUT urges donations to union’s Disaster Relief Fund to support overwhelmed health care workers

Author: Matt Smith
Source:  NYSUT Communications
disaster relief for health care workers
Caption: These NYSUT and UFT "Health Care Heroes" at Staten Island University Hospital SouthSite/Division of Northwell Health have a simple message for everyone: "Stop the spread - stay at home!" Photo provided.

Members helping members in their time of need: It’s the foundation of NYSUT’s Disaster Relief Fund.

And right now, there are thousands of NYSUT members who need our help as they risk their lives working without proper protective equipment and other necessary supplies while on the front lines in the war against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s why NYSUT is making an urgent appeal to its members to donate to the union’s Disaster Relief Fund — the proceeds from which will go toward the purchase of personal protective equipment, food and other critical items for health care workers throughout the Empire State.

We urge our members to donate to the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund.

Proceeds will go directly toward purchasing and providing Personal Protective Equipment, food and other supplies for all of our dedicated health care workers.


NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Philippe Abraham, who chairs the fund, said the appeal underscores the union’s commitment to social justice by ensuring workers are as safe as possible on the job.

“Improving unsafe working conditions is a social justice issue,” said Abraham. “And social justice work is union work.

“We need to do our part to help right the wrong of our health care workers risking their lives because they do not have adequate access to the personal protective equipment they need. By donating to the fund, we can help improve the working conditions of our members and their colleagues during this extremely difficult and dangerous time.”

New York State is the nation’s epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis. As of Friday morning, the death toll in the state topped 2,700, and New York now accounts for a quarter of the nation’s coronavirus cases. 

Doctors and nurses have been using the terms “war-like” and “battlefield triage” to describe the scenes inside their facilities. Gov. Andrew Cuomo described the pandemic’s spread as a “slow-moving hurricane.” Hospitals in New York City are becoming so overwhelmed with patients they are running out of space. The number of COVID-19 cases in Western New York continues to rise. And Capital Region hospitals, already caring for those afflicted with the virus locally, are now absorbing overflow patients from the Big Apple.

Abraham said NYSUT members have risen to the occasion time and again, raising more than $2.6 million since the fund’s establishment in 2005. Donations have helped members and communities in the wake of fires, floods, hurricanes and other disasters. Now in this unprecedented time, Abraham said, it is perhaps more critical than ever for members to answer the call.

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta agreed.

“The heroism of NYSUT’s health care professionals and their colleagues working on the front lines during this crisis is as inspiring as it is remarkable,” Pallotta said. “It is incumbent upon all of us to show our support and gratitude as these workers very literally put their own lives on the line to care for us. Donating to the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund will help enhance the safety and security of our brave and selfless health care workers.”

Fear on the part of health care workers is growing, not just about their own safety but about exposing their families at home. And many are suffering from the effects of exhaustion and stress as the crisis escalates.

As the pandemic tightens its grip, hospitals and health facilities statewide have been forced to ration protective equipment because of the shortage in supplies. Some heath care workers have reported reusing masks for several days, while others are using garbage bags for protective cover. Too many are going without any protective equipment at all. 

“The sacrifice on the part of our health care members and their fellow workers has been limitless,” said NYSUT Second Vice President Paul Pecorale, who oversees the union’s health care professionals. “They need our support now, more than ever.”

Learn more about the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund and make a donation at nysut.org/disasterrelief.