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Home care workers end hunger strike against 24 hour workday

By Julia Tong

On Monday, the Ain’t I a Woman (AIW) Campaign announced the end of their hunger strike against the 24-hour workday. 

Over 20 hunger strikers had remained outside City Hall 24/7, demanding that Intro 615, a bill essentially ending the 24-hour shifts home care workers face, be brought to a vote. They were supported by numerous trade organizations and allies, who spoke at daily rallies in solidarity with home care workers. 

Hunger striker Lily Randall, a member of Youth Against Sweatshops, says that the strike left them feeling “really, really strong.”

“This hunger strike has really shown us how urgent our fight is, how many people support our fight, how many working folks across the city connect with the exploitation of the 24 hour workday,” they said.

A hunger striker remains defiant after 6 days with only water.
A hunger striker remains defiant after 6 days with only water. Photo by Julia Tong

Beginning on Wednesday, March 20th, workers pitched a tent by City Hall’s fence, remaining there throughout the six days of their strike. Strikers remained there despite facing harsh conditions, such as rain, high winds, frigid temperatures, and a flood warning on Day 4. 

On Monday at noon, the Ain’t I a Woman (AIW) coalition held a rally to announce the end of the strike. Speakers highlighted how the six-day strike drew together workers from all industries, including those as diverse as social workers, professors, tech workers, and taxi drivers.

Speakers also highlighted their frustration at City Council speaker Adrienne Adams, whom they say has been blocking Intro 615– a bill that would effectively end 24-hour workdays in New York City– from being brought to a vote.  Neither Adams or his office replied to our requests yesterday or today for comment.

A spokesperson for Adams has previously said that the 24-hour workday can only be resolved at the state level, as home care work is funded through Medicaid. 

But strikers and their allies disagreed. Marion Jones, speaking on behalf of AIW coalition member NYC DSA Socialist Feminists Working Group said that the city council can and has passed bills in the past on state and federal issues as long as they’re relevant to New Yorkers. Furthermore, she claims that those making this argument have also hindered efforts to address the issue at the state level. 

“This is a deflection,” Jones says, adding: “The bill needs to be passed at the city level in order to force state legislature to take action,” 

Hunger strikers, meanwhile, expressed frustration at what they said was a lack of engagement from Adams’s office with their strike.

Candy Song, a former home care worker and hunger striker, said she was “angry” at the conclusion of the strike. 

In contrast, other councilmembers– such as Council Member Kristy Marmorato and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein visited the strike in solidarity. Marmorato also dropped off bottles of water in solidarity with workers. 

“Even if you don’t come out, you should arrange for some representatives to come out,” Song said in Mandarin. “We are also your New York constituents.”

Song further alleged that, during the evenings, park police to force home care workers to take down the tents and tarps they had set up. These claims were echoed by other AIW staff members who volunteered during night shifts throughout the strikes. 

“Six days– it was cold, windy, and rainy, but we’ve stayed steadfast here. But yet [Adams] got the park police to insist on taking down our tent,” said Song. “Does she have any conscience?”

Supporters of hunger strikers in front of New York City Hall.
Supporters of hunger strikers in front of New York City Hall. Photo by Julia Tong

Despite these difficulties, though, many home care workers and their allies said they also felt empowered by strikers’ resilience. For instance, Councilman Christopher Marte, the sponsor of Intro 615, said the strike left him feeling “inspired.”

“These women are really putting everything on the line. Their body, their health– and mostly not for them, because most of them are retired,” says Marte. “They’re doing it for other workers, who are currently working these inhumane shifts and for future workers and to abolish the 24-hour day.”

During the strike, Marte said, city councilmembers and the Speaker’s office received a high volume of phone calls from constituents in support of home care workers. That, combined with increased media coverage, made the strike “really successful,” he added.

As such, Marte remains optimistic that Intro 615 will soon be brought to a vote.

“We look forward to progressing that and building on this momentum internally, and hopefully getting action that’s going to end the 24-hour workday,” he said.

After the rally concluded, home care workers celebrated the end of their strike. Workers handed hunger strikers bouquets of flowers, symbolic of the coming of spring and new beginnings. Together, they sang “unity is strength, and strength is light,” and chanted, in Mandarin, that they had been victorious.

The AIW Campaign also announced their next actions. The coalition plans to distribute flyers three times a week, in preparation for a rally surrounding City Hall on May Day. 

A hunger striker is presented with flowers after 6 days without food and only water.
A hunger striker is presented with flowers after 6 days without food and only water. Photo by Julia Tong

Hunger striker Lily Randall says that the strike has energized them to ensure that the next rally is successful, and the fight to pass Intro 615– and improve working conditions in NYC as a whole– continues.

“This is not just a fight concerning homecare workers. It’s not a small fight concerning elderly women. But it’s actually on us all to take up the fight and fight for our conditions and fight for our futures,” said Randall.

“We’re more determined than ever to continue this fight and to end the 24-hour workday once and for all.”

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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