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UI Hospital caregivers holding candlelight vigil to honor essential workers, urge passage of Heroes Act

August 26, 2020

With COVID-19 cases surging in Johnson County, UIHC caregivers are calling on Iowa Senators Ernst and Grassley to pass Heroes Act, support essential workers.

- The vigil is part of a national week of prayer for essential workers who’ve lost their lives to COVID-19 & a call to protect those still serving the public

WHEN: Wed, Aug. 26, 7:30 p.m. – 7:50 p.m.

WHERE: University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, 200 Hawkins Dr., Iowa City, (In front of main building)

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Safe, socially distanced interviews with UIHC caregivers and other attendees will be held immediately after the vigil.

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IOWA CITY — Caregivers at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) are holding a candlelight vigil Wednesday night honoring the essential workers lost to COVID-19. The UIHC RNs and healthcare professionals, who are united in SEIU Local 199, are also calling for Iowa Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley to immediately pass the Heroes Act, which provides vital resources and protections to the essential workers serving America.

The vigil is part of nationwide, inter-faith week of prayer to urge Senate Republicans to support the essential workers who are bringing America through the COVID-19 crisis. At University of Iowa Health Care, 361 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus as of this morning.

In Iowa City, the speakers at Wednesday night’s vigil will include:

– Dana Jones, the UIHC nurse practitioner and Local 199 member whose discovery of a serious glitch in the State of Iowa’s COVID-19 data has received national coverage.

– Cathy Glasson, president of SEIU Local 199, who has worked alongside students and staff at the University of Iowa to protest the Regents’ reckless reopening of the campus.

– Pauline Taylor, Iowa City Council Member and a founding member of Local 199 at UIHC.

It’s not just caregivers, but all essential workers who need the tools and support to do their jobs safely – PPE, hazard pay & job protections. This also includes providing the necessary funding so that essential postal workers can continue to support our country and deliver the medication, paychecks, Social Security checks, letters from loved ones, mail-in ballots and more in the timely manner we need. It means providing our country’s bus drivers, teachers, family care providers, lunch employees and social workers with the support they need to work safely.

As the pandemic rages on, many essential workers are frustrated at being called ‘heroes’ by elected officials without any other type of support. Since early May they have joined together in action–car caravans, marches, rallies, townhalls, made and sent hundreds of thousands of phone calls and emails to Congress—all to raise awareness at the risks they are taking and to fight for what they need to protect themselves and their families.

This week, workers across the country will be praying and holding vigils in hopes that Senate Republicans pass the Heroes Act and provide hazard pay, PPE, layoff protections and funding so that frontline works can do their jobs. They are hoping to reach out to elected officials and to other people of faith, including many who put Senate Republicans in power. They are asking Senate Republicans to put their faith in action, and love their neighbors as themselves and act out of compassion.

Every day that elected officials choose not to act, they are undoubtedly contributing to the risk essential workers face on the job. People of color are more likely to be in service-related jobs that are labeled essential. People of color are dying of COVID-19 at higher rates than white people. It is clear that essential workers are exposing themselves to the virus and are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. That’s why frontline workers are praying their government will choose to support them with the PPE, job protections and hazard pay they need.

FOR BACKGROUND AND UPDATES on the work SEIU Local 199 has been doing to tackle the COVID-19 crisis in Iowa, go to the union’s UIHC chapter Facebook page.

SEIU Local 199 represents 5,000 healthcare and public service workers across Iowa. It is an affiliate of the 2-million-member Service Employees International Union. SEIU’s Healthcare Division includes 1 million nurses, lab techs, environmental service workers and other vital staff who serve 60 million patients and clients.