LOWER MANHATTAN — Hospital laundry workers rallied in Lower Manhattan Wednesday, calling on their employer, Unitex, to provide them with two masks a day and the ability to social distance 6 feet apart in the workplace.
Their work includes cleaning soiled bed linens and gowns inside Unitex facilities for some of the largest hospitals in New York City.
"All of this is dirty work," explained union representative Albert Arroyo. "We cannot do this work if we don't feel safe."
And though unnoticed, that work is more important than ever.
"They're essential workers and the work they do is very important for hospitals and nursing homes, especially in these days with the pandemic," Arroyo added.
The Laundry Distribution and Food Services Workers Union has been in contract negotiations with Unitex for months. The union said Unitex also wants to cut pension benefits for workers. With no agreement in sight, union workers are preparing for a possible strike.
"The last thing they want to do is to go on strike, that's not what they want to do, but the employer is pushing them into a strike," Arroyo said.
Support for the laundry workers is now coming from City Hall.
“They fought on the front lines during the worst days of this pandemic and in return, the people of this city stand in solidarity with them today in demanding a fair contract, retirement security and respect for their sacrifices," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.
Unitex did not immediately respond to PIX11's request for comment.