Union members rally to get out the vote

NYS Senate candidate Karen Smythe addressing union workers

POUGHKEEPSIE – Several members of local unions under the umbrella of the Dutchess County Central Labor Council (CLC) rallied on the steps of the Poughkeepsie Post Office on Mansion Street Sunday to encourage people to vote and honor Hillary Schenck, a member of the New York State Nurses Association, and nurse at Vassar Brothers Medical Center.

Marking the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage movement, which gave females the right to vote in 1920, Pati Dynes, a member of the International Alliance of Theater Stage Employees (IATSE), stressed the need for more women to vote in elections.  

“In 1920, 36 percent of eligible women voted in that presidential election.  In 2016, only 62 percent of eligible women voted in that election,” she said. “Our goal is to get every single eligible woman o0ut to vote in this election,” said Dynes. “We think women understand and labor understands why this election is crucial.”

State Senate candidate Karen Smythe and Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson participated in the rally.  Smythe, endorsed by several trade unions, noted that voter suppression is still a problem in the country.  “Your power lies in your power to vote,” Smythe told the gathering. 

Jacobson told the crowd that the administration’s dismantling of the postal service is an attempt at voter suppression that can be overcome at the polls in November – or sooner.  This year, registered voters can vote three ways, by absentee ballot, in-person early voting, or in-person voting on Election Day, November 3, 2020. All registered voters can request an absentee ballot if they are concerned about COVID-19.  The New York State website has links to local boards of elections to determine where voters can cast their ballot beginning on October 24 and going through November 1.

The honoree, Hillary Schenck, was presented with the CLC’s inaugural Eleanor Roosevelt award for her years of work getting voters to learn candidates’ stances on key issues getting involved in campaigns and voting.

VBMC nurse Hillary Schenck being honored by the Dutchess County CLC.

Schenck told of how, as a nurse at VBMC, she started treating COVID patients in mid-March.  Eight days later, she tested positive for the virus and was quarantined at home for 85 days, many of which she was bedridden and severely ill.  With her two daughters and grandchild in attendance, Schenck started to get teary-eyed when recalling the illness.  “I kept wondering about what would happen if I died,” said the 10-year nurse.  “I didn’t know if I was leaving a legacy and I was afraid my grandchild wouldn’t remember me if I passed.”

Calling this year’s election critical to healthcare for in the country, Schenck said that 7 million Americans have tested positive for COVID.  “If the Affordable Care Act is overturned, leaving those with pre-existing conditions uninsured, those 7 million people will not be able to get health insurance,” adding “Because the virus affects many of the body’s systems, many of the patients will have lingering issues.”

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