Guyanese in New York feeling the crunch

Dear Editor,
Guyanese within Guyana are not the only ones feeling the crunch of the slump in the economy. In New York, many Guyanese have lost their jobs and are now job hunting.  Many have decided to work with or support union leaders in the struggle to protect their jobs.  They are now more active than ever in participating in working class struggles as their welfare is under threat.

I wish to applaud the many Guyanese who showed up at recent rallies in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan to protest proposed job cuts at various government agencies and hospitals (including government aided private hospitals). Thousands of Guyanese are employed in city hospitals and in public schools.  I saw many of them at rallies, including at the recent teachers rally, something unseen in my previous experience attending protest rallies. The activist positions of Guyanese and others help to reduce job cuts and save the jobs of many.

The NY city and NY state governments proposed to lay off over 20,000 workers to plug budget deficits. And several hospitals announced they would close because they lack funding to pay their bills after feeling the pinch from the downturn of the economy.  The hospitals are operating at a loss and the city and state governments said they could no longer afford to bail out the hospitals where thousands are employed, including hundreds of Guyanese.

Unions and community organizers organized rallies to protest the closure of three hospitals, two of which are in the heart of the Guyanese communities in the city − Queens and Brooklyn. In addition, a huge rally comprising members of several unions was held in front of City Hall, the legislative and executive body that manages the affairs of the city. Hundreds of Guyanese from all professions, including teachers, were at the rally which stretched for several blocks impeding traffic for miles.  Many city and state politicians, including those seeking elective office this year, joined the rallies in support of the workers. The politicians were gung ho about protecting jobs.

After the rally, both the Mayor and Governor announced they would do their best to minimize job cuts. The revised job cuts announced this week are just a third of what was proposed two months ago.

Unfortunately, however, three hospitals (St John, Mary Immaculate, and Brookdale) where hundreds of Guyanese doctors, nurses, aides, etc. are employed, have been shuttered. Some Guyanese medical interns have been redeployed to area hospitals while others are on the unemployment line and are looking for jobs.  But clinics are not hiring.  Not only have people lost jobs but medical services have been cut in other hospitals and with the closure of these three hospitals, health services will be hard to obtain.  In fact, I have observed longer lines than usual at the Jamaica Hospital since the closure.

Separately, many Guyanese employed at banks and financial institutions have been laid off. Hundreds have also lost their jobs at real estate agencies.  The situation is not expected to get any better until the economy turns around.
Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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