STATEMENT from Matthew Yarnell, President
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania grieves with Pittsburgh, the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, and the broader Jewish community. We stand in solidarity with the families of eleven people murdered during services at the Or L’Simcha – Tree of Life synagogue by a white supremacist.
We salute the bravery of the first responders who rushed to the scene, including the four police officers injured by gunfire. The health professionals and caregivers aiding the wounded and helping the families of victims have our admiration and respect, including SEIU Healthcare PA members at The Central Blood Bank who are working tirelessly to respond to the overwhelming need.
Our healthcare union was first established in western Pennsylvania four decades ago when workers at Squirrel Hill’s Jewish Home, now the Charles Morris Nursing and Rehab Center, organized for a voice at work. Squirrel Hill has been the home of generations of healthcare worker activists and union organizers. Whenever Pittsburgh healthcare workers are fighting for their rights, we see Squirrel Hill faith leaders, scholars, lawyers, and elected leaders standing by their side. Today, we mourn with them.
This mass shooting during observance the Jewish sabbath is the deadliest antisemitic crime in US history. The atrocity comes amidst a surge of hate crimes against Jews specifically and a steady rise in hate crimes and violence against people of color, immigrants, and marginalized communities across our country. What happened in Squirrel Hill is both a terrorist attack on the Jewish community and more evidence that hate-filled politics is sowing seeds of violence that places all our diverse communities at risk.
The killer announced his crime via social media as a message to those who would seek to provide shelter for refugees and create a more diverse society in America.
Saturday, October 27th was the National Refugee Shabbat proclaimed by HIAS. Founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society to assist Jewish immigrants and refugees from Nazi persecution, HIAS now organizes Jewish support for immigrant rights and helps settle those fleeing danger in the Middle East, Africa, and other parts of the world. The dividing line between our vision of a decent society and the terrifying goals of our enemies has never been more clear.
Since our founding, we at SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania have been dedicated to the proposition that workers, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or national origin, must come together to defend their rights and to maintain, preserve, and extend the democratic institutions of our country. Now is the time when union members must live out our commitment to those values. With love for our Jewish members and friends, and resolute in defense of our principles, we stand against all racists and fascists. They shall not pass.
In love, sadness and solidarity,
President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania