As striking District 1199 workers march in front of West River Health Care Center on Orange Avenue protesting a contract they say they never agreed to, they aren’t alone. Scabby the cat marches beside them.
This week, Photographer Ralph Petitti captured some photos of Scabby at the picket site.
The black and gray tabby cat has been outside with the striking certified nursing assistants (CNAs), aides, kitchen employees and others since the workers were first locked out of their jobs this past winter. When HealthBridge Management imposed a new contract June 17, the workers readied “on strike” placards and headed back to the sidewalk July 3. Scabby the cat was there waiting for them.
The tabby cat marches alongside the workers as they carry their signs in front of the health care facility. And he sits with them along the sidewalk when they stop to rest.
“He walked in the winter with us, and he’s walking with us now,” said Rosa Davila, a CNA at West River Health Care for about six years.
“We wanted to call him 1199, but that was too long,” she said. “When we started calling him Scabby, he acted like he already knew that was his name.”
Davila said she is amazed at how loyal the cat is, following her and the others up and down the sidewalk.
Noreen Gates, central supply coordinator for the health care center, said the cat is feral and had been living outside the facility about two years. Workers feed him, and therefore it seemed obvious which side the cat would choose in this battle between employee and employer.
Cindy Bain, a CNA, said the cat apparently thinks of District 1199 as its family, and is showing its allegiance.
District 1199 spokesman Deborah Chernoff said she hadn’t met the cat yet, but heard from several workers that the feline had joined their cause.