LAWRENCE — US Senator Edward Markey and US Representative Joseph Kennedy III are facing off in a hotly contested race for the US Senate — but the rivals appeared at the same event Saturday to throw their support behind hundreds of striking health care workers.
The workers, who are employed by Fidelity House CRC in Lawrence, are on strike following stalled negotiations with management over wage hikes for some members, according to a statement from the employees’ union SEIU Local 509. Fidelity House is a 24-hour care center for people with advanced disabilities.
Earlier this month, Kennedy announced he was challenging Markey for the seat the senator has held since 2013. The race is considered one of the most contested in the country — and has stoked some Democrats’ fears of a divided party leading into the 2020 presidential election.
Markey and Kennedy kept their distance from one another during the rally, but both spoke at different times with their Democratic colleague, US Representative Lori Trahan.
Kennedy said he was “grateful” Trahan and Markey were at the rally.
“We’re here side by side fighting for the workers here [and] trying to send that message that if our commonwealth is going to value, not only these workers, but the people that they serve, then they have to be paid a living wage,” Kennedy said.
Markey said Saturday’s rally was the first event he and Kennedy had attended together during the campaign.
Markey pointed to his family history — his father grew up in Lawrence — and saw his role as providing the same opportunities he received in his life to the city’s current residents.
“I am a beneficiary of what happened here in Lawrence,” Markey said. “And I know that I have a responsibility to make sure that the same thing happens to this generation of immigrant families in Lawrence.”
One of the striking workers, 40-year-old Phyllis Kamau, praised both Kennedy and Markey for attending the rally.
“They have our backs,” she said.
The workers want a deal so they can go back to their jobs and care for their clients, she said.
“We do a good job, and love our clients,” she said. “We’re here because we deserve to be paid better.”
John Hilliard can be reached at email@example.com.