Sign up For DC 37 News


Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

City Morgue Tech twins retire

Photo by D.S. Williams.
After decades of service to the community and their union, City Morgue Techs Marvin and Melvin Morgan will retire.

The Morgan brothers, identical twins Melvin and Marvin, who serve the people of New York as City Mortuary Technicians at Elmhurst Hospital and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, will retire after working a combined 60+ years.

“Melvin and Marvin Morgan have been dedicated members of Local 420 for more than three decades,” said Local 420 President Carmen Charles. “While Melvin joined Health + Hospitals and took on an active role in the labor movement, Marvin joined the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and participated in the background. Their devotion to the local never faltered. As twins, they both chose mortuary science for their careers and have ardently worked to bring dignity to the deceased.”

At the tender age of nine, the twins visited Gastonia, North Carolina, to find the final resting place of their maternal great-grandmother.

“We combed the cemetery and the woods but never found her. She was buried in an unmarked grave,” the brothers recalled. “From that point on, we wanted to help ensure that the deceased were laid to rest with dignity.”

After serving in the U.S. Army as a quartermaster, Marvin worked for the Department of Finance and managed the office of City Marshal Linda Swift before joining the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). Melvin served in the 27th Combat Engineers, Airborne Division of U.S. Army as a parachute instructor. He became a patient transport aide for the Health and Hospitals Corp. and followed his brother into the mortuary science field as a City Morgue Technician at Elmhurst Hospital.

Elmhurst Hospital employees, from receptionists to top executives, revere the Morgan brothers. In many ways, they are local heroes. At Elmhurst, OCME and in the union hall, the Morgan brothers are known for their leadership, warmth, dedication and their comportment as professional and upstanding gentlemen.

Photo by D.S. Williams.
The Morgan brothers at the weekly food bank at Elmhurst Hospital that feeds families in the community.
As activists in their Lefrak, Queens community, Melvin is a former district leader who serves as president of the 21st Century Democratic Club. He was a shop steward before Local 420 members at Elmhurst Hospital elected him chapter chair. Marvin also served as a Local 420 shop steward at OCME. Both men are longtime political volunteers and worked on the election campaigns of Mayor Eric Adams, NY State Assembly member Jeffrey Aubry, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and a long roster of officials in City Hall, Albany, and Washington, D.C.

Melvin and Marvin brought a number of services to Elmhurst Hospital and the community: a youth basketball camp and a Grand Master chess tournament that was likely the first of its kind ever held in a public hospital setting. Their chess tournament attracted master competitors from Africa, Europe, and Asia, and is where Susan Polgar broke gender barriers as the first international female Grand Master. A huge oil painting hangs in the hospital corridor to memorialize the brothers and their events.

The brothers organized health fairs at Elmhurst Hospital. Now in its 14th year, Melvin coordinates with Elmhurst Hospital social workers for an annual turkey giveaway that feeds 200 families for the holidays. They have expanded the holiday food giveaway to include local public schools and a weekly food bank. Every Thursday, they coordinate with a local church to distribute bags of fresh produce and groceries to families in need. The lines stretch around the block most Thursday afternoons. Hospital executives have asked the Morgans to continue their volunteer work post-retirement.

As union activists, the Morgan brothers are on the forefront filing grievances to protect workers’ rights. They worked closely with the union to win pay differentials for CMTs who perform advanced aspects of autopsy like cranium removal and eviscerations to remove internal organs from corpses. They also won a pay differential for CMTs who perform advanced fingerprinting of decomposed and exhumed bodies.

“The union and the Morgan brothers are pressing for pay equity to bring CMT wages on par with the higher salaries that private hospitals pay their morgue workers,” said Mark Heron, a DC 37 Research and Negotiations assistant director.

Photo courtesy of Melvin Morgan
The Morgan brothers with then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Having worked with Dr. Jason Graham, New York City’s Chief Medical Examiner, OCME gave Marvin Morgan the Man of the Century Award in 2020.

“As Mortuary Technicians for New York City, we’ve worked through two of the worst disasters visited on our City and our country, 9/11 and the pandemic,” Marvin said.

“While most people focused on the medical care people received during the pandemic, few people took time to reflect on the enormous task of caring for the deceased and their grieving relatives. That’s our job,” Melvin said.

City Morgue Techs remove the dead from residences, hospital rooms, nursing homes, crime scenes, and places of death, wherever that may be. They help perform autopsies and prepare bodies for identification by next of kin. They remove the bodies of persons who jump to their death from buildings, train platforms, or bridges, and pull floaters from rivers and waterways.

The OCME processes all high-profile death cases in the five boroughs. As an OCME Morgue Tech, Marvin has removed burned corpses from fires, decapitated bodies from gruesome murder scenes, and deceased celebrities. He and other CMTs transport the dead to the agency’s morgue on First Avenue in Manhattan.

“OCME may get 20 to 40 bodies a day, but that changed during COVID,” Marvin said. “At the pandemic’s peak in 2020, we handled 300 to 400 bodies a day.”

New York City, with its dense population and close quarters, was the nation’s COVID-19 Ground Zero and Elmhurst Hospital was hard hit; it was the pandemic’s epicenter.

Photo courtesy of Melvin Morgan
The Morgan twins with U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez.
“At Elmhurst, we normally may have 15 bodies in the morgue, but during the pandemic the numbers climbed to 40 a day and quickly grew to 10 times that amount by April 2020,” Melvin said.

The overwhelming surge in deaths in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 forced the City to make grim decisions. It stopped performing autopsies and stationed refrigerator trucks outside of OCME and hospitals. FEMA sent the City 75 trailers to store corpses temporarily. Parked on the waterfronts of Brooklyn and Queens, Melvin said, “The City currently has bodies stored in refrigerated trucks even today.”

Union President Charles said, “The City Morgue Techs are finally recognized for all they did to help New York City through the darkest times. In November we succeeded in having the title covered in the New York State Health Care Worker Bonus program.”

DC 37 pressed Albany to include CMTs and other titles the union represents in the bonus that pays workers up to $3,000 for their work during the pandemic.

“We have seen things that no one should ever have to see in their lifetime,” the Morgan brothers said. “Decomposed bodies covered in fungus, decapitated corpses, gruesome murder victims, John and Jane Does, 9/11 jumpers, and a tragic volume of deaths during this pandemic. Through it all, we are very thankful for our experiences at OCME, NYC H+H, and DC 37 Local 420. There was never a dull moment.”