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a journal of 1199seiu December 2013


December 2013 • Our Life And Times



Our Life and Times December 2013

“We Are All People Standing Together 4 And We Will IN THE REGIONS Go Forward”


Promesa Contract Victory; Raise Up Massachusetts; Organizing Victory at Poughkeepsie, NY’s St. Francis Hospital; What Do You Know About the Flu?; File for the Earned Income Tax Credit; Orientation Program Launches for Massachusetts Personal Care Attendants.



North Shore Medical Center in Miami, FL



1199SEIU members are the force in a historic election year, driving major victories in all of our regions. 1199ers helped rebuild communities after Hurricane Sandy. Maryland members fought to raise the minimum wage. New York City members worked to defeat stop-and-frisk and win paid sick time. Thousands commemorated the March on Washington in recalling Dr. King, calling for justice for Trayvon and reminding us of how far our country still has to go.



Veteran contract negotiators discuss our hard-fought gains.

This is

Our Life And Times’ annual year in review. The following pages are full of familiar faces and a lot 1199SEIU’s natural vocabulary: justice, respect, struggle, victory, organize, work, community, family. In selecting the relative handful of highlights from 2013, ideas swirled like crystals in a snow globe: 1199ers organizing workers up and down the eastern seaboard, marching in the streets for economic justice and an end to racial profiling, helping to rebuild communities in the wake of disaster, tirelessly fighting to keep open community hospitals, as a driving force for historic political victories, and of course as the life blood of our healthcare system. Ours is a Union on the move. It’s in our genes. Capturing that energy on the pages of a magazine seems, at times, impossible. But in reflective moments—­­as is sometimes tradition at year’s end­—it seems that the willingness to move is not the only thread weaving together our victories and accomplishments; it’s also the willingness to be still, to stand next to one another and say, “I’m with you.” A poignant reminder came in November when Typhoon Haiyan devastated part of the central Philippines; members immediately reached out to one another, offering emotional, material and financial support. The same was true a year earlier in the

aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. It’s undeniable that 1199SEIU members are among the most active of trade unionists. We generate the engine of life in this country by raising families, supporting the economy and continually striving to build a better standard of living for our neighbors and ourselves.

So as we close out this year and look ahead to 2014, we’ve got a lot to be proud of. On the pages of this magazine is proof. We also have plenty of work to do. The right wing continues its soul-less attack on our vulnerable children and underserved with their quest to continually gut programs like food stamps and unemployment. Working people never really do get to take our marching boots off, but we can honestly say that the year is one of achievement. Our members have reason to end on the same note of pride on which it began. “Today really made me proud,” said Renella Mitchell, a surgical technologist from Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle, NY as she watched Pres. Obama sworn in for the second time. “This showed us that we are all people standing together and we will go forward.”



Lina Bracero, SEIU’s Deputy Director of Outreach for Affordable Care Act Implementation, gives us a snapshot of the healthcare law. Our Life And Times, December 2013, Vol 31, No 5 Published by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East 310 West 43rd St. New York, NY 10036 Telephone (212) 582-1890


George Gresham secretary treasurer

Maria Castaneda executive vice presidents

Norma Amsterdam Yvonne Armstrong Lisa Brown-Beloch Angela Doyle George Kennedy Steve Kramer Joyce Neil John Reid Bruce Richard Mike Rifkin Monica Russo Rona Shapiro Neva Shillingford Milly Silva Veronica Turner Laurie Vallone Estela Vazquez

acting editor

Patricia Kenney

director of photography

Jim Tynan photographer

Belinda Gallegos art direction

& design Maiarelli Studio contributors

Mike Givens JJ Johnson Bryn Lloyd-Bollard Mindy Berman Kim Diehl Our Life And Times is published 5 times a year: Dec/Jan, Feb/Mar, Spring, Fall and December by 1199SEIU, 310 West 43rd St., New York, NY 10036. Subscriptions $15 per year. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY and additional mailing offices. ISSN 1080-3089. USPS 000-392. Postmaster: Send address changes to Our Life And Times, 310 West 43rd St., New York, NY 10036.

LUBA LUKOVA December 2013 • Our Life And Times




George Gresham

We Can Be Rightfully Proud The struggle continues.


GET RID OF THEM our story on the sequester in the last issue prompted me to write—that and the government shutdown. I find both pretty incredible. How can we even allow the possibility of these things in this country? I work at Harlem Hospital in Manhattan. It’s a public institution and luckily we weren’t affected by the shutdown, but we know what it’s like to lose money to budget cuts – again and again. What’s going on now is particularly outrageous. If this occurred in England, there would be a vote of no confidence, the politicians would be ousted, and new elections would ensue. In any other vocation or field, those folks would have their pay docked for not doing their jobs. Yet these members of Congress continued to receive the same pay and benefits. They get the best medical benefits our tax dollars can buy. Go figure. Do these representatives know who they work for? They made a laughing stock of us in front of the world with their ridiculous one-point agenda. It’s time progressives really get it together and get rid of them. Vote in representatives who will take their responsibilities seriously. Workers deserve better, and we’re entitled to the programs our tax dollars pay for.


Lynne Muchinsky Harlem Hospital, New York City JOBS SAVED AT WESTCHESTER SQUARE orking for Westchester Square Medical Center in the Bronx, NY for the past 31 years has been a wonderful experience. The Medical Center has gone through many changes: changing from a profit to a non-

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December 2013 • Our Life And Times

profit institution, downsizing, escaping closure during the days of the dreaded Berger Commission. The staff and patients I met there were the best anywhere, but it was also a frightening 31 years. There were times when it seemed like upheaval would never end. When the Medical Center was kept open because of community outrage at the possibility of its closure, we fell deeper into debt and our medical benefits were cut off. This is when 1199SEIU went into full force, protecting our members and their jobs. Through the efforts of the Union, especially our Political Action Dept., many jobs were saved. We’re now part of a medical community that puts the public as well as its employees first; we are under the banner of Montefiore Medical Center – the No. 1 employer in the Bronx. We can see and feel the commitment to improve our hospital. We feel more secure in our future. I want to thank 1199SEIU for working with Montefiore and the State of New York and turning things around for us. Maurice F. DePalo Montefiore Westchester Square, Bronx, NY Correction Last issue’s article “Continuing and Commemorating The Struggle” on pages 10 and 11 incorrectly identified a Florida staff member as Monique Walker. Her name is Monique Messer. We regret the error. Let’s Hear From You Our Life And Times welcomes your letters. Please email them to or snail mail them to Patricia Kenney, 1199SEIU OLAT, 330 West 42nd St., 7th floor, New York, NY 10036. Please include your telephone number and place of work. Letters may be edited for brevity and clarity.

With the holidays approaching, this seems a good time to take stock of our Union’s achievements in 2013. Nobody needs to tell you these are hard times—tens of millions are still unemployed or underemployed, most new jobs are low-paid or part-time, the rich are getting richer off the rest of us, and in the meantime workers and their unions and their benefits are under ferocious attack by one of our two major parties and their representatives in our statehouses, Congress and the Supreme Court. So it’s all the more remarkable—and a testament to the unity and determination of our members—that our Union continued to accomplish great things this year—including dozens of contract settlements covering tens of thousands of members. We launched a campaign to strengthen our chapters, to replenish our Delegate bodies, and to train our organizing staff to be the best they can be on behalf of our members. Even while we fought ongoing battles in our communities and courts to save hospitals like Interfaith and Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, we continued to organize 21 new hospitals, nursing homes and residual units, bringing thousands of new members in 1199SEIU at a time when most unions are losing members by the thousands. We continued to uphold the legacy of being Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s favorite union by mobilizing thousands of members for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. We became the foremost supporters of the Moral Mondays Movement led by the NAACP in North Carolina and of the Dream Defenders in Florida, two of the most exciting civil rights movements of the modern era. We remain committed to the movement for comprehensive immigration reform in the face of furious opposition in Washington, D.C. And we continued to play a pivotal leadership role in the movement in the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk racial profiling, a movement that is on the verge of real success. This summer and fall, thousands of members volunteered weekends and evenings to knock on doors, phone bank and get out the vote for worker-friendly candidates. In New Jersey, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono selected our own 1199SEIU Exec. VP Milly Silva as her running mate. Though their campaign fell short, it is unquestionable that our Union’s influence and respect grew enormously. In Boston, our Union members and leaders were pivotal in the election of Marty Walsh for mayor. Walsh won every precinct in the city with an African-American, Latino or Haitian majority, which proved the key to victory and one that could not have been achieved without 1199ers. In Rochester, NY, 1199SEIU ally Lovely Warren, took on the political establishment with our members’ help was elected mayor on November 5. And in news that was literally heard round the world, Bill de Blasio was elected mayor of the country’s biggest city and commercial and cultural capital. It has been lost on no one that our union was the first and foremost institutional support for the de Blasio campaign. From fourth place in the polls this summer, de Blasio jumped out to an insurmountable lead beginning the day he went to jail together with several caregivers in our campaign to save Brooklyn hospitals. He will enter New York City Hall in January accompanied by the most progressive City Council in memory. So as we head to year end we can be rightfully proud. Of course, our work is never ending. Come January, we in New York have to prepare for a mammoth fight that is not of our choosing as the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes seeks to re-open our contracts that cover 160,000 members. This is a fight that we hope to avoid, but if we are forced to fight, we are determined to win. Everything we have achieved up to now—our jobs, our benefits, our wages, our working conditions—we accomplished because we were willing to fight for it. Nobody has ever given us anything. What we have, we have won for ourselves. On behalf of your entire Executive Council, I hope that your holidays are happy and peaceful. Please rest up and get ready for the challenges that await us in the New Year.


new york

A Strong Chapter Wins At Promesa had great turnouts,” says Slater, a social services counselor at Promesa for 13 years. “So when we did start negotiating, people showed up.” Committee members also spent hours preparing for negotiations, even though management was thorny about scheduling.

Negotiating committee members from Casa Promesa in the Bronx, NY. After working under an expired contract for two years and doggedly pushing along negotiations that were often at best halting, members at Casa Promesa in the Bronx, NY this August ratified a new three-year contract. “It was a long fight and we feel like a new chapter,” says CNA Blanca Davila, a negotiating committee member. The agreement includes 10 percent

in wage increases, increased delegate participation, improvements in schedule and shift change notices, and a first-ever labor-management health and safety committee. It covers 87 workers at six locations of the South Bronx Mental Health Council, which was taken over by Promesa after that institution suddenly closed its doors last year. Promesa negotiating committee member Antoine Slater says that

chapter building was vital to winning the new pact. Committee members knew that they could make progress at the bargaining by re-opening the channels of communication between their co-workers. “Networking was important. We had a lot of late night chapter meetings. People had been here for so long and they were fed up. We always

“They’d give us a hard time. We’d offer dates and management would say they couldn’t make it,” says Raphael Santiago, a superintendent with the organization for 12 years. “But we wouldn’t let them divide and conquer us. It unified us.” “One of my greatest satisfactions was the practicing at home to get ready for negotiations,” says Superintendent Frederick Robinson. “One time I was up until 7:00 a.m. We’d been up all night and didn’t even realize it.” Negotiating committee member Maria Alba, a registrar at Promesa for 13 years, says the entire struggle was worth it and notes that the contract fight never stopped the workers from doing their best for Promesa’s clients. “We just wanted a raise, better insurance, some retro money and some respect, which we deserve for working hard,” says Alba. “Without us this place wouldn’t be what it is now. We put our personal lives to the side to do our jobs here. We’re very proud of the work we do for this organization.”


Florida’s Year of the Nursing Home Worker Struggling to make ends meet and provide the proper care their residents need in the midst of wage freezes, shorter work hours and skyrocketing health care costs, Florida nursing home members set out to make 2013 the Year of the Nursing Home Worker. In January they launched a campaign for respect and dignity that would impact 7,000 workers at 70 facilities throughout Florida. Because the Year of the Nursing Home Worker involved negotiating contracts with multiple nursing home chains and independent facilities, caregivers decided to target the state’s largest, most profitable chain, Consulate Health Care. The timing was perfect. “Consulate did a company-wide wage freeze and blamed it on hard economic times,” explains Vera Nelson, a cook at Rosewood Health and Rehabilitation Center in Orlando. “But, in that same year, they made record profits and the top three executives gave themselves 108 percent raises. We knew we would have to take our fight to the headquarters and put not just Consulate but the entire nursing home industry on notice.”

This summer 1199SEIU members picketed and rallied outside Consulate’s Central Florida headquarters. The company’s only response was to offer 1.5 percent in wage increases, reduce hours and increase employee insurance deductibles. The fight intensified on Labor Day when more than 400 caregivers, elected officials and community activists picketed seven Consulate nursing homes. “We stood outside our nursing homes at the height of visiting time to reach family members of residents and educate them about the low wages we are paid and the low staffing,” explains Gladys Charles, a certified nursing assistant at Bay Breeze Health and Rehabilitation Center (formerly Heritage Health Care) in Venice. “We wanted to give them the tools and information they need to ensure that staffing levels are safe, that showers are regularly given, and what agencies to call when they need help or to report a problem.” The fight for nursing home accountability reached its peak in

September when 1199SEIU released a research report during Resident’s Rights Week, which found one in five Florida’s nursing homes are on Florida’s watch list. “I have worked at my job for 13 years and a lot has changed over the years. I care for more residents, today, than I ever have. Some days I have 10 or 12 residents to care for in an eighthour day. Because sick residents require more attention, I feel that I can’t give the others the care and respect they deserve,” explains Rochelle Salcedo, a CNA at the Palms Health and Rehabilitation Center in Palm Bay. “We’re all tired of struggling to make ends meet. That’s why we’re fighting for the respect caregivers and residents deserve.” Just weeks after releasing the report, caregivers voted overwhelmingly to authorize strikes. “We told our administrator that we really don’t want to strike, but the company is forcing our hand,” explains Deborah Stanley, a CNA at Renaissance Health and Rehabilitation Center in West Palm Beach.

The company showed signs of weakening after receiving a ten-day strike notice in early fall. On Nov. 8, the Consulate bargaining committee reached a tentative agreement that covers 1,500 workers. The hard fought victory includes a 3.5 percent increase, guaranteed hours in the work day, an $800 bonus to apply towards a more affordable health plan through the Obamacare Health Care Marketplace and no cutbacks to paid time off. “I think we executed our plan very well and they came to the table to make a deal with us,” says bargaining team member Frantz Louis, a CNA at Rio Pinar Health Care. “Even though it’s not 100 percent of what we expected, it’s a good contract. We are excited. We did a good job.” At press time, caregivers at about 50 other 1199SEIU Florida nursing homes are in contract negotiations. “For my sisters and brothers still at the bargaining table, I urge them to stay focused and resilient,” says Louis. “We have to be very firm with the companies and brave so they get what they deserve.”

December 2013 • Our Life And Times


The Earned Income Tax Credit Program Tax breaks aren’t just for the wealthy. Tens of thousands of members are eligible for this credit. Tax prep help is available at sites throughout the regions. Program dates and locations are below or log on to to learn more.


Baltimore, Maryland Site 611 North Eutaw Street, Baltimore, MD Start Date: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 End Date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 Days & Hours of Operation (no walk-ins): (By appointment only) Union Members Direct Dial 443-332-1199 BCC Tax Appointment Line 410-234-8008 or Email: Sundays & Mondays: closed Closed for lunch: 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Tuesdays – Thursdays: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays: 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Nearly one million Massachusetts workers have no access to paid sick time. In addition, the minimum wage in Massachusetts is $8 an hour and has not gone up since 2008. A coalition of labor, faith-based and civic organizations have joined together under the moniker of the Raise Up Massachusetts (RUM) to address these issues with a two-fold campaign. RUM seeks to raise the minimum wage from $8.00 to $10.50 to keep up with the ever-rising cost of living in Massachusetts and to establish a paid sick time program that allows those working 30 hours or more to accrue up to 40 hours per year of sick time. 
 In the early fall, 1199SEIU members mobilized around the campaign and started collecting signatures to get the two issues on the ballot as referendum questions in the 2014 elections. 1199SEIU members in Massachusetts set a goal of collecting at least 20,000 signatures in conjunction with several other organizations. By early November, members reached their goal and at press time the coalition had collected enough signatures to ensure the measures’ inclusion on the ballot. “This is going to give people a better life. People were excited to sign the petitions. On

Buffalo Site 2421 Main Street, Suite 100, Buffalo, NY Start Date: Monday, January 27, 2014 End Date: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 Call the following telephone number for an appointment: 716-982-0540 Carla at ext. 3721, Carolyn at ext. 3722, or Kim at ext. 3724 Days & Hours of Operation: Mondays: 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Tuesdays: 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Wednesdays: 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Thursdays: 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Saturdays: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Gouverneur (North Country) Site 95 East Main Street, Gouverneur, NY Start Date: Monday, February 3, 2014 End Date: Saturday, April 5, 2014 Call the following telephone number for an appointment: 315-287-9013 ext. 11 Days & Hours of Operations: Tuesdays: 4:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Thursdays: 4:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Saturdays: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Rochester Site Strong Memorial Hospital located at 601 Elmwood Ave., Main Cafeteria, Rochester, NY Union Office – 259 Monroe Ave, Suite 220, 2nd Floor, Rochester, NY 14607 Call the following telephone number for an appointment: 585-730-6433 Start Date: Thursday, January 30, 2014 End Date: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 Days and Hours of Operations: Week 1: Thursday, January 30, 2014 – Feb. 1, 2014 Thursday: 1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Union office) Saturdays: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Union office) Weeks: 2 – 4: Sunday, February 2, 2014 – March 1, 2014 Tuesday: 1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Strong Memorial Hospital) Thursday: 1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Union office) Saturdays: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Union office) Weeks: 5 – 12: Monday, March 2, – April 15, 2014 Thursday: 1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Union office) Saturdays: 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Union office) Syracuse Site 250 South Clinton Street, Syracuse NY Start Date: Monday, January 27, 2014 End Date: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 Call the following telephone number for an appointment: 315-295-1821 Days & Hours of Operation: Weeks 1 – 8 (Starting Monday, January 27, 2014) Mondays – Thursdays: 5:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Saturdays: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Weeks 9 – 14 (Starting Monday, March 10, 2014) Mondays: 5:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays: 5:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Thursdays: 5:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Saturdays: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Massachusetts Sites Dorchester Office – 150 Mt. Vernon Street, Dorchester, MA Springfield Office – 20 Maple Street, Springfield, MA Start Date: Monday, January 27, 2014 End Date: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 Call the following telephone number for an appointment: 877-409-1199 Days & Hours of Operation: Monday: Dorchester 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Tuesday: Springfield 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Wednesday: Dorchester 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Thursday: Springfield 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Friday: Dorchester 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Saturday: Dorchester 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Saturday: Springfield 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.


December 2013 • Our Life And Times

Initiative Will Raise Standards for Massachusetts’ Low-Income Workers

Logan Livingston Cruz, a personal care attendant (PCA) from Boston who has been heavily involved in the Raise Up Massachusetts campaign. 

PCA Ruthella Logan Livingston Cruz is helping to win paid sick time and a higher minimum wage in Massachusetts. Election Day, I was able to collect 500 signatures,” says Ruthella

Cruz is among the 30,000 Massachusetts PCAs who do not have access to sick time. The fight for earned sick time and a fair minimum wage is personal for her and she hopes that she can make a difference. “I’ve heard several people say, ‘I’ve been struggling and this would help me out,’ when they signed the petitions,” she says. 
 Cruz says she empathizes with people who don’t have earned sick time. “A single mother is going to have serious problems without earned sick time,” she says. “When I was younger and my kids were sick, I could’ve lost my job for taking a sick day.” 
 There are currently one million workers in Massachusetts, including personal care attendants, who face this struggle; they can be fired or disciplined for taking personal time to care for themselves or a loved one. 
 “With paid sick time, people’s spirits will be up. Employers will see more productivity,” says Cruz.


Inaugural PCA Orientations in January

January will mark a major advance for the professionalism and pride of Massachusetts’ Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) when the first group of them will attend their first orientation session around the state. The orientation program was negotiated earlier this year between the Union and Massachusetts’ PCA Workforce Council. Members waged a long campaign for the program that included scores of handwritten letters from PCAs to legislators and lobby visits to elected officials by Union members. Traditionally, PCAs receive little employee orientation or formal job training. The new orientations are slated as three-hour sessions administered by the 1199SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund and will be held at the Union’s offices, independent living centers, and other locations statewide. The curriculum will be developed by the Union in conjunction with the PCA Workforce Council, consumer employers and other partnering organizations. PCAs will receive information on independent living principles, a presentation from a Union representative on workers’ rights and responsibilities, training on fraud and abuse reporting, information about time records and pay and other information on resources that support the relationship of the PCA and the consumer. (For PCAs and consumers who need it, there’s an in-home version of the orientation.) Delegate Terri Morris, a PCA from Middleborough, was among the campaign leaders. “Now this adds a real sense of validity to what

Kilra Hylton, a PCA from Dorchester, MA, will receive job orientation for the first time in January. PCAs do. We don’t have HR departments to deal with things the way other workers do,” says Morris, a PCA for 32 years. “It also adds a real sense to PCAs that we are valued in the same way as other workers. We are taken seriously. It gives us a real sense of validity in our community and among ourselves.” Kilra Hylton, a PCA with the Cerebral Palsy organization in Dorchester for four years, says there’s no job security like knowing exactly what’s expected of you on the job. PCAs can take care of their clients and themselves, she says. “When you walk into an office job you have training, you feel more prepared,” says Hylton. “Now PCAs can have the same thing. We’ll be better prepared for things that come up. It will help us to feel more professional. I’m really thankful that we were able to do this.” For more information about the orientations, call 877-409-7227.



Big Organizing Victory at St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, NY

It’s Flu Season. How much do you know? Take this true or false quiz.

Uncertain times in the healthcare industry have prompted more than 700 healthcare workers at Saint Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, NY to join 1199SEIU. The first vote, held on Sept. 6, welcomed 450 patient care technicians, unit secretaries, dietary workers, cleaners, transporters, rehabilitation counselors, phlebotomists and other service workers to the union. Connie Ash has been a Patient Care Tech (PCT) in the Intensive Care Unit for more than 20 years. “Our patients, our entire community is not being served well when direct care workers like myself are constantly being asked to do more with less,” says Ash. “The healthcare world is changing so quickly everyday, sometimes we all feel a lack of security about what will happen next and we have no say in the matters. Now that we have a union, we will be able to negotiate a contract, level the playing field and have a voice at work.” Two weeks later, on Sept. 20, the RNs at the hospital voted by a 2 to 1 margin to also become 1199SEIU members. Jennifer Weiler, a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit, says, “Saint Francis Hospital has held a piece of my heart since I was a nursing student seventeen years ago. I want to help make it the hospital of choice in our community for patients, doctors and healthcare staff. I believe that with our Union, together, we can take the hospital into its 101st year—stronger, safer and prouder!” The Saint Francis RNs, who are especially concerned with having a voice in patient care issues, coined their pro-union campaign slogan, “We’re Putting Our Patients First.” They said they were eager to become 1199SEIU members and active in the Union’s RN special division, which specifically addresses and supports professional growth and practice for RNs, including help to pursue a BSN or an MSN, participation in hospital-wide professional practice committees, and political advocacy efforts directly related to RN issues, like staffing ratios and other safe staffing issues.

1. The flu is just a bad cold. False. The flu is a contagious disease. It can lead to serious illness including pneumonia. High-risk groups, including pregnant women, older people and those with medical conditions like diabetes, are at risk for complications that can put them in the hospital. 2. If you got a flu shot last year, you need to get one this year. True. The body’s immunity declines over time and new flu viruses appear each year. Flu vaccines are updated to keep up with changing viruses, so it’s important to get a yearly flu shot. 3. You can get the flu more than once a season. True. Both type A and type B influenza circulate, so it’s possible to be infected with both types and to get sick more than once. 4. The side effects of a flu shot are much worse than the flu. False. The nasal mist flu vaccine might cause some congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. A sore arm is the worst likely side effect from a flu shot. The risk of a severe allergic reaction is less than 1 in 4 million. 5. You have to get a flu

1199SEIU Pres. George Gresham gets his flu shot from NYS Commissioner of Health, Dr. Nirav Shah. shot by December for it to be effective. False. Flu vaccine can be given before or during the flu season, though the best time to get vaccinated is October or November. 6. An active, healthy adult can get the flu. True. Anyone exposed to someone at high risk of passing along the virus is at risk of getting the flu. 7. Every year about 20,000 children younger than five are hospitalized because of flu complications. True. Young children are particularly vulnerable to the flu. 8. The flu vaccine works right away. False. After a flu shot it takes

about two weeks for the body to build up immunity. 9. You may be able to pass the flu virus to someone before you know you are sick. True. People infected with influenza may be contagious from one day before getting sick until five to seven days after getting sick. 10. Smokers are more likely to be infected than nonsmokers. True. Some studies have shown higher rates of infection among smokers as well as higher rates of mortality from influenza among smokers. *Data source: U.S. Centers For Disease Control.

1199SEIU and NYSNA Activists Join in Appeal for Typhoon Haiyan Victims

Led by 1199SEIU Secretary Treasurer Maria Castaneda, 1199ers joined leaders and members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) and Filipino activists at a November 12 press conference outside New York Presbyterian Hospital to appeal for aid for victims of Typhoon Haiyan. “Our help is urgently needed,” declared Castaneda, as she described the typhoon as the worst in history. The typhoon tore through the central Philippines on November 8 and flattened Tacloban, the coastal capital of Leyte province. Officials put the death toll near 5,000.

“I’m happy to stand with members of NYSNA,” Castaneda said. “Just as we have worked together to save quality healthcare and quality jobs, we are uniting to raise desperately needed funds for the victims in the Philippines.” She described support from other locals of the Service Employees International Union and from management of 1199SEIU institutions. “But our most important resource in this campaign is our members,” she declared. Jill Furillo, NYSNA’s executive director, also discussed the importance of joining hands with 1199SEIU. “We have a strong network of RNs, 850 of whom already have volunteered to work in the disaster-stricken areas of the Philippines.” Some of those nurses spoke at the press conference. Presby RN Gloria Cabacoy Contreras, who was born in Tacloban, fought back tears as she described her concern and pain as she watched TV news reports of the typhoon. She was joined at the press conference by Presby RN Belma Tonel. “This is more than a need for the Philippines, this is an emergency human need,” said Wilfredo Rosete, a Presby neurophysiology technician, whose wife also is a NYSNA member. Maria Eva Mahinay Comeo, an 1199SEIU RN at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan, made an impassioned appeal for assistance. “This is

going to be a long process,” she emphasized. “It will take a lot of work, but we can do it together.” Other speakers at the press conference included a leader of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, who called the typhoon an unnatural disaster. She noted that climate change and underdevelopment were important factors in the disaster. Her point was underscored by Yeb Sano, the head of the Philippines delegation at the November UN climate talks in Poland, who announced that he would go on a hunger strike to prod the conference to take meaningful action to address climate change. “What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness; the climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw,” he said. 1199SEIU is working with partner organizations to get supplies where they are most needed and has set up a Philippines Relief Fund to collect donations. The Union has agreed to match contributions to the Fund, so a contribution of $25.00 will become a $50.00 donation. Checks should be made payable to 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East/ Phillippines Relief Fund and mailed to: 1199SEIU, Attn: Gina Miller, 310 W. 43rd St., New York, NY, 10036. You can also donate through PayPal by logging on to

December 2013 • Our Life And Times


Dietary and Kitchen Workers at

North Shore Medical Center In Miami

1199SEIU represents 900 workers at North Shore, a 350-bed hospital in Miami, FL. Among them are 40 food service workers who are responsible for every area of the institution’s kitchen and cafeteria—from food prep and service to washing, storing and maintaining equipment. Our Life And Times visited North Shore’s kitchen one day in November as the workers prepared lunch for the hospital’s patients, staff and visitors.


Hostess Tara Eskridge (left) with dietary aide, Gladys Moise, during lunch service.


December 2013 • Our Life And Times


1. “I don’t do any cooking at home because I do too much cooking here,” says Valerie Thomas, a cook at North Shore for 11 years. 2. “I make desserts for the patients,” says grill cook and cold prep cook Anastasia Gardiner. “I have been working here two years, but I’ve been cooking professionally for 16 years.” 3. “Right now I’m prepping for lunch service,” says delegate Stephanie Mitchell, a cook at North Shore for eight years. “I’m preparing for the doctors’ lunch and the cafeteria service.” 4. Hostess Jacquecina Muselaire prepares salads for patients’ lunches.



3 4

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8 5. Cook Debra McCullough, 6. Dishwasher Richard Lee 7. Cook Anelus Victor cuts at North Shore for 30 years, has been at North Shore for freshly-baked brownies for lunch service. was finishing preparations 12 years. for lunch for 166 patients. She is also responsible for breakfast.


December 2013 • Our Life And Times

8. Nedra McIntosh prepares a Chipotle Ranch Crab Salad for hospital’s lunch service.

Inauguration A group of 120 members traveled to

Washington, DC on Jan. 21 to witness the historic inauguration and swearing in of President Obama for his second term as President of the United States. Every region of the Union was represented in the contingent. “I couldn’t find the words for my happiness,” said Hilda Haye, a diagnostic technician from Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, MA who was among the members at the event.

THE YEAR IN REVIEW Sandy Relief Though Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, relief efforts continued well into 2013. 1199SEIU members, many of whom were victims of the storm, participated in food and clothing drives, distributing donations in their communities. The Union partnered with several organizations, including Americares and Rite Aid to get resources to affected members. 1199SEIU members volunteered at health fairs to address the need for post storm-health services. The Union helped secure a grant from the Robin Hood Foundation that assisted homecare workers and a fundraiser generated money to help members who experienced the loss of a home, vehicle or other belongings.

Stop and Frisk

1199ers were part of a long campaign against the NYPD’s discriminatory policing practices. On June 27 the New York City Council passed bills collectively known as the Community Safety Act. One bill creates an office of inspector general to independently investigate NYPD conduct. The second bill strengthens provisions against biased policing and expands categories of protected individuals. Mayor Bloomberg has sued to keep the laws from being enacted, but Mayorelect Bill de Blasio has vowed to drop the lawsuit and end stop and frisk.

December 2013 • Our Life And Times


Upstate Lake Shore Health (TLC) Svc Lake Shore Health (TLC) Pro Pines at Utica Unity Living Center (St.Marys) Albany Pines at Catskill Center Pines at Glens Falls Center Stanton Nursing and Rehab Mid Hudson St. Francis Hospital RN St. Francis Hospital Svc Westchester Elizabeth Seton Pediatric RN Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Tech NYC Brookdale Hospital Prof Centerlight MLTC Jacobi/North Central Bronx PA NYU Rite Aid Florida Consulate Of Altamonte Springs Morrison Healthcare Food Services Vista Manor Nursing Home

March on Washington

On August 24 more than 100,000 people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC to commemorate the 50th anniversary of 1963’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the day Dr. Martin Luther King gave his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech. Joining the celebration were more than 3,000 members of 1199SEIU who traveled from the Union’s New York, New Jersey, and Maryland/DC regions. Retirees from North and South Carolina also joined the 1199SEIU contingent.

Gun Violence

This year, in the wake of Sandy Hook, 1199SEIU members turned out for demonstrations against the gun violence. Particularly in New York City and Buffalo, 1199SEIU members called for sensible gun laws and an end to the plague of gun violence affecting our young people. In Buffalo 1199SEIU partnered in announcing the launch of the Buffalo Peacemakers, a coalition that seeks to bring Buffalo’s crime rates down by emphasizing conflict resolution, family support, mentoring and program visibility.

NH Funding

Nursing home members in New Jersey and Massachusetts helped secure tens of millions in state funding for their institutions. The money safeguards good jobs and workers’ ability to provide quality care.


December 2013 • Our Life And Times

A group of 400 1199SEIU members traveled to Washington, DC April 10 and joined thousands of people who came from across the country in support of reforming the nation’s broken immigration system.


New Organizing Victories: Total 2,175 New Members

Massachusetts Cambridge Nursing Home Falmouth Genesis


“After the verdict some of my co-workers said they didn’t want to talk about it, but I said ‘No, we have to talk about this’,” said Pat Diaz, and RN at University Hospital in Tamrac Florida. After George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin, 1199SEIU members called on law enforcement and elected officials to acknowledge racial profiling and ineffective stand your ground laws. They held vigils and summits and marched and rallied in Trayvon’s name.

Trayvon Sick Days

The New York City Paid Sick Days Coalition won an important victory in March when the New York City Council and Council Speaker Christine Quinn reached an agreement on a paid sick leave bill. The Coalition, which includes 1199SEIU, was able to disprove the argument that paid sick leave would harm business. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto of the bill was overwhelmingly overridden by the City Council in July.

Minimum Wage

On Jan. 22 Raise Maryland, a coalition that includes faith-based, labor and civil rights organizations, announced in Annapolis its campaign to raise Maryland’s minimum wage. 1199SEIU is an active member of the coalition. Raise Maryland wants to pass legislation that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016, index the minimum wage to keep pace with the cost of living and raise wages for tipped workers from 50 percent to 70 percent of the minimum wage.


In NYC in May after a year-long battle, 1,200 workers from the First Presbyterian Church Home Attendant Corporation saw victory in their contract fight. First Chinese refused to pay sick, vacation or holiday time provided in their contract. Upstate, in Buffalo NY, solidarity won a strong agreement after months of negotiations with the Kaleida Health System. Massachusetts members continued to win agreements that maintained wages, benefits and gave them a voice on the job.

December 2013 • Our Life And Times


de Blasio Bill de Blasio was helped to a landslide victory in his bid for the office of Mayor of New York City by an army of 1199SEIU volunteers. De Blasio, deeply progressive and a longtime friend of the Union, vaulted from fourth place to first with 1199SEIU’s endorsement. Member-volunteers made over 100,000 calls during phone banking, knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors, visited worksites, collected tens of thousands of vote pledges and lit up social media. DeBlasio is New York City’s first Democratic mayor in two decades.


Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey was sworn in to the U.S. Senate July 16 after handily winning a June 25 special election. His victory was ensured by 1199SEIU members who battled soaring temperatures and low turnout to help him defeat his republican opponent, Gabriel Gomez. 1199SEIU members also made the difference in the victory of Marty Walsh in the Boston mayoral race. Walsh won every Boston district with an Africa-American, Latino or Haitian majority.


State Sen. Barbara Buono chose 1199SEIU Exec. VP Milly Silva as her pick for lieutenant governor in her campaign against the incumbent, Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Though the run for governor wasn’t successful, the historic all female ticket reinforced the Union’s political strength and broadened its influence. And with all 120 seats in New Jersey’s State Senate and Assembly up for reelection, 1199SEIU members helped maintain a Democratic majority in both houses.


Long-time 1199SEIU ally Letitia “Tish” James easily won the November race for New York City Public Advocate. She succeeds mayor-elect Bill deBlasio in the office. She’ll join members of a New York City Council which is one of the most progressive in the city’s history. 1199SEIU membervolunteers helped 29 out of 35 Council candidates win races. Another major victory was the election of Democrat Ken Thompson as Brooklyn’s District Attorney. Thompson defeated incumbent Charles Hynes, a Democrat who bowed out of the race and then switched parties to run again. 13

December 2013 • Our Life And Times


Defending Our Hard-fought


Veteran League negotiators discuss past New York victories.

The more than 160,000 members working in facilities covered by the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes contracts will soon face one of the toughest tests of their working lives. “Each negotiation is a test,” says Maurice Philip, a member of the 1199SEIU Retirees Local executive committee, a former lead technician at Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center in Manhattan and a member of many League negotiating committees. “I go back to the late 1970s,” Philip recalls. Philip’s first years as an 1199er in the late 1970s coincided with the end of the Leon Davis’s 50-year tenure as president of the Union. The 1980s was a period of instability. For example the 1984 strike during League negotiations has generally been regarded as a defeat. “I remember the 1984 strike,” Philip says. “We stuck together and made some gains, but it was in the Dennis Rivera era later when we had our big contract victories. And that’s when I learned about being a Union leader.” Philip notes that one of the major lessons he has taken from contract fights is the importance of mobilizing members at the workplace. “Rivera was a brilliant negotiator and we put together

strong negotiating committees, Philip says. “But the biggest weapon we had in negotiations was the threat that members in our institutions were ready and willing to fight.” Philip and other members of the 2009 League negotiating committee faced one of the stiffest tests in the Union’s history. The 2008 economic crash robbed the 1199SEIU pension funds of 30 percent of their assets. Millions of workers across the nation lost their jobs, and bosses and state governments tore up union contracts and busted unions. “My main concern during the 2009 negotiations was preserving health benefits,” says RN Doreen Hannigan, a 37-year veteran of Avalon Gardens NH in Smithtown, NY. Hannigan also was concerned about Union education and family benefits. “The benefits helped me raise my children and helped me train to become an RN,” she says. “But as a member of the last nursing home negotiating committee I understood that I was just one member of a team,” Hannigan notes. “My experience helped me to understand the needs of members and patients at the workplace,

but I knew that to protect what we had won in the past, we had to stick together. It was teamwork that won our last nursing home contract, and that is what it will take to win the next.” “We have fought to ensure that Bushwick Center NH follows the League contract,” says Leroy Bradford, a physical therapy assistant at the Brooklyn nursing home. “When I was a member of the last League negotiating committee my main concern was security, not just for our jobs, but also for our benefits.” Bradford says he feels strongly that two-way communication during negotiations was key to winning a good contract. “I kept my contract captains at our facility informed at every moment I had. Any time we learned something new, I would call, and the captains would pass on that information to the members and get their feedback. “I would not sugarcoat anything in my reports. It was important for the members to know all the issues and problems. So even though the members weren’t with us in person, we knew they were behind us. And the bosses knew we were prepared to fight.

“AS A MEMBER OF THE LAST NURSING HOME NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE I UNDERSTOOD THAT I WAS JUST ONE MEMBER OF A TEAM.” RN Doreen Hannigan “I was not just representing the members, I felt that we also were bargaining for our patients,” Bradford stresses. “I believe the contract helps protect patients, too. Bradford, Hannigan and Philip all say that the 2009 negotiations were a proud moment for 1199SEIU. “Because of the changes in the economy, the healthcare industry and in our Union, I think management thought they could get givebacks from us,” Philip says. “George (Gresham) was a new president, but he was up to the task and we were all united behind him.”

1199SEIU Pres. George Gresham addresses the Union’s negotiating committee during talks with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes of New York in 2009.

December 2013 • Our Life And Times


The Last Word: OBAMACARE Lina Bracero, SEIU’s Deputy Director of Outreach for Affordable Care Act (ACA) Implementation, gives us a snapshot of the new healthcare law.

How did the Affordable Care Act become “Obamacare”? In March of 2010 as President Obama and members of Congress worked to secure the ACA, Republicans started using the name “Obamacare” as a derogatory term. It was a campaign to insinuate President Obama was in support of what they called big government and socialized medicine. However, SEIU and our allies adopted the name in an effort to change the narrative. While it has definitely helped, most people don’t understand the two things are the same, so we try to use the formal name for the law—the Affordable Care Act—or simply call it the healthcare law. Our goal is to make sure everyone understands what we are talking about when it comes to healthcare in our nation.

What is SEIU doing to help enroll people in the ACA? Our central strategy is moving an outreach and education program with members and in the communities where our members live and work. Overall, our strategy is to speak to as many members, their families and community residents as we can over the course of the next six months to ensure that folks know what their choices are if they are uninsured and how to sign up. Our African American and Latino communities will particularly benefit from the ACA, since they include some of the highest rates of uninsured. What does the ACA mean for the healthcare industry? The Affordable Care Act encourages quality of care over quantity of care. Healthcare workers support these changes—from primary care to hospitals to in-home care—and our members are at the center of these efforts to improve the


December 2013 • Our Life And Times


How does the ACA help those with insurance coverage, like most 1199SEIU members? It makes things some members may take for granted—like not being denied care due to a pre-existing condition like diabetes or hypertension—a reality for all Americans. The same applies for women not being charged more than men for care. The fact is that even today, in almost every state, you can be denied the care if you are already sick when you apply for insurance on your own. That terrible reality will end on January 1, 2014, thanks to the ACA. Children can stay on their parent’s plan up to age 26. No matter where you or your loved ones work, the ACA’s protections follow you over your lifetime. Seniors on Medicare are already benefitting from free preventive care and lower out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. One of the biggest improvements for those covered through work will be the elimination of annual caps on benefits in 2014. The law has already eliminated lifetime caps. Every year, many folks who have coverage go over their plan’s limit and end up with bills they can never pay because they were seriously ill or had an injury. Medical bills are the number one cause of personal bankruptcy and usually the people have insurance – it just doesn’t cover everything. Caps on benefits will soon be history thanks to the ACA.

healthcare system under the ACA. It improves care coordination across settings including hospitals, nursing homes, and care provided in the home so that when people leave the hospital, they don’t have to come back if it can be avoided, to give just one example. And as more people gain access to affordable health care our healthcare members are involved in improving health and wellness in every population. How did the government shutdown affect the ACA enrollment process? It didn’t. The ACA can’t be undone. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality. We moved forward as President Obama encouraged us to do. We didn’t let the Republicans’ desires to defund and ultimately do away with the ACA stop us. Republican opponents of the law are dead set against any fixes. They have no plan to help working Americans afford healthcare coverage or stop insurance companies from doing whatever they want. They just want to take away the benefits of the law. What have we been doing to help people with the challenges that have arisen since the enrollment process began? SEIU has taken the lead on the ground. We’ve been talking to eligible individuals on the doors, by phone, and at healthcare-related events around the country. The website issues are unfortunate but the web is not the only way to obtain information and secure coverage under the ACA. Our campaigns have directed interested community members to in-person conversations with certified navigators in their areas. People can also apply by phone at 800318-2596. Staff is available to help 24 hours a

day, seven days a week with agents who can communicate in over 150 languages. How can SEIU members help educate people about Obamacare? Spread the word. Many members have healthcare benefits, but others—like some of our homecare and some part-time workers— don’t. These are all sisters and brothers who need to know how the law can help them afford care. And we all have family members and neighbors who don’t have access to coverage through work. If members take on the task of telling at least five people about the law, we will reach thousands of people. People can log onto the federal website at to learn more. Do people need to be employed to qualify for insurance under the ACA? No. Employment is not a requirement for enrollment, but you will be required to supply information regarding your household income to apply. Individuals who have been employed sporadically or have been out of work for a long time should definitely apply. They could gain coverage under Medicaid, if their state has accepted federal funds. How can people learn more about enrollment and how the ACA works in their particular state? They can search online by zip code for a local navigator organization at the website There’ll be many recognizable organizations on the list that can help with enrollment when they do that. They can also call 800-318-2596, the number mentioned earlier, and speak to someone in person.


THE WORK WE DO North Shore Medical Center in Miami, FL. Stephanie Mitchell, a cook at North Shore Medical Center in Miami for eight years, getting ready for lunch service at the institution. See story on page 7. Photo: Jim Tynan

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OLAT - Dec. 2013 The Year In Review 2013