1199 Magazine: Retention Matters

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1 A Journal of 1199SEIU March-April 2024 Retiree Profile: A Lifetime Commitment Black History Month: Decades of Union Civil Rights Work Work We Do: Home Care Members Fight for Fair Pay
Retention Matters



4 Celebrating Black History

Members came together at Union headquarters to honor past heroes and build for the future.

5 The President’s Column Politics is a Fight for Power.

9 The Fight for Healthcare Justice Members from all around New York State took to the streets to pressure Governor Hochul to protect the most vulnerable.

11 Community Nurses

Editorial: Raising the Volume

As working people, raising our voices together is the best way to be heard.

Cover: Jonathan Agyekum, an RN and recent graduate from LIU-Brooklyn taking part in a mentoring program aimed at retaining health care professionals in safety net hospitals.

6 Around the Regions Workers in Westchester, Rochester and Massachusetts vote to Join 1199; PCAs Fight Budget Cuts; Maryland Members Rally for Health Justice; Overcoming Injustice; Women Celebrate Solidarity across the Regions.

How one forwardthinking RN is tackling the recruitment crisis head on.

14 The Work We Do Home care members.

18 Women of the World: Unite!

Members show solidarity for Women’s History Month.

20 A Lifelong Commitment

An 1199 retiree explains why her political action with the Union never stops.

22 Commemorating Black History Builds Unity

The marriage of culture and politics is a powerful force.

One of the most important reasons to come together as workers and form a union, is to have a voice.

We want to have a voice in how our working days are structured, so that we provide quality patient care. We also want a voice in our contract negotiations, so that we can bargain the wages and benefits that we deserve.

But as working people — even those of us who belong to a political powerhouse like 1199SEIU — it can often feel like we have little or no voice in the wider world.

What does our one vote matter when it comes to changing the challenging conditions in which many of us live?’ And it is fair point. In most elections, one vote will not move the needle by itself. The only way to make our voices heard is to band together, decide collectively which candidates are most likely to promote our interests in government, and then vote for them in an organized way as a bloc.

That is why every four years, in the months leading up to the U.S. presidential election, a representative group of 1199ers attend the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) convention to decide democratically and collectively what the political priorities of our labor movement will be.

Regina Heimbruch

The roughly 450,000 members in our 1199 local all live on the East Coast, from Upstate, New York to Florida, and several states in between. At the quadrennial SEIU convention, we join forces with the rest of our union family across the entire nation. Because of the pandemic, the last convention in 2020 was held virtually. Next month, when members come together from May 19-22 in Philadelphia for the quadrennial North American convention, it will be the first time in eight years that the whole SEIU family has met together in person.

Just like the United States as a whole, our national labor movement is made up of individuals from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, and gender identities. At 1199, we are particularly proud of our decades-long commitment to the civil rights struggle <See Celebrating Black History, p. 4> and promoting equal rights for women <see Women of the World: Unite! P. 19>.

What binds us all together in SEIU, is that we are working people. As we

like to say at 1199, when it comes to the representatives we elect to local, state, and national government, we do not have permanent friends or permanent enemies; we have permanent interests. At the national level, the Republican Party in Congress has become so extreme in its determination to slash Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security that as healthcare workers can no longer support their candidates. Republicans are once again even threatening to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which now provides health coverage for forty-five million people!

The Joe Biden and Kamala Harris administration, on the other hand, has worked hard to lower prescription drug costs, and saved Americans who rely on the ACA for their healthcare $800 annually. This November, we have to scrutinize the records of each party when it comes to what they have done, or have not done for working people. We must ensure we get ourselves, and all of our family and friends to vote for the candidates who will protect our rights and our economic stability. If we stay unified in our purpose, our voice in Washington D.C. will be loud.

1199 Magazine 3 2 March-April 2024
@1199seiu www.1199seiu.org
1199 Magazine March-April 2024 Vol. 42 No.2 ISSN 2474-7009 Published by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East 498 Seventh Ave, New York, NY 10018 (212) 582-1890 www.1199seiu.org president George Gresham
Silva senior executive vice presidents
TurnerBiggs executive vice presidents Jacqueline Alleyne
Williams Nadine Williamson editor Sarah Wilson art direction and design Maiarelli Studio director of photography Kim Wessels contributors Leyla Adali Marlishia Aho April Ezzell Jenna Jackson JJ Johnson 1199 Magazine is published six times a year—January/ February, March/ April, May/June, July/ August, September/ October, November/ December—for $15.00 per year by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers E. 498 Seventh Ave, New York, NY 10018 Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to 1199 Magazine, 498 Seventh Ave, New York, NY
10018 What
us together in SEIU is that we are all working people. As we like to say at 1199, when it comes to the representatives we elect, we do not have permanent friends — we have permanent interests.

Celebrating Black History

Members came together at Union headquarters to honor past heroes and build for the future.

On February 23, members came together at the 1199 headquarters to celebrate their proud history, and honor civil rights heroes past and present. The Black History Month event was simultaneously livestreamed to the Quincy, Massachusetts and Buffalo, New York offices.

Clarence B Jones—the lawyer for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who successfully smuggled his handwritten “Letter from Birmingham Jail” manuscript out of the prison for him—was one of the guest speakers. Jones is one of the few surviving members of Dr. King’s

“This union defines the conscience of America. That is why I came all this way to be here”

– Clarence B Jones, lawyer for Dr. Martin Luther King

inner circle. Now 93, he traveled all the way from California to be there.

“The FBI wanted to destroy Dr. King,” Jones recalled. “They also wanted to destroy 1199. They were especially fearful of his relationship with 1199.”

Freedom, a non-profit dedicated to addressing systemic and racial injustice, also spoke.

Politics is a Fight for Power

Working people need to make sure we have a dog in the race.

 Clarence B. Jones and Tamika Mallory share a moment.

“This union defines the conscience of America. That is why I came all this way to be here,” he added. “I never thought I would reach 93 years-old and be living in a country that seems to be going insane. How did it become that the measure of your success is how much money you have?

I forget things, but I don’t forget important things.”

New York State Attorney General

Letitia James and New York City Mayor Eric Adams also came to hear the speakers, and mingle with the members.

Pamela Frank—the widow of the iconic singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte who passed away last April at age 96—was there to receive an award on her late husband’s behalf. Belafonte worked closely alongside 1199 over many decades, and a video tribute of that special relationship was shown at the event.

For 1199 retiree Yvette Weeks, it was one of the first inperson events she’d attended since the pandemic—and she was greatly impressed. “I’m sorry that I was so late in getting involved with the union. I knew that Dr. King and Harry Belafonte played a large role. I would have loved to have been in their company,” she said.

It wasn’t just historical figures who took to the stage, however.

Tamika Mallory, a leading organizer for 2016’s Women’s March, and co-founder of Until

Jones paid tribute to Mallory and her political work, delivering a moving speech to her about handing over the torch of civil rights activism to the younger generation.

Michael Guevarez, an 1199 Recreation Leader at Brooklyn’s Seagate Nursing Home, is also part of that younger generation. During the fight for healthcare justice in March 2023, he submitted to arrest during a nonviolent civil disobedience protest outside the Midtown Manhattan headquarters of New York State Governor Kathy Hochul.

In receiving an award for his service to civil rights and healthcare justice, Guevarez said: “We are the same healthcare heroes that kept NYC afloat during the pandemic. We are also witnesses. Every day we witness the injustice in the healthcare system. And we are really sick and tired of it. I was honored last year, March 29, to stand with people who I consider to be my leaders, but also our family. Our brothers and sisters. Together we took arrest. It was my first time getting arrested. We knew we were doing it for the right reasons. It wasn’t easy. I want to encourage my fellow union members who think that maybe politics isn’t for you. Or you don’t have time to come out. Or the union doesn’t do anything for you. The Union has done so much for me. I never thought I would meet the Mayor of NYC. I can’t be the only one doing this. Alone I’m nothing. I need you guys to come out, I need you to join us, and I need you to get involved!”.

Everyone knows that money talks, but in politics money shouts. In large part because of the cost of media commercials, even local congressional campaigns often need to raise millions of dollars, statewide campaigns for governor or US senator tens of millions, and presidential campaigns hundreds of millions and even a billion-plus.

It is absurd and it needn’t be that way. In most countries—Canada and France are two examples— campaigns are limited to 4-6 weeks and candidates are allotted the same amount of television time. For free! Here in the United States, of course, campaigning for the next election begins the day after the last one, and expensive commercials amount to coverage.

Because of the power of corporations—this is a capitalist society, after all—the wealthy have few limits on how much money to contribute to their favored candidates (and their front groups); working people are disadvantaged, as always. What we do have, however, is our numbers. Making sure we maximize the potential power of our numbers depends on every one of us pitching in.

Federal law prevents unions from using dues money for political purposes. So, many years ago, our union formed the Martin Luther King, Jr. Political Action Fund. This allows members to make voluntary contributions to help us lobby and campaign for worker-friendly legislation and candidates. We know that what we win at the bargaining table can be limited or even taken away in the halls of Congress, our statehouses and city halls.

are not ready and willing to fight for ourselves. And that’s what politics is about: a fight for power. The readiness of our members to mobilize—in the first place, by contributing to our Political Action Fund, putting our money where our mouths are, so to speak—shows how willing we are to fight.

The electoral landscape is the reason behind our union sending thousands of member volunteers to campaign in battleground states. And why, to be effective, we need to build our Martin Luther King, Jr Political Action Fund to help underwrite these campaigns.

This year will be perhaps the most difficult—and dangerous—campaigns we’ve ever faced. Trump has surrounded himself with a “MAGA” coalition that includes white supremacists, antisemites, misogynists, and outright fascists, making the former president a clear and present danger to workers and their unions, to women and reproductive rights, to the foreign-born, to peoples of color, and to all of our democratic rights.

But national polling tells us this is going to be a nail-bitingly close election. Despite President Biden’s achievements—leading the country out of the Coronavirus pandemic, restoring the economy through his trillion-dollar infrastructure legislation, promoting workers’ rights and the trade-union movement like no other president—we have a fight on our hands. Young voters, Black and other voters of color and every other part of the coalition that elected Biden in 2020 have to again be engaged, mobilized and brought to the polls on election day.

We cannot afford to make politics a spectator sport. It must be audience participation. We’ve got no cause for complaint if the powers-that-be mess with us, if we

Our first task is to mobilize our members in our states where we live—to register all who are eligible to vote and to Get Out the Vote (GOTV). But in addition to our state and local races, this is a presidential election year. And presidential elections are decided by electoral college votes, not the popular vote. For example, in the last 32 years the Republican presidential candidate has received more total votes (the popular vote) than the Democrat only one time. Yet they’ve been in the White House 12 of those years and managed to name six of the nine Supreme Court justices. The Electoral College works similarly to the US Senate. California, with nearly 40 million people, has two senators. So does Wyoming, with less than a million people. So, in 2016, Hillary Clinton received three million more votes than Donald Trump, but the Electoral College vote was 304-227 for Trump. That’s why presidential elections are usually decided in 6-8 “battleground” states where the electorate is fairly evenly divided. Everyone knows New York and Massachusetts will vote Democratic and that Utah and South Carolina will vote Republican. So, the focus is on places like Michigan and Georgia which can go either way. This year even parts of New York have become battlegrounds with crucial contests in the Hudson Valley and Long Island that have the potential to flip the House back to blue.

That’s where we 1199ers come in. Our track record of successful campaigning has few equals. But those successes—whether it is marches on our state capitals for Medicaid dollars or electing our public officials, including the President—are underwritten by our Political Action Fund.

I’m confident we can count on you to help our Fund grow and flourish. We cannot afford to make politics a spectator sport. It must be audience participation.

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The President’s Column by George Gresham
4 March-April 2024 OUR UNION

Around the Regions

Workers in Westchester, Rochester and Massachusetts vote to Join 1199

Workers at WestMed, a consortium of doctors’ offices and urgent care centers located at seven different sites around Westchester, New York, reached out to 1199 when their conditions started to change following the corporate takeover. Recognizing that joining together for collective bargaining offered the best chance of securing fair wages and benefits, roughly 950 workers across a wide variety of job titles including nurses, pharmacists and physical therapists voted on January 31 and February 1 to join 1199.

Myriam Ravina, a Medical Assistant from White Plains said: “Management has made our healthcare more expensive and kept our wages low, while everything else goes up. I am voting yes for a real voice in our workplace.”

Diane Baker, a Benefits Coordinator in Purchase, added:

“Like many of us, I am doing the work of multiple roles at once, and I deserve higher pay. We are owned by a billion-dollar company. Management is crying poor now because in our union we will have the power to fight for fair pay—and protect it in a contract.”

In Upstate New York, some 115 professional home care workers at University of Rochester Medicine Home Care (URMHC) also voted to join 1199SEIU on March 18.

Workers in the unit assist patients with the transition from the hospital back to their home as well as providing nursing care, physical, occupational, speech therapy, medical and social work services.

“Our work in home care is

 Celebrating victory at URMHC

very fulfilling but can also be challenging. We work directly with patients and their families on personalized plans to meet their needs and goals. I’m proud to be involved with my coworkers at URMHC in forming our union with 1199SEIU. We will now have the power to make changes for the betterment of our patients and for all dedicated professionals working in the home care field,” said Cindy Lorenzetti, who has been a Physical Therapy Assistant for more than 30 years.

In Massachusetts, nearly 250 workers at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) at nine clinic sites voted to join 1199 on March 13.

PCAs Fight Budget Cuts

MD Members Rally for Health Justice

Members in Maryland joined other progressive organizations at a rally for health justice outside the state capitol building in Annapolis on February 26. The demands to lawmakers included expanding access to healthcare for to more people without regard to their immigration status, addressing misclassification of home care workers and protecting gender affirming care providers.

Rhonda White, an 1199 Delegate and Certified Medicine Aide at Forest Haven Nursing Home in Baltimore County spoke out for legislation to address the staffing crisis by allocating more money towards wage increases.

She said: “Raising wages will retain healthcare workers and give us better staffing. Essential workers like me, we don’t do the work for the love of the money. We do it because we love our residents. But the prices for everything we need are just going up; bread, water, gas, everything. Money helps us to survive, and we need all the help we can get.”

“This win means we get to come together and continue to keep each other safe, now just in a more formalized process through our union, because nobody's got us like we got us,” said Noemi Guevara (She/Her), an HIV Prep Navigator at BHCHP.

The new members of the 1199 family include Care Coordinators, Case Managers, Clinic Coordinators, Recovery Coaches, Medical Assistants, Respite Aides, and Harm Reduction Technicians.

“This win means we get to come together and continue to keep each other safe, now just in a more formalized process through our union, because nobody's got us like we got us.”

– Noemi Guevara HIV Prep Navigator at BHCHP

Hundreds of Massachusetts 1199ers took to the streets on March 20 outside Governor Maura Healey’s office to protest her state budget proposal that threatens to cut 6,000 consumers out of the Personal Care Assistant program, which provides home care services across the state.

“Care not cuts!” chanted the demonstrators, who included Union allies, people with disabilities and disability advocates. Limiting access to the PCA program, on which nearly 40,000 elders and people with disabilities rely, would not only harm them, but might also force 1199 caregivers to leave the profession if their hours were cut as a result.

Overcoming Injustice

Refusing to let grave injustice get the better of him, Jon-Adrian Velazquez, is now starring in a movie about redemption alongside renowned actor, Colman Domingo. Sing Sing tells the story of a theatre group that helps prisoners find purpose in acting inside the New York prison. In real life, Velazquez, the only son

of retired 1199 Home Care organizer Maria Velazquez, was wrongly incarcerated at the same prison himself for 24 years. In September 2021, roughly two years before the film’s official release, he was finally granted clemency by former Governor Andrew Cuomo, shortly before he stepped down. Sing Sing will be shown in theaters this July.

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Florida Maryland Massachusetts New Jersey New York Washington, D.C.

Around the Regions

Women Celebrate Solidarity across the Regions

Union activists celebrated International Women’s Day up and down the East Coast in a variety of events designed to build solidarity.

In Rochester, New York, 1199ers celebrated alongside SEIU Local 200United with a "United We Brunch" event at the union hall.

"It was a wonderful feeling to sit among Beautiful Sisters of all colors and break bread together," said Robin White, PCA at UMRC Strong Memorial Hospital.

"I experienced a wonderful group of women, so much knowledge," added Joan Fernandez, Dietary Clerk, who also works at Strong. In Florida on March 21, members celebrated Women’s History Month by honoring organizers leading the effort to protect women’s reproductive freedom in the state. 1199 is part of a coalition which helped gather signatures for the ‘Yes on 4’ campaign to put reproductive

rights on the 2024 general election ballot. Voters in the sunshine state now have the chance to create a constitutional amendment protecting their freedom and prevent a potential 6-week abortion ban that is looming on the horizon. At press time the state’s supreme court was still deliberating about whether to allow the ballot initiative to move forward.

Members from WhitmanWalker Health in Washington, D.C. attended the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s Black Women’s Roundtable (BWR), which honored Women’s History Month by hosting its 13th Annual BWR Women of Power National Summit and bringing together Black women leaders and allies from across the nation to develop organizing and empowerment plans to lift and improve the lives of Black and underserved women, girls and families.

“I experienced a wonderful group of women, so much knowledge.”

– Joan Fernandez, Dietary Clerk

 WhitmanWalker members: Claudia Martinez, Tiffany Hoey, and Joyce Jackson.

Healthcare Justice The Fight for

Members from all around New York State took to the streets to pressure Governor Hochul to protect the most vulnerable.

As the 1199 Magazine was going to press, the final details of the New York State budget were still being hashed out in Albany. NYS Senators and Assembly members were continuing to press Governor Kathy Hochul to allocate more money to healthcare in order to plug dangerous gaps in services for the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Now is not the time to prioritize a “rainy day” fund.

Regardless of the outcome of the budget negotiations in Albany, what is beyond any doubt is the commitment of 1199ers to protecting the well-being of their patients and their communities who rely on Medicaid funding for essential services.

On March 22, thousands of 1199ers filled the streets in seven major cities across New York State to protest Governor Kathy Hochul’s original budget proposal that failed to fully fund Medicaid, the public health insurance program that provides healthcare for more than seven million lowincome New Yorkers.

1199 healthcare workers from hospitals, nursing homes, home care, and communitybased settings joined Medicaid patients, faith leaders and elected representatives in demonstrations in Manhattan, Hempstead, Yonkers, Poughkeepsie, Syracuse, Rochester, and the Governor’s hometown of Buffalo.

The largest march took place on the streets of Manhattan,

8 March-April 2024
1199 Magazine 9
 Members
 1199ers protest in
New York City.

Community Nurses

How one forward-thinking RN is tackling the recruitment crisis head on.

where a group of interfaith clerics delivered a petition to Governor Hochul’s New York City office signed by 627 faith leaders statewide calling for Medicaid to be fully funded. The largest upstate rally took place near the Governor’s hometown in downtown Buffalo, where a large coalition of faith leaders, community organizations, labor unions and healthcare workers rallied and marched to Niagara Square.

Annis Stewart who has worked at the Menorah Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care in Brooklyn for 17 years, said: “I love my work and I love my residents. I know my coworkers and I do the very best we can, but we could do so much more if Governor Hochul would fairly fund Medicaid. Everyone deserves the best quality of care.”

She was joined on the Manhattan march by Jose Gozalez, who has worked at Beth Israel Hospital for 35 years. “Beth Israel is my family’s hospital. Both my daughters were born there, and sadly my father died there. Hospitals are all about life and death, but I didn’t think I would outlive Beth Israel Hospital. I’m marching all the way to the governor’s office so that New Yorkers do not lose another hospital.”

In Buffalo, Tasha Johnson, a Medical Tech at Oishei Children’s Hospital said: “Sickness does not pick our children and our family members by zip codes, so all New

Healthcare workers and advocates were calling on Governor Hochul to fix the current Medicaid funding levels, which compensate healthcare providers 30 percent less than the actual cost of care. This chronic underfunding has led hospitals and nursing homes to cut or reduce vital services, and in some cases, close their doors. Recent hospital closures include Mount Sinai Beth Israel in Manhattan, Eastern Niagara Hospital, and Kingsbrook Jewish Medicaid Center in Brooklyn. In January, the state announced plans to close SUNY Downstate. Community healthcare services are also being curtailed at an alarming rate—maternity wards, for example, have been closing at a rate of two per year, while some nursing homes were forced to close entire units.

“Sickness doesn’t pick our children and our family members by zip codes. Babies should not be lost or born underweight because of where the parents lay their heads at night.”

– Tasha Johnson Medical Tech at Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo

Yorkers should have the same available care regardless of where they stay. Babies should not be lost or born underweight because of where the parents lay their heads at night.”

Shantina Heckman, an 1199 CNA at Loretto Health and Rehabilitation Center in Syracuse added: “Some facilities are already at bare bones and any more cuts might look like closing their doors. It’s very hard to recruit new workers in situations like this. Seniors in nursing homes are some of the most vulnerable people out there. What would happen to them if they didn’t have this place to live and people like me to care for them?”

 Yonkers 1199ers came with family.

 Members rally in Buffalo.

Even before COVID, it was difficult to recruit and retain quality healthcare workers, especially RN’s. As staffing levels grew even worse during the pandemic, Delta Williams, an 1199 RN member at Brookdale Hospital for 32 years, decided it was time to do something about it. “I noticed we were not retaining nurses, we’d get nurses and then they would leave,” says Williams. She also noticed another problem. “The student nurses, when I would preceptor them, I saw they were lacking clinical training.”

Being passionate about education, Williams wanted to both help the hospital keep nurses—and help nurses get the training they needed.

Since July 2022, when she started the Nurse Extern Program at Brookdale, Williams estimates roughly 80 percent of her mentees have stayed on. The hospital now has a core group of RN’s who feel it truly made a difference for them. “Joining the program was the best decision I ever made,” says Ania Jean-Louis, RN who came into the program as a nursing student at Medgar Evers College. “I got the hands-on experience as an extern doing everything that the nurses were doing except giving medication, it was a good thing,” says Jean-Louis. For Jonathan Agyekum, RN and recent graduate from LIU-Brooklyn, it was eyeopening. “I thought it was just [going to be] clinical experience,

but when I got here it was the teaching, getting involved, and working hand-in-hand with the nurses—it was more than I thought it was going to be. It’s working with real people that give you real feedback, not just working with mannequins [like in school], real people with real feelings.”

The program consists of three levels: Level 1 provides

– Delta Williams 1199 RN member at Brookdale Hospital “I feel like a full-time mom sometimes. I’m available 24-7, [the externs] can call me whenever, wherever, no matter what. ”

 Delta Williams, administers the

1199 Magazine 11 10 March-April 2024
“I live in the community and see this as giving back to the community; we don’t get that much healthcare funding and we need this hospital, it’s beneficial to stay and help here.”
– Jonathan Agyekum RN and recent graduate of the program

nursing students with real world experience, training, and education alongside RN’s in the field; Level 2 enables recent RN graduates and Permit nurses to strengthen their skills; and Level 3 is a remedial program to help healthcare workers pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and receive their nursing license.

For Williams, it wasn’t just about the training, but also developing a sense of community among the RN’s. “I feel like a fulltime mom sometimes,” Williams laughs. “I’m available 24-7, [the externs] can call me whenever, wherever, no matter what. I was on vacation in South Africa and still got a call,” Williams said. As generous with her time as Williams is, the externs know that she also expects a lot from them. “She really cares and wants the best for us and from us. She has

high standards, but that’s what makes the program a success,” says Jean-Louis.

Kedene Brissett, RN and graduate from Medgar Evers, says, “she reminds me of my mother who is also an RN; they have similar personalities. She’s on point and gets straight to the point — that’s great as a leader.” Agyekum adds, “She’s thorough. She gives us all the resources we need and gives us opportunities to make mistakes. And she can be tough — but sometimes, we need that tough love.”

The community goes beyond just the connection with Williams. Eduardo Rentas, RN and graduate from Medgar Evers College appreciates the camaraderie from the program. “Graduating nursing school is such a difficult process, so it’s good to form our own group to support each other,

and that [same feeling] has passed onto here. We spend a lot of time with each other on the floor, see each other a lot, so it became another kind of small family. And, when we see newer students, we help them out and answer their questions — and that’s cool,” says Rentas.

It's both recruitment and retention that’s key for Williams, not only for the skills of the students, but to make a difference in the larger Brownsville community where Brookdale is located. “My goal is to educate the future generation, so they can take care of the patients, says Williams. “Brownsville needs a lot of care, we know that because of where people live, they don’t always receive the same type of service as everywhere else. I want to create an environment that welcomes them here. There are disparities and I

want to take care of some of that. It’s having a great effect on the students.”

Agyekum feels the same way. “I live in the community and see this as giving back to the community; we don’t get that much healthcare funding and we need this [hospital], it’s beneficial to stay and help here,” he says.

Rentas adds, “There’s a sense of pride you get when working at a safety-net hospital. Without it, hundreds of thousands of people would be without healthcare. It feels good to be a part of a hospital that gives back and takes care of people in the community.”

The program runs year-round and accepts externs on a rolling basis, “wherever I can get them, I put them in,” says Williams. By the end of 2024, it will have 50 students that have gone through the program, and Williams is

always looking for more. “Right now, I get students from Medgar Evers College and LIU, but I have sent out letters to connect to more schools. “Fingers crossed that they will respond,” Williams adds, “because we have departments that would love to have them.”

The students are excited to share their wonderful experience with others. “I got all the experience I have now because of this program, I want to give back to Brookdale and make people know this program was a success,” JeanLouis says. “I want people to see me and say, ‘Oh, she’s from the program at Brookdale.’”

Agyekum adds, “Jump on [this], you can’t buy this kind of experience. This program helps to prepare you for the real world while you’re still in school. You’ll get so much experience. And it [helps you] feel comfortable that you chose the right profession.”

1199 Magazine 13 12 March-April 2024
 (L-R) Jonathan Agyekum, Ania Jean-Louis, Kedene Brissett and Eduardo Rentas

The Work We Do: Home care members

The Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP) in New York State has allowed thousands of individuals with disabilities who rely on Medicaid to live independently and with dignity in their own homes, with the support of a caregiver of their choice.

But in 2012, in an effort to streamline services and save money, New York brought its entire Medicaidfunded home care program under the Managed Long-Term Care system [MLTC]. Instead of cutting costs, this program has instead allowed health insurance middlemen to extract billions of dollars in profit out of the homecare system.

In March, four of the largest MLTC insurance companies reported exorbitant profits of more than $18 billion for 2023.

Rather than address the real driver of homecare cost increases—excessive insurer profits and administrative costs—as the 1199 Magazine was going to press, Governor Kathy Hochul was planning

to target home care workers and consumers instead. Her budget proposal would cut the wages of CDPAP workers by more than $2.50 an hour—a cruel blow to their livelihoods which would make it even more difficult for home care consumers to hire the help they need.

The Home Care Savings & Reinvestment Act introduced in Albany this year is designed to stop profit-driven insurance companies from ripping off home care consumers and taxpayers. It also opposes cuts to home care worker pay in the state budget. This legislation will generate $3 billion in savings annually. That money could be used to pay for growing home care needs, and ensure continuity of care by funding higher wages for home care workers to help resolve New York’s worstin-the-nation home care worker shortage. The 1199 Magazine caught up with some CDPAP members in Albany as they lobbied their elected representatives to support this legislation and protect their wages.

1. The Moronta family has always been tight-knit. When they moved to New York, Adalgisa Moronta initially stayed in the Dominican Republic to finish her university studies in Computer Science before reuniting with her family in 2011. When her brother Felipe developed diabetes and lost most of his sight, she joined the CDPAP program to look after him.

“She saved my life,” Adalgisa's brother says. “My blood sugar was so low, that I fell out of bed, barely conscious. She heard me fall and gave me juice. I don’t know where I would be without her. We cannot afford any cut in her wages. Rent, electricity, and food are all too expensive as it is.”

2. Elsa Mendoza is an 1199 CDPAP member with the Elara agency in the Bronx. She has been looking after her uncle, who is blind, for seven years. Originally from Ecuador, she is now a U.S. citizen.

“Any decision to reduce our wages is completely illogical at a time when we are facing inflation in our rent, food prices and car costs,” Mendoza says. “The governor has no idea what it is like to live in New York City. At the same time, they are taking money away from us, the insurance companies are banking billions of dollars. It is blatant robbery.”

“Any decision to reduce our wages is completely illogical at a time when we are facing inflation in our rent, food prices and car costs”
– Elsa Mendoza 1199 CDPAP member
1199 Magazine 15 14 March-April 2024
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“I treat caring for her like a job, but I’m not just doing it for the money.
If someone from the outside can do it, I can do it. Any cut to my pay will hurt not just me — it will hurt my mother too.”
– Zwinda Flores

3. Zwinda Flores has been looking after her mother Idalia Bonet for the past 18 months. Flores moved to New York from Puerto Rico in 1983, and was an 1199 home health worker with Cooperative for 24 years. When her mother suffered a stroke in 2018, the family decided she would be better off living in New York, too.

Flores learned about the CDPAP program and realized that she was the best person to look after her mother.

“She feels better with someone from the family taking care of her,” Flores says. "She has a speech problem, but I know what my Mom needs. Before we joined the program, she often called me or my daughter for help.

“I treat caring for her like a job, but I’m not just doing it for the money. If someone from the outside can do it, I can do it. Any cut to my pay will hurt not just me — it will hurt my mother too.”

4. Akira Hope, an 1199 home care worker from Queens has been in the field since 2008. She travelled to Albany to speak at an 1199 press conference about the need for reform of the MLTC payment system

“I care about people,” she says. “Can you imagine? Last year Molina reported $1 billion in profits…for Centene it was $2.7 billion…and Elevance banked $5.9 billion. This has got to stop.”

Hope called on Governor Hochul to do better for home care workers and consumers by supporting The Home Care Savings & Reinvestment Act.

5. Caring for her mother for the past six years, Ileana Chinchay, went to Albany to urge state legislators to oppose Governor Hochul’s wage cuts.

“It would hit us really hard,” Chinchay says. “There are five people in our household, and paying for groceries and utilities is already a struggle. I’m paid for 32-hours, but I work 24/7. Governor Hochul should meet with us and see what we deal with on a daily basis. She’s always talking about mental health, and my mother has a mental health diagnosis. It’s hard right now. If [Governor Hochul] cuts our pay, it’s going to be dire. I voted for her. I want her to know that if I support you, I want you to support me back.”

6. CDPAP members are not just in NYC. Chicquita Callaway travelled from Buffalo to Albany to make her voice heard. She began looking after her late mother with the CDPAP program in 2018.

“I have done this work for close to 30 years because people need us — whether they are our family members or not,” Callaway says.

“Despite having had two strokes, I keep showing up no matter what. I’m skipping doctors’ appointments because I cannot always afford the copays. And while I must choose between paying for a doctor’s visit, or making my car note, or paying rent — the State of New York is giving away billions to these greedy insurance corporations.” 5

16 March-April 2024 1199 Magazine 17
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 Caroline Trim Ishola at the Red Carpet event.

 Ana Medina at the Parade of Nations.

Women of the World: Unite!

Members show solidarity for Women’s History Month.

Parading with pride in costumes from their country of origin, the women of 1199 came together at two solidarity events held at the Union’s Manhattan headquarters in recognition of Women’s History Month.

On March 7, New York State

Assembly Member Marcela Mitaynes [D-51st District], a Peruvian emigre who was raised by her family in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, delivered the keynote address at 1199’s annual Parade of Nations.

Elected to office in 2021, Mitaynes

represents Red Hook, Sunset Park and northern Bay Ridge.

For a union as diverse as 1199, the annual event gives members the unique opportunity to learn more about — and celebrate — the wide variety of cultures represented.

Vishally Persaud, an 1199 Delegate and home health worker with the Stella Orton agency in Staten Island, said the Parade of Nations gives her a chance to represent her Guyanese heritage and “learn more about the traditions of my fellow members.”

This year’s event was a first for Angelique Huerta, an 1199 Shift Supervisor at the Rite Aid pharmacy in Astoria, Queens.

“I’m really proud to participate,” she said on the eve of International Women’s Day. “As women, we need to support one another.”

Alizandra Garri, an 1199 home care worker with the Riseboro Community Partnership in Brooklyn, called International Women’s Day "an important time for us to recognize the remarkable work of women.”

“When we stand together, we empower each other,” Garri said.

Originally from Ukraine, fellow 1199 home care member Olga Dnistrian now works with the Polish Slavic Center. “My sister is still in Ukraine, and it is very dangerous for her,” she said. “I send money home to help out.”

Organized by a coalition of New York City labor unions and community activists, The Red Carpet for Social Justice event held on March 15, was another opportunity

for 1199 women to come together in celebration and solidarity.

Ana Medina, an 1199 home care Delegate who emigrated from Mexico as a child and gained her U.S. citizenship just last year, attended both events — each time in a separate, elaborate costume.

“As women, our lives are filled with both the good and the bad. And sometimes, we are not as well appreciated as we should be,” the South Bronx resident said. “Coming together in solidarity helps us to remember that we do have the power to change sexist ideas.”

Bertha Motta, a home care Delegate with the Personal Touch and Sunnyside agencies, attended both events as well, and greatly enjoyed donning traditional garb representative of her native homeland of Peru.

“It was wonderful to see old friends, see the beautiful costumes, and share food with a community of women,” Nina Howes, recently retired RN Delegate from Mount Sinai Beth Israel, said.

Caroline Trim Ishola, a fellow 1199 retiree and former Greenwich House counselor in Manhattan, couldn’t agree more.

“We need to make sure we always support each other,” she said. “It is important for me to show younger folks how this is done. Solidarity matters.”

Coming together in solidarity helps us to remember that we do have the power to change sexist ideas.
– Ana Medina 1199


care Delegate
1199 Magazine 19
OUR UNION 18 March-April 2024
 Union women celebrate.

A Lifelong Commitment

An 1199 retiree explains why her political action with the Union never stops.

Evette Weeks felt an affinity with labor unions from an early age. Growing up in the South American country of Guyana, her mother played an important role in a transportation workers union. Weeks remembers handing out water to striking members as a child.

However, it was not until much later that she became a Union member herself, when she started working as a Nursing Assistant at what was then the New York Methodist hospital in Brooklyn in 1989. When she joined the healthcare workforce, it was a time of great upheaval and change at 1199.

Following a change in leadership in the wake of the Save Our Union campaign, members had just successfully turned the tables on management at the bargaining table with the League of


1199 Retiree

Voluntary Hospitals and Homes.

After a series of short strikes, 1199ers were able to negotiate a much stronger settlement, which clearly reestablished the Union as an important force in New York City’s health care industry.

At that time, 1199 was engaged in its decisive battle with the League, Weeks had only just completed her schooling to become a Nursing Assistant. “A lot of nursing homes were closing in 1989. I knew that a hospital close to me was hiring, but I also heard they might be going on strike, and I did not want to cross a picket line,” she remembers.

After moving to the U.S. at age 24, Weeks began her career working on Wall Street. “But because of my involvement with a union as a child, I always wanted a union job,” she

says. “On Wall Street, you could be hired and fired in the same day. So, I decided to go back to my first love, which was health care.

“In 1989, I started working as a Nursing Assistant in a nursing home and then moved to a per diem position at Methodist soon after the League contract was settled,” Weeks adds. “When I got a call from HR offering me a permanent Nursing Assistant job, I thought it was one of my classmates pulling my leg. I couldn’t believe it had come about so quickly.”

Weeks was soon promoted to Nurse Tech which meant she took on more responsibility, performing procedures like phlebotomy, EKGs, Trach care, dressings and tube feedings. At the beginning, this change caused tension with the RNs and LPNs at the hospital. But

that did not last long.

“I also regularly attended Union meetings and went to Albany rallies and encouraged coworkers to go too,” she says. But it was not until she retired roughly 14 years ago, that she became deeply involved in 1199 activities and political action. “When you’re young with a family and a full-time job, you can easily get lost in that. But it’s important to get involved,” she adds.

Now a member of the Executive Board of Retirees, she attended recent League negotiations before the pandemic and witnessed the contract signing.

When Democratic candidate Tom Suozzi faced a tough electoral battle to flip the 3rd US Congressional District blue in February, Weeks made calls to get

out the vote.

“I’m so scared about the presidential election in November,” she says. “I will do anything I can to make sure that everyone I know turns out to vote. I would encourage both current and future retirees to contribute to the Political Action Fund by signing up for the automatic $5.00 monthly deduction from their pension. As retirees, we only pay $5.00 in dues, so this will be our continuous contribution towards the fight, not only for this upcoming November General Election, but in the future. With this simple action we will always be a part of the political struggle guaranteeing us a seat and a voice at the political table and inclusion with contract negotiations as we continue to live out our motto "RETIRED but ACTIVE.”

“I will do anything I can to make sure that everyone I know turns out to vote.”
– Evette Weeks
1199 Magazine 21 20 March-April 2024


The marriage of culture and politics is a powerful force.

Decades ago, 1199 was one of the earliest unions to celebrate Negro History Week. The Union leaders understood that Black history was an essential component of the nation’s history. They also understood that a deep knowledge of that history was essential for building unity.

“In 1199, we mix and live as one,” Leon Davis, the first 1199 President, said. He added that “while we fight for economic gains to meet our members’ material needs, we can also produce cultural programs to enrich their lives and deepen their understanding.”

Toward that end, in 1953 the artists Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee were approached by 1199EVP Moe Foner to help produce a “Negro History Week” theatre event. The couple came up with the idea of creating a living newspaper, in which artists would dramatize important current events.

The first production in 1954, written by Davis and featuring Dee and actor Sidney Poitier, was called The People of Clarendon County The production was greeted by a

full house and standing ovation. It told the story of the struggle for decent schooling for Black children in South Carolina. Out of that fight, a lawsuit emerged that became part of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case. The landmark Supreme Court decision struck down the “separate but equal” doctrine by ruling that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.

The 1955 Negro History Week theatre production also drew a large appreciative audience. Entitled, What Can you Say About Mississippi?, it chronicled the racist lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till.

The next year, Davis and Dee produced Montgomery Footprints about the historic Alabama bus boycott that brought Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to prominence.

In addition to Davis, Dee and Poitier, subsequent productions included performers such as Harry Belafonte, Ricardo Montalbán, Alice Childress, Bea Richards, Will Geer and many others.

In the 1960s, the performances evolved into the annual “1199 Salute to Freedom,” one component of a broader cultural program. Others included the annual “Salute to Israel” and “Latin America Evening” celebrations. These activities strengthened group pride and solidarity.

The “Salute To Freedom” celebrations developed into highly anticipated cultural, educational and union-building events. The 1964 “Salute” saw more than 1,000 members pack into Manhattan’s High School of Fashion Industries’ auditorium.

The program included a cast of 45, including Sidney Poitier, who was then an Academy Award-nominee for his starring role in “Lilies of the Field.” At the time, he was the only Black actor to be nominated for the Oscar.

Bayard Rustin, the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was the guest speaker. He recalled his work during the hospital organizing campaigns and strikes

in 1959 and 1962.

“You in Local 1199 can take special pride in the fact that your Union was instrumental in organizing the kind of massive struggle that laid the groundwork for the Washington March,” Rustin declared to applause. “What 1199 did in the hospitals was an inspiring lesson to all decent Americans not only in the labor movement but in the civil rights movement as well.”

Over the years, the Salute to Freedom event brought to the stage many leaders of civil rights, peace, social justice and labor movements. 1199 made contributions to individuals and organizations across the spectrum of activism, from the Urban League to the Black Panther Party. Entertainers were as varied as Stevie Wonder, Pete Seeger and Miriam Colon with the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater.

The Salute to Freedom that is most often cited took place on March 10, 1968, weeks before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Dr. King delivered

“While we fight for economic gains to meet our members' material needs, we can also produce cultural programs to enrich their lives and deepen their understanding.”

– Leon Davis, the first 1199SEIU President

his “The Other America” speech explaining why he was leading the Poor People’s Campaign for Jobs and Income.

 (L-R) Moe Foner, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and Leon Davis

 Salute to Freedom flyer.

“You have provided concrete and visible proof that when Black and white workers unite in a democratic organization like Local 1199 they can move mountains,” Dr. King said, adding, “I don’t consider myself a stranger here. I consider myself a fellow 1199er.”

Speakers and others honored at subsequent Freedom events cited Dr. King and expressed their commitment to follow in his footsteps.

1199ers have also continued on the path forged by Dr. King. They’ve engaged in non-violent civil disobedience across the nation. And many have faced arrest, including in North Carolina during Moral Mondays held by leaders of today’s Poor People’s Campaign. Members and leaders have marched for countless victims of police terror, among them Sean Bell and Ramarley Graham whose loved ones are 1199ers.

1199ers continue to celebrate Black history in order to help make history, fully aware that knowing our past helps us to shape a better future.

22 March-April 2024
1199 Magazine 23

See page 17.

1199 Magazine 24
Kim Wade, an 1199 Home Care Delegate with the People Care agency, used to do clerical work in hospitals for many years. But she moved into home care because she wanted to work with people: “I’m a people person. I love my patients.”
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