A Journal of 1199SEIU November-December 2018
Announcement of Union Election See Insert
Nursing Home Workers Win
The Truth About the Flu
LOOKING BACK AT 2018
NYU Contract Victory
Roy Smith, Receiving Department worker at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. Unprecedented organizing and solidarity in recent contract negotiations helped win marked wage and benefit improvements for hundreds of Baltimore caregivers. See story on page 18.
1199 Magazine November-December 2018 Vol. 36, No. 6 ISSN 2474-7009 Published by 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East 310 West 43rd St. New York, NY 10036 (212) 582-1890 www.1199seiu.org president
George Gresham secretary treasurer
Maria Castaneda executive vice presidents
Jacqueline Alleyne Norma Amsterdam Yvonne Armstrong Lisa Brown Ruth Heller Maria Kercado Steve Kramer Joyce Neil Monica Russo Rona Shapiro Milly Silva Gregory Speller Veronica Turner-Biggs Laurie Vallone Estela Vazquez
3 The President’s Column Celebrate our midterm success, but prepare for 2020. 4 Our Year On Social Media A look back at 2018 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
@1199seiu www.1199seiu.org 2
6 Around The Regions Contract victory for Columbia University health clinic workers; Healthcare Workers Rising inaugural conference; Masonic Home contract.
Patricia Kenney director of photography
art direction & design Maiarelli Studio
7 NYU Contract Win 1199ers won with unity and power. 8 Group/Greater Victories LTC workers stayed the course. 9 Our Year In Review 2018 was a year of victories and challenges. 16 Having Our Say Political action helps us make real change in our communities. 18 The Work We Do Maryland: Sinai Hospital and Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
21 ”And Then He Fell” Queens homecare worker rescued a toddler. 22 Your Flu Isn’t a Bad Cold Caregivers need to take care. 23 And Now a Word from the Flu Don’t let these viruses spread “mythinformation.”
Jim Tynan contributors
Regina Heimbruch Naeem Holman JJ Johnson Erin Mei Tobias Packer Amanda Torres-Price Sarah Wilson 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 East, 310 W. 43 St, New York, NY 10036. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to 1199 Magazine, 310 W. 43 St., New York, NY 10036.
The Midterms Gave Us Breathing Room But no time to rest. The President’s Column by George Gresham
We will have more battles to fight in the New Year, but right now I want to congratulate every 1199er who helped to turn the tide in November. You deserve our gratitude and respect. But you also know that justice, like freedom, is a constant struggle.
On the morning after the 2016 presidential elections we woke up to President Donald J. Trump. I knew we were in a world of trouble. I thought I knew, I should say. In fact I—and many others—could not imagine how bad things would actually get. Never has such an unprepared, ill-suited person—someone completely ignorant of the role of the President of the United States and the workings of the federal government— entered the White House. Following the 2016 election have been two years of corruption, self-enrichment, hatred, racism, misogyny, bigotry and downright cruelty. Immigrants, people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, and even victims and survivors of hurricanes and wildfires have been targeted. And the lies! The Washington Post counted nearly 7,000 in President Trump’s first 675 days in office. Donald Trump would like us to forget—but we must never—that he is the least popular winning candidate in modern electoral history: he lost the popular vote by three million votes. Throughout the campaign, Trump seemed to grasp that he represented a minority of the nation and since his election, he’s acted as President of his base, not of the American people. (Actually, he seems to see the majority as one big opposition “mob.”) In the midst of this outrage, the entire Republican leadership joined the Party of Trump, cheering on the kidnapping and imprisonment of immigrant children; voting to gut the Affordable Care Act (including insurance for those with preexisting conditions); voting for tax “reform” that transfers to billionaires and their corporations two trillion dollars from taxes on working families; denying all findings of climate science; and stacking federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, with far-right ideologues. But immediately after the election, an unprecedented grassroots
resistance developed. The day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, millions of people around the world joined Women’s Marches, signaling the launch of the majority’s fight-back. When Trump announced the Muslim Ban, thousands of folks rushed to airports across the U.S. in protest. When Trump’s neo-fascist supporters marched in Charlottesville, VA and Boston, MA, they were outnumbered by thousands of anti-racist workers and students. When Mr. Trump and the National Rifle Association dissed survivors of the Parkland, FL high school gun massacre, students organized the biggest movement against gun violence the country has ever seen. When neo-Confederate Republican candidates ran for Congress and the Senate in Virginia and Alabama, they were soundly defeated by progressive and moderate Democrats. Then came last month’s midterm elections. In 2016, Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Trump. On December 6, Democrats running for the U.S. House of Representatives got seven million more votes than Republicans, flipping 40 Republican House seats to become the new majority. Democrats running for the U.S. Senate got 17 million more votes than Republicans, but because of the Senate’s structurally undemocratic nature, the Republicans gained a couple of seats and still possess a disproportionate share of voting power. For example, in North Dakota, Republican Kevin Cramer beat Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp by garnering just 179 thousand votes, a fraction of the 3.7 million votes won by NYS Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Still, Democrats beat seven incumbent Republican governors and flipped 350 state legislative seats; these will be crucial in redistricting and reversing GOP gerrymandering. These midterm victories were due in large part to energetic, grassroots anti-Trump activism. Candidates such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and
Beto O’Rourke ran unprecedented Democratic campaigns. Ocasio-Cortez brought fresh, insurgent energy to her New York City House race, while O’Rourke’s campaign for U.S. Senate changed the political landscape in deep-red Texas, opening over 1,000 local headquarters throughout the state, many in peoples’ homes. While Beto was unsuccessful, as were Georgia and Florida gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum, their outspoken, progressive candidacies proved far stronger than previous Democratic candidates in areas historically favorable to Republicans. And in the meantime, the House of Representatives is looking more like the people it represents. For the first time ever, African-American women will represent Massachusetts, Connecticut and Georgia; Latina women will represent Texas, and Native Americans will represent Kansas and New Mexico. They will be joined by the first two Muslim women in Congressional history. All these progressive victories will be a check on Mr. Trump and the GOP. They will be a voice for healthcare expansion, a national $15 dollar an hour minimum wage, affordable higher education, protection of our natural resources, and more. So now we can breathe a little bit easier. The key words being a little bit. Mr. Trump is still in the White House. His partners are still in the Senate We will have more battles to fight in the New Year, but right now I want to congratulate every 1199er who helped to turn the tide in November. You deserve our gratitude and respect. But you also know that justice, like freedom, is a constant struggle. On behalf of our entire 1199SEIU leadership team, I want to wish you the very best in this holiday season. Rest up, enjoy yourselves, hold your loved ones tight—and get ready to meet the challenges we’ll face together in 2019.
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Our Year on Social Media
January @1199SEIUFlorida: Team @1199SEIUFlorida in D.C. to lobby for aid to Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands. 1199 supports more relief on the islands, and helping secure Medicaid, Medicare & other health care for storm-struck families who have moved to Florida. #Stand4PR #Stand4USVI
@1199SEIU: Myriam Pagan-Colon, an RN and delegate fighting for a fair contract with her brothers and sisters at informational picket outside @NYPQueens. “The hospital wants to be able to change our health care. In this climate, we need strong language to protect our benefits.”
@1199SEIUNJ: CNA Sandra Osirio among Alaris Health workers speaking at Journal Square #rally: “We love our residents and we love our jobs. That’s why we’re CNAs.” Alaris workers have been w/o a #contract for 4 years.
@1199Mass: Be fair to those who care! Snow won’t stop these nursing home workers from standing up for what’s right. Kindred has decided to close many of their homes, so we’re rallying for fairness.
@1199SEIU_NJ: 1199 healthcare workers are proud to stand with our nation’s young people in their courageous fight to end gun violence. We say #NeverAgain! #MarchForOurLives in #Newark.
April @1199SEIUFlorida: Our Latino Caucus rallying today against the unconstitutional, inhumane ICE-Florida Sheriffs deportation scheme. We love, we dream. We work, we sacrifice. We build communities and this country’s economy with our bare hands, sweat and tears. We are Florida. We are America.
1199SEIU_MDDC: “Asking for a livable wage from a profitable hospital is not unreasonable...” - Yahnae Barne
@1199SEIU: This morning, unions from all over the country met at @AFSCME Local 1733’s HQ to rally & march to honor the life of Dr. King. These bright, smiling faces are our future. Let’s keep fighting to make the future better for them. #IAM2018 #MLK50
1199SEIU: Congrats! #1199SEIU Roy Mitchell one of two selected as Marshalls to escort @IcahnMountSinai med students to auditorium at graduation. Marshalls have played a “meaningful & critical role in students’ lives during medical school.” We commend Roy & his commitment to excellence.
@1199SEIU: Hundreds of workers at #NYPresbyterian walked in on management today demanding a #faircontractnow! #towinthisfightwemustunite
1199SEIUMDDC: 1199seiu_mddc: Happy Nurses Week from 1199SEIU MD/ DC!
1199SEIU: this is Ms. Webb, and she has been an #1199seiu member for 60 years. She joined today’s infopicket because she knows the importance of her #pension. This, folks, is dedication! #UniteFightWin
@1199SEIUFlorida: We’ve got the power to protect our planet! Stand with our nurses and healthcare workers and allies who are rising for Climate! @Peoples_Climate #WeCareForFL #WeCareForMotherEarth #MiamiRising2018 #RiseForClimate
1199SEIUFLORIDA: There are winners and losers in every election. But we all lose if we don’t address #ClimateChange. Let’s take action now. #WeCareForFL
1199SEIU: NYC labor showed up at Foley Square this afternoon to show our determination to fight against coordinated attacks on labor. We have overcome battles before, and this time will be no different. There is power in the #UNION.
Today was our annual Retirees Luncheon honoring the contributions of our sisters and brothers and kicking off the holiday season! @1199Mass: Thank you to everyone who came to Springfield’s Summer Unity BBQ! We can’t wait to celebrate in New Bedford on Saturday from 12 noon to 5pm at Hazelwood Park. #1199Unity
@1199SEIUNJ: 1199ers are proud to join our immigrant sisters & brothers on the #TPSJourney4Justice as the caravan travels through NJ! We cannot allow our families to be torn apart- #TPS recipients are vital members of our communities & we welcome them with open arms! #FamiliesBelongTogether
@1199SEIU: 1199ers proud to stand with our @IBEWLocalUnion3 sisters and brothers today at the @StrikeSpectrum picket line. #unionstrong #1u
@1199SEIU: Healthcare workers are picketing Mount St. Mary’s Hospital (@CHSBuffalo) in Lewistown, NY today - protesting shortstaffing and high turn-over at the hospital. Union contracts that ensure fair wages & benefits also protect quality care for patients. #QualityCare #Union @1199SEIU: Hey @NYU! Brooklyn’s Petunia the Precious Pitbull Princess wants to know #betterfurwho @NYULangoneBK! #better4who #better4whoseNY
@1199SEIU: We have issues with staffing and our jobs are very tough. At the same time, rent keeps going up, and we have families to feed. We need a fair contract now!” -Patricia Hay, CNA, Kings Harbor in the Bronx, #ContractNow #NoContractNoPeace
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Florida Maryland Massachusetts New Jersey New York Washington, D.C.
Around the Regions Activists from Healthcare Workers Rising held their firstever leadership convention in Niagara Falls, N.Y. on Nov. 11.
Big Win for Columbia U Health Workers
After a twoyear struggle, student health center workers at Columbia University in New York City have a contract.
Workers Launch Homecare Initiative in Upstate New York Activists from Healthcare Workers Rising held their first-ever leadership convention in Niagara Falls, N.Y. on Nov. 11, bringing together 50 homecare worker leaders from Rochester, Buffalo and Niagara Falls to deepen their skills, build community and create a plan of action for improving Upstate New York’s home care industry. In the face of low wages, lack of benefits and inconsistent hours, many Upstate New York homecare workers are forced out of the pro-
fession they love. Healthcare Workers Rising seeks to keep workers on the job and in communities by improving conditions and building a secure and stable employment base. Tactics include lobbying elected officials for better public transportation and securing funding for support equipment such as lifts. HealthCare Workers Rising members are also exploring worker co-operatives to help raise wages and improve conditions through a more equitable distribution of state and federal resources.
New Contract at Masonic Community Care Healthcare workers at Masonic Care Community of NY in Utica, NY settled a new contract in October that includes substantial raises, longevity increases, improved pension contributions, and retroactive pay. Throughout negotiations, workers were seeking an agreement that sustains their ability to provide high levels of quality care by attracting and maintaining experienced staff. The new agreement covers a 430-member bargaining unit that includes service, maintenance and professional workers. The pact was ratified in October. 6
In the face of low wages, lack of benefits and inconsistent hours, many Upstate New York homecare workers are forced out of the profession they love.
Healthcare workers at Columbia University in New York City won a major victory in October when, after two years, they settled a contract with the Ivy League institution. The eight student health clinic workers voted in 2016 to join 1199 and the university immediately commenced stonewalling at contract negotiations. Columbia initially refused every worker proposal, including a package of healthcare benefits, inclusion of clinic workers into the existing 1199SEIU bargaining unit, and the development of a written sexual harassment policy. In an interview last February, medical assistant Marcia Sutherland told 1199 Magazine that the university had a broader strategy. “They want to get concessions out of us to use in negotiations with other unions at the college,” she said. But the medical assistants and lab technologists held fast and in October won a contract that places the clinic workers in the larger 1199 bargaining unit at Columbia, protects their health benefits and spells out a sexual harassment policy.
NYU CONTRACT VICTORY
Unity and power fend off powerful institution’s anti-union attack.
“ It was a After three contract extensions, perfect case months of bargaining and over two of David years of uncertainty, 1199SEIU versus members at NYU Langone Medical Goliath. We Center in New York City have showed the reached a new contract with their true strength employer. of David!” “NYU is a world-class hospital because of the quality of its workforce, NYU bargaining and we need and deserve world-class committee and healthcare benefits,” said Shaneka rank-and-filers Castro-Birden, an Operating Room celebrate tentative Scheduler at Manhattan’s NYU agreement Langone-Tisch. “Like many of my coreached in late workers, I have a family to take care of, November.
and I have my own healthcare needs due to my multiple sclerosis. I’m so proud of my co-workers for joining me in making our voices heard.” With the agreement, workers proved to the powerful healthcare mega-system that they would do whatever it took to maintain quality of jobs and health care at the hospital. 1199ers also succeeded in pressing NYU to rejoin the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes, an employer association of New York’s largest, private, non-profit hospitals and nursing homes. NYU for decades negotiated contracts as part of the League collective, but in March of 2016 withdrew from the body and moved to bargain independently with the Union. A struggle ensued, with NYU claiming that it was seeking to “negotiate directly on behalf of our workers and patients.” The National Labor Relations Board disagreed and issued a complaint against the hospital alleging the midterm withdrawal from the League agreement constituted a violation of the National Labor Relations Act. Workers recognized NYU’s move as a sidelong attack on their union and benefits. The institution showed its hand in bargaining with its refusal to pay the required rate to maintain members’ health care benefits. “What they are trying to do is
unionbusting,” said Maria Diaz, a clinical laboratory scientist at NYU Brooklyn in Sunset Park. “If they really want to do better by employees then they should come to the table and negotiate honestly.” Workers were clear that they weren’t going to take NYU’s benefit cuts or decision to split from the League. They held walk-ins, sticker days, meetups and informational pickets to keep pressure on the image-conscious institution. “We were willing to do what it takes. We understood that this is about more than us—it’s about protecting standards for future generations,” said Gail Patterson, a Dietary Assistant at NYU Langone-Brooklyn. Finally, after a series of marathon bargaining sessions that ran headlong into the Thanksgiving holiday, NYU relented, accepting most of the Union’s proposals and agreeing to rejoin the League. “It was a perfect case of David versus Goliath. We showed the true strength of David!” said Negotiating Committee Member Rayon Henry, a Surgical Technologist at NYU’s Langone Orthopedic Hospital. The contract was signed on Dec. 10, and ratification votes were under way as the magazine went to press. More information is available from delegates and organizers.
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Nursing home workers settled contracts with the Group of 64 and Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association that protect benefits and pensions and make significant progress in wage parity.
Nursing Home Workers Flex Their Muscle
Greater NY and Group contract victories signal new level of strength for nursing home workers. Workers employed at institutions represented by the Group of 65 (Group) and Greater New York Healthcare Facilities Association (GNY) settled contracts in late November and early December that signal a new level of strength and organization among 1199SEIU nursing home members. The agreements were negotiated concurrently and cover a total of about 30,000 members at 185 forprofit and non-profit institutions 8
throughout New York City, Long Island, Westchester and the lower Hudson Valley. Talks with the Group and Greater commenced in August, on the heels of 1199’s July settlement with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Nursing Homes. Negotiations grew thorny when nursing home owners pushed back on an agreement reflective of League standards and sought wide-ranging guarantees on state and federal funding and givebacks on health
”We work hard for everything we have and everything we have achieved. We [were] not giving anything back.”
coverage and pensions. “Are the bosses thinking about the patients or are they just thinking about the bosses?” asked Negotiating Committee Bettina McLean, a clerk at Nassau Extended Care and Nassau Rehab, after a particularly contentious early November negotiating session in Manhattan. “It does not have to be like this,” McLean insisted. “They don’t remember that any one of us could be a nursing home patient, laying in one of those beds needing help from workers. The fact that they are just thinking about the bottom line is terrible.” Workers got the message to management by organizing sticker days, walks ins, petition deliveries and a pair of informational pickets in October that brought tens of thousands of workers and their supporters into the streets. “We come to work every day and we dedicate ourselves to the residents that we take care of,” said Marcia Levene, a CNA at Bay Park Nursing Center in the Bronx. “We got out there on the picket line because management only wanted to meet us half way. We got out there to make sure get a fair share of what we deserve.” Through solidarity and determination workers won on all major demands, including strong raises that address parity issues, healthcare benefits, a secure pension, and the development of a path for working with management on patient care. Michele Meyers, a CNA at Split Rock NH in the Bronx, said workers were undeterred and held the line in the face of dismissiveness and marathon negotiating sessions. “We work hard for everything we have and everything we have achieved,” she said. “We [were] not giving anything back.” At press time details of the agreement were being distributed to members in preparation for ratification of the agreements.
A Look Back at Anxiety punctuated much of the last year, but 1199ers continued to shine, winning in the workplace, standing up to attacks on health care, fighting for our families and communities and pushing back against hate and injustice.
A Look Back at
NH Workers Rally Against Closures
Massachusetts 1199ers, elected officials and community supporters rallied in January against the planned closure of Transitional Care and Rehabilitation – Avery in Needham and Transitional Care and Rehabilitation -Tower Hill in Canton. Since 2000, more than 200 skilled nursing facilities have closed, triggering what workers say is a public health crisis in the Bay State.
Rose Lincoln Photo
Women’s March 2018
Members participated in scores of some 200 demonstrations around the world, marking the second anniversary of the historic Women’s March on Washington.
Secure Our Care: Our Fight Against ACA Cuts. Albany Code Blue Rally & MSG Rally Against Healthcare Cuts
1199ers in every region led the charge to protect the ACA and fought off deadly health cuts from Washington. Members organized, rallied, marched, lobbied and stepped up at town halls. Caregivers called out representatives who voted against health care, and on Election Day kept their promise to send many of them packing. 10
NJ May Day Staffing Rally
May Day saw hundreds converge on New Jersey’s capitol of Trenton to demand passage of a minimum caregiver-to-patient ratio in the Garden State’s nursing homes
George Washington University Hospital Contract Rally
Workers at GWUH in Washington, D.C. fought back against management’s union busting attempts with a Valentine’s Day Rally and a gathering that capped 1199ers’ participation in the July 23 Poor People’s March on Washington.
The Janus Decision 1199ers joined millions across the country in denouncing this attack on public sector unions, which was upheld in June U.S. Supreme Court decision.
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A Look Back at
At press time, 40 union elections saw nearly 2,500 workers vote for 1199SEIU representation in 2018. Major victories include Whittier Street Clinic in Roxbury, MA where workers won their June union vote after a bruising fight with management and in two elections at Long Island Community in Patchogue, NY (formerly Brookhaven) service and technical workers overcame years of anti-union resistance and voted 1199.
Empire State Election Wins
NYS 1199ers helped re-elect Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. They also helped to victory a slew of progrerssive candidates including Attorney General-elect Letitia James.
League Contract Victory
Months of talks culminated in a marathon negotiating session in NYC and informational picketing brought tens of thousands of members out into the street. 1199SEIU members settled a new, threeyear collective bargaining agreement with the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Nursing Homes on July 13.
FQHC Inaugural Meeting
Members from increasinglyvital Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) held their first ever meeting at 1199 headquarters July 14. Workers at these institutions are on the front lines of delivering community-based health care.
MA voters say Yes on 3 ! Massachusetts voters passed an initiative to protect the rights of transgender Bay State residents.
Retired, But Active!
Members of 1199â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fastest-growing division were active in Union activities in every region; from contract negotiations to GOTV efforts, retirees stood up for their Union and communities.
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A Look Back at
Making Change in Maryland Maryland/DC 1199SEIU members and Weekend Warriors braved plummeting temperatures and dousing rain to help former NAACP head Ben Jealous in his bid to become Maryland’s first African American governor. Though the effort was unsuccessful, they did help maintain a veto-proof majority in the Maryland Senate.
New Jersey Midterm Victories
1199ers (shown with U.S. Senators Corey Booker and Robert Menendez) turned the Garden State blue, kept incumbent Sen. Robert Menendez in the U.S. Senate, and helped elect progressive candidates like Mikie Sherrill and Andy Kim. NJ 1199ers helped flip 4 House seats, knocked on 18,000 doors and had 4,000 conversations with voters.
New Progressive Voices
Though Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was unsuccessful in his bid to become Florida’s governor, he inspired millions of young people and first-time voters to turn out at the polls. Sunshine State voters are mobilized and ready to #BringIt Home in 2020 and make sure every vote is counted. Florida 1199ers helped flip a raft of seats including the State Agriculture Commissioner and restored felons’ right to vote.
WE FIGHT CRUEL PUBLIC CHARGE PROPOSAL
Implementation would force immigrant families to make difficult choices. Our Union has joined hundreds of immigrant and civil rights organizations to turn back a cruel attempt by the Trump administration to punish immigrants with legal status for using basic public services. In early October, after months of threats, the Trump administration finally issued proposals to the Public Charge rule, which U.S. immigration law uses to determine whether to grant permanent residency or a visa to immigrant residents. Current law already restricts which public services immigrants can access. The administration’s proposal greatly expands that list to bar immigrants who receive non-emergency Medicaid, food stamps, the Medicare Part D low-income subsidy or Section 8 and other housing programs. It also includes a new list of personal factors such as age, medical condition, income or being in a large family. If implemented, the rule will force millions of immigrant families to choose between their families’ well-being or a green card that would permit them to remain in the country. Because of the required regulatory process, the law cannot take effect before February 2019. After the proposal was announced, 1199 joined hundreds of organizations in collecting and encouraging official comments to the federal government opposing the proposed changes. “The proposal is so inhumane,” says Betty Jones, a patient financial advisor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. “It says we
don’t care whether immigrants live or die. How can this not have an effect on the elderly, parents’ and their children’s health?” The effects, critics say, will reverberate far beyond the individuals who seek documentation. An estimated 47 percent of non-citizens live in families where at least one person has used the benefits in question. And, as usual, the rule will disproportionately target immigrants of color. A report by the Migration Policy Institute finds that 10.3 million Latino and 3.8 million Asian-American and Pacific Islander immigrants are in families in which a member received at least one of the public benefits included in the proposed rule. Entire towns and communities with large immigrant populations will also suffer. Federal funding to states, counties and cities will be slashed when programs shrink because residents fear accessing health care and other services. “Health care should play no part in determining someone’s status,” says Rosemary DeJesus, an LPN at the newly organized Hudson River Health Care on Long Island. DeJesus stresses that she was a leading supporter of joining 1199 because of its strength and reputation for fighting for social justice. “Illness doesn’t discriminate, so why should we?” DeJesus asks. “These new proposals will weaken rather than strengthen us. Why should immigrants continue to pay
taxes if they can’t access services? The president loves chaos. That’s what he’s trying to create.” The proposed rule also requires immigrant families to meet a certain income threshold—about $63,000 for a family of four. That would create an immigration system rigged for the wealthy, putting green cards up for sale to the highest bidder. The proposal provides some exceptions. Refugees and asylees are not subject to “public charge” determinations, and public charge is also not a consideration when green card holders apply to become U.S. citizens. 1199 and immigrant rights groups say the proposal is but another example of the administration’s ongoing effort to vilify immigrants so as to divide our nation. NYP’s Betty Jones agrees. “His mission has been to turn us, including my African American brothers and sisters, against Hispanics,” she declares. By dividing us, Trump is trying to turn back the clock on all of us.” Now that the comments have been submitted, advocates will remind their elected representatives to do all they can to reject all heartless and inhuman regulations.
1199ers are standing against anti-immigrant changes to the ‘public charge’ rule, which would deny access to vital services.
“The proposal is so inhumane.”
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P O L I T I C A L AC T I O N
1199ers Put the Action in PAC
Real world accomplishments illustrate political victories.
“As soon as I get someone’s ear, I’m going to talk about health care,” says Evelyn Harris, an 1199SEIU delegate who has worked as a PCA at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center for some 40 years. When it comes to health care, it doesn’t matter whether you are Republican, Liberal, Tea Party supporter, or a Democrat, we who believe in health care justice should be working together, she says. Living and working in Western New York’s Niagara county— where 57% of voters marked their presidential ballots for Donald Trump—Harris is well-versed in steering political conversations toward issues and away from partisanship. It is an approach that has achieved some significant, concrete results, both at her hospital and statewide. A little over a year ago, 1199 members celebrated the opening of the only cardiac catheterization (cath) lab in Niagara County at their hospital, after a concerted campaign to bring it there. When a patient is in cardiac distress, rapid treatment is essential to minimize heart damage. “Whiteouts are really common in the Buffalo area and many 16
people do not have access to reliable transportation,” says Harris. “Having a cath lab right here in our hospital will save many lives.” Working at Niagara Memorial since 1977, Harris knows how effective political action can be, even in an area which is struggling economically and facing fierce competition for healthcare dollars. In 1999 the hospital was about to be swallowed up into another system, just as 1199SEIU was merging with another union in the region. “1199ers stepped up to the plate right away. This helped our political campaign and we ended up winning the fight to save our hospital,” remembers Harris, “Our political work had a very direct and meaningful effect on our job security.” Again, in 2006, a new Emergency Room was unveiled at Niagara Memorial after a successful political campaign in which 1199ers worked with then-U.S. Senator for New York, Hillary Clinton. “This union does a fantastic job in training members on how
to lobby effectively in Washington or Albany, or talking to a council person,” says Harris. She points out that political work is not just about campaigns aimed at securing resources for critical safety-net institutions like Niagara Falls Memorial. In 2000, 1199ers from all over New York State lobbied vigorously to get on the books a law that required hospitals to procure safe needles so that staff are not put at risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis or any other virus from a needlestick. Harris takes a holistic approach to her community’s health and wellness–and to garnering political support for related initiatives. Recognizing that much of Niagara Falls County is a food desert, she worked with her neighbors in the local community to set up a Local Food Action Plan. One of its aims is to transform underused lots in working class and low-income communities into sustainable, chemical free, neighborhood farms. This work was inspired by the communitybased Kitchen Table of Civil Rights Movement. To gain access to public land to grow food, members
need to lobby representatives around land use issues in their communities. “The political action team at the union gives us strategies to get our points across in a short length of time, so that we can have an impact,” says Harris. In New York City, Maurice DePalo, a pharmacist at Montefiore Medical Center’s Westchester Square Hospital in the Bronx, saw firsthand what can happen when local communities give up on the ballot box. DePalo was shocked by the deplorable conditions he encountered while canvassing in the Bronx during the September Congressional primaries. “It is dangerous to live in [public] housing. It hadn’t been cleaned in years. People were afraid to open their apartment doors,” said DePalo. “The front doors were broken and there were no garbage pails. We are talking about human beings here. It is not their fault where they were born.” An up-close encounter with such neglect and poverty got DePalo thinking seriously about electoral representation in the district and voters’ connection to the
people who represent them. DePalo wound up talking to voters about their political power and how they could influence everything from the quality of local schools to garbage collection. “We have to educate people [who live in neighborhoods like that] and let them know their lives can change,” said DePalo, “The secret is to get people that care about you to represent you. PAC money goes to help motivate people to make a change. If you do nothing, nothing is going to happen.”
“ This union does a fantastic job in training members on how to lobby effectively in Washington, or Albany, or even just going to a city council and talking to a council person.”
(From Left) RN Kelley Gombert and PCA Evelyn Harris in Niagara Falls Memorial Hospital’s new cath lab.
Getting out the vote needs to start well before the election, says Mount Sinai Petrie retiree Jacynth Stewart. Stewart, a former food service worker who served as 1199 delegate for more than three decades, tried to consistently communicate to members the reality of their political power and the value of their votes. “When I was out canvassing for Obama in Cincinnati, I met a 100-year-old man who had never voted in his life,” said Stewart. “After we talked about how real change could come about through the ballot box, he registered to vote then and there.” 1199 Magazine 17
THE WORK WE DO Sinai Hospital and Greater Baltimore Medical Center Workers at several Baltimorearea hospitals including Sinai and Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC) recently settled a set of landmark, memberdriven collective bargaining agreements. To win, union delegates and negotiating committees employed strategy and solidarity, organizing rankand-filers, packing bargaining sessions and focusing on inclusivity. In the end, Baltimore caregivers worked together to win contracts that protect health care and other benefits as well as provide unprecedented wage increases of a $15 minimum and percentage increases for higherearning workers. 18
1. “The contract was amazing and surprising. I really didn’t know what to expect from management. We were really strong. We had people coming in and out of bargaining all day. There was so much support,” says Delegate and Bargaining Committee member Apple Wall, an OR Environmental Services worker at GBMC. 2. Bargaining committee member Nijah Cooper has been a patient transporter at Sinai Hospital for two years. Strong contracts for workers help all of Baltimore, she says. “I think we did really well. When people make more money, they are not out on the street struggling or doing other things to get by. Yes, there is always room for improvement, but we will continue to go up from here.”
3. Ida Bazemore has worked in Sinai’s Laundry Dept. for 30 years. 4. Roy Smith has worked in Sinai’s Receiving Department for 45 years. “We go to every floor where there are patients. We keep the supply
rooms stocked. We work around the clock in this department. Now we do everything with a computer, but that wasn’t always the situation. You used to have to write things on paper, and you’d have to enter it in the system.” 5. OR Support Associate Bilal Muhammed was a forklift operator before coming to work in the Environmental Services Dept. at GBMC. He became a CNA three years ago. “I had to do schooling for this job and the Union paid for it,” he says. “I went to Baltimore County Community College. I got certified in CPR, got my CNA license and got licensed as a bariatric surgery CNA.” 6. “Working here is like working with family,” says Bunny Harding, a multifunctional tech at GBMC’s Women’s and Outpatient Services Center. “We have a good team. I greet people with a smile. Sometimes patients are afraid or in pain and being greeted with a smile or a hug is soothing.”
“ I greet people with a smile. Sometimes patients are afraid or in pain and being greeted with a smile or a hug is soothing.” 4
– Bunny Harding
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THE WORK WE DO
“ If we don’t make sure people feel included, they’ll lose interest and negativity will develop.” – Patricia Reed-El
8 7. Patricia Reed-El works in Sinai’s cafeteria. She’s a delegate, bargaining committee member and political activist. “We had a lot more people involved in this contract than in past negotiations. They came to meetings and wanted to be involved in Union matters. If we don’t make sure people feel included, they’ll lose interest and negativity will develop.”
8. “I have been all around this hospital. I worked in the OR, the ER and on MotherBaby. I’ve also been a patient,” says Environmental Services Worker Patricia Montgomery. “I was here last year to have my shoulder replaced.”
9. Mother-Baby Unit Secretary Audrey Jackson started at Sinai as a housekeeper 24 years ago. She tries to ensure the smoothest arrival possible for new Marylanders and their parents. Jackson is also a delegate, bargaining committee member and political activist.
Homecare Member Saves Toddler’s Life She caught child who fell from fire escape.
Sonia Ramirez is a humble home health aide who does not see herself as a hero. Her neighbors beg to differ. Many witnessed her heroism in August when she caught a 2-year-old who had fallen from a third-story fire escape in Queens, NY. “I and a teenage girl were screaming for help, and when he started dangling from the fire escape we stood under where he was to break his fall in case he slipped,” Ramirez says, making light of the praise she’s received from her neighbors and the police who later arrived on the scene. “I didn’t think about it; I just did what I could,” she says. She also says she feels fortunate to have been in a situation to help given what she had to overcome this year. In March, Ramirez was diagnosed with uterine cancer. “If it wasn’t for 1199 health coverage, I wouldn’t be here,” she says. “I had successful surgery and I went back to work on April 18.” Ramirez sees saving the child and her work in general as her way of returning the good fortune that she has received. “I’ve been a home health aide for almost nine years now because of God’s help and others who have helped me,” she says. Ramirez encountered an elderly woman in the street while looking for a job. “Before then, I had been working as a clerical, but the business closed. I wasn’t having any luck
finding work when the woman I had met took me to the office of Sunnyside Community Service.” The woman said that she would wait outside while Ramirez went in. After the job interview, Ramirez came out and looked for the woman. “She was gone and I never got to thank her,” Ramirez says. “Because of her, I’ve been able to help others as a home health aide,” she says. “And because I was able to recover from cancer, I was able to help that child.” Ramirez says she was emptying garbage on the day the child fell. She notes that the New York Post article on the incident focused on her, but it was the teenager (identified as Delia Chimbray in the article) who saw the child first. “The baby must have gone through a fire escape window that did not have a bar,” she says. “He started up the fire escape and the girl and I started screaming for him to stop and also for help from neighbors or anyone who was around.” “Then the baby started to come down, but his feet got caught and he started dangling from the fire escape, with one foot inside and the other foot outside. We didn’t have time to get anything like a blanket to catch him in, so we just put ourselves under him to break his fall. I waited and prayed to God for help.” The toddler fell towards Ramirez.
Although, he was only 2, he weighed 49 1/2 pounds. Ramirez caught him. His weight caused him to briefly slip out of her hands. His fall had been broken and he was safe. “I was still holding the baby when his mother came down,” Ramirez says. “She had been cooking in another room and had no idea the baby had crawled onto the fire escape. She seemed to be in shock.”
“ I didn’t think about it; I just did what I could” Ramirez, who is widowed, lives with her son, a college student. “He sometimes asks me if I wouldn’t prefer to go back to doing clerical work. I tell him no because God has led me here to the job that I love and that I love taking care of my client.” Ramirez says that the events of the past year have also reminded her how precious life is. 1199 Magazine 21
OUR MEMBERS Member gets a flu shot at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y.
the antibiotics we have today or the vaccine,” says Dr. Vann Dunn, MD, Medical Director of the 1199SEIU National Benefit Fund. Dr. Dunn recommends a flu shot for anyone able to get it. “People need to remember that the flu is not just a bad cold. Last year, 180 kids between five months and 18 years old died of the flu,” he says earnestly, noting the infection’s preventability. “That’s terrible. No one should be dying from the flu.” “The other thing that people need to remember if they do get sick, is that medicine to treat symptoms doesn’t always work immediately,” he adds. “If you get sick you might feel miserable for a week before any medication starts working.”
Influenza. ‘Tis The Season.
“As healthcare workers we are no doubt going to be exposed to the flu. Having a flu shot can protect you even when you’ve taken other precautions.” According to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some 80,000 people in the United States died last year from the flu. That’s more than the deaths caused by traffic collisions and gun violence. 2017 was also the deadliest flu year since 1976, when the CDC started publishing annual influenza trends and fear of a pandemic driven by Swine Influenza propelled the institution of current flu prevention protocols. “[In the early twentieth century] we had a pandemic and over 50 million people died. We didn’t have 22
“It’s very important for healthcare workers to protect themselves because we don’t want to have medical staff carrying the flu to our patients who are at their most vulnerable.”
Influenza is a respiratory disease caused by four viral strains and characterized by multiple symptoms including fever, chills, cough, sore throat, body aches and fatigue. Some people may experience nausea and vomiting, though this is more prevalent in children than adults. Generally speaking, seasonal flu is caused by strains of the Influenza A or B, which can differ from year to year. As a result, epidemiologists and public health agencies make an educated determination about which strain will be prevalent during a given season. “One of the things about the flu shot is that it’s not just protection from one virus,” says Dr. Dunn. “When they manufacture the vaccine, they combine the strains from last year with ones they think are coming this year.” Karine-Renee Roberts is an RN at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson, NY. At Columbia Memorial for 20 years, Roberts also teaches basic life support and crisis intervention to student nurses and community members. Roberts discusses flu protection with coworkers and emphasizes the dangers for seniors, children and those with compromised immune systems.
“The New York State Department of Health mandates that providers who have patient contact get the flu vaccine or wear a mask. It’s very important for healthcare workers to protect themselves because we don’t want medical staff carrying the flu to our patients who are at their most vulnerable,” she says. “I get the shot, but some people choose to wear the mask. I can’t. I wear glasses, and I couldn’t have a mask on for 12 hours.” Dr. Dunn points out that the mask, which some people choose over the vaccine for health or personal reasons, offers a limited level of protection. “The mask only protects you from very large particles – like if someone coughs or sneezes directly on you,” he says. “Generally, though, the flu virus is very tiny and can easily get through a mask.” Both Dunn and Roberts agree that the flu isn’t taken seriously enough. “We had a staff member in our hospital who contracted the flu and wound up in the ICU. This was a healthy, vibrant young person and it was very touch and go. [They] recovered but could have died,” says Roberts. “If you have a condition like diabetes or hypertension you must be very careful,” notes Dunn. “Most people who die from the flu die from complications, not the flu itself. If you’re diabetic or hypertensive your blood sugar could easily get out of control or your blood pressure can spiral.” “As healthcare workers we are no doubt going to be exposed to the flu,” he says. “Having a flu shot can protect you even when you’ve taken other precautions.” “We also have to make sure people are educated and give consistent information,” says Roberts. “And remember to take very basic precautions like washing your hands,” says Dunn. “You pick up a phone or touch a door handle and you don’t know if the last person to touch those things had the flu.” For more information visit www.1199seiubenefits.org.
Don’t Fall for Flu ‘Mythinformation’! MYTH
Oh, come on! The flu is just a bad cold.
You’re fine! Wearing a mask protects you.
FACT Influenza is a serious illness. Though the flu and common cold share symptoms, including a runny nose, sore throat and cough, the flu can cause serious health problems like pneumonia. It’s particularly dangerous for people with chronic illnesses like hypertension and diabetes because it can severely worsen their symptoms.
MYTH You’re healthy. Healthy people don’t need a flu vaccine.
FACT Anyone over the age of six months can get the flu.
FACT Masks do not block all the viruses’ particles. For health and other reasons, many people choose to wear a protective mask instead of getting a flu shot. Masks do provide a basic level of protection, but because the flu virus is so tiny, masks cannot block it completely.
MYTH Getting a flu shot is soooooo inconvenient.
FACT You can get a shot at your worksite, pharmacy or doctor’s office. The shot is completely covered for many members, including those in the 1199SEIU National Benefit Fund.
MYTH You can still get the flu from the flu vaccine, you know.
MYTH Don’t worry. The flu is spread only through personal contact.
FACT The vaccine is made from inactive viruses, so you can’t get sick. If you do get sick after a shot, it’s likely you were exposed before or just after–before your body had time to develop antibodies.
FACT The flu can live on many surfaces, including computer keyboards, phones, door handles and more. Hand washing is a critical part of protecting yourself from the flu.
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Nursing Home Contract Victories! Violette Jean, a CNA at Gold Crest Nursing Home in the Bronx, NY, was all smiles after 1199ers settled their contract in November with the Group of 65 employer association. The win paved the way for nursing home workers at Greater New York Health Care Facilities-represented institutions to settle their contract in December. Both agreements protect benefits and health care and make significant progress toward wage parity. See page 8.
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